In 1915, David Endicott Putnam won the Camp Becket Honor Emblem, an award given to campers based on the strength of their character.

Two years later, Putnam, who would come to be known as the “Ace of Aces,” left his job as a counselor at Camp Becket to fight in World War I. In September 1918, his SPAD XIII plane was shot down over France and Putnam was killed. The U.S. Army posthumously awarded him the Distinguished Service Cross. He was 20 years old when he died.

At the dedication of the 9/11 Museum last spring, President Obama spoke about the Man in the Red Bandana, Welles Crowther. While everyone else ran down the stairs, Crowther, a former volunteer firefighter working in the World Trade Center, ran deeper into the building to help get others out. Welles had been a Becket camper and was a quintessential example of one of the camp mottos, Help the Other Fellow.

This summer, I’ll be on staff at Becket, just like Putnam was nearly a century ago. But a funny thing happens when I tell people what my plans are for the summer.

“Really? Oh, that’s nice,” my friends’ parents say. “Nice” lingers, as if they’re not sure if it was really what they meant. My friends ask if it’s going to be my last summer or say I’m too old to be a camper. The Career Planning Center insists that I get an internship. 

I get defensive when I tell people that I plan to return for my thirteenth consecutive summer at camp and my fifth on staff. The overachiever inside of me has an urge to justify why I’m not applying for a competitive internship program or a research grant.

I want to tell them about David Putnam and Welles Crowther. But the truth is I’m not going back to camp this summer simply because I think that Becket will make me more like David Putnam or Welles Crowther. Nor do I have any illusions about my ability to turn my campers into national heroes in four weeks, although mature, thoughtful fourteen-year-old boys would be a good start.

Every Sunday afternoon, my phone lights up with the weekly edition of “Jobs and Events I May Be Interested In.” In fact, many of the jobs do interest me. I think I’d like being a White House Intern or a Future Global Leader or a Google Journalism Fellow.

I’d also like to sit in a rocking chair on the porch of the library overlooking the lake and have to put a sweatshirt on because the sun is quickly descending behind the birch trees. I’d like to watch as my campers try to navigate a twenty-five foot, hundred-year-old canoe back to the dock. I’d like to remind them to hang up their wet life jackets.

If I get to be surrounded by the Bowdoin Pines for nine months of the year, I want to be surrounded by the birch trees of the Berkshires for the other three. I want my clothes to smell like a campfire and my arms to be covered in mosquito bites. I want to relive the best days of my childhood and share them with my campers, despite that fact that many people do not consider it the best preparation for my impending adulthood.

My friends and I are stuck in a tug of war between what we want to do for the summer and what we’re told we should do. We’re lucky if nothing is pulling on the should end of the rope. We’re even luckier if the want and should ends are the same.

I hope the Offer of the College is wrong. I hope my time at Bowdoin is not the best four years of my life, but I do hope that the summers in between my years at Bowdoin are the best of my life because they are the last summers of my youth. After college, summer is just a season.

My friends have good, fun, relaxing, boring, warm summers. They sell vacuums and ice cream and stocks. They study Arabic and physics and poverty. They sit on the beach and in cubicles and on subways.

Walking around campus at the end of August, you need more than two hands to count the number of people who ask, “How was your summer?”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say they had a terrible summer, but I don’t see people’s eyes light up when they talk about their summers either. It seems that few people have a story they’re excited to tell.

Two years ago, my summer story was about a camper whose family life was so turbulent that nobody could make the trip to see him on visiting day. He pulled me aside before boarding the bus home on the last morning. He looked up at me and said, in an expression of emotion jarringly earnest for a pubescent boy, “you’re like the good big brother I’ve never had.”

Last year it was a story about helping a group of campers—campers who are much cooler than I was or will be—build a cabin that will house hundreds of campers over the next few decades.  

When I return to Bowdoin in August, I hope I have another story. I hope my eyes light up when someone asks me about my summer. I hope the excitement I feel to be back at Bowdoin will be matched by the sadness I feel that summer is over. 

Matthew Gutschenritter is a member of the Class of 2016.