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Tuesday, June 25, 2024
The Observer

Do it for the jokes

“For Narnia!”

Peter screamed this as he attacked the White Witch in Narnia. These are the sort of moments that create battle cries. Cries that motivate armies and encourage sacrifice. Moments of great adversary, and great bravery. Moments of battlefields and fairytales.

My moment was far from this. I worked at an overnight summer camp over the summer, and though facing 20 to 30 middle schoolers daily was tiring and occasionally terrifying; it was nothing like advancing a magical army as a teenager. The moment that my personal battle cry began, I was sitting next to my coworker — who had adopted the name of Duckie for the summer — on a makeshift bench after an hour-long dance party. It was midnight, and we were exhausted. Before the dance party, we had led a four-hour cookout for 34 girls.

Duckie and I were sitting at the fire pit, desperately holding on to our last bit of authority over the girls. When Duckie noticed that the embers were still burning, it had in fact been four hours since we had so obviously failed to put out the fire. Though we knew we had failed, we were successfully ignoring the fact that we could have started a forest fire. This is when I said, “I have a weird desire to kick it.” “It” obviously being the red-hot embers from a fire that had cooked 38 meals and lasted for over three hours.

To which Duck said, “Do it.”

To which I responded, “Nah” — like a sane person.

To which she said, “Do it for the jokes.”

Now in this moment, something stirred inside me. Like an awaking of my soul. A feeling that I have returned to time and time again in reflection.

I am now both equally shamed and proud to admit that I did indeed kick the log. I did not melt my shoe, or burn my foot. Everything went spectacularly well, and the entire camp had gained its own battle cry: “Do it for the jokes.”

This phrase prompted temporary bachelorette tattoos to be tramp-stamped, sandbags to be stolen and returned a block over, jumps into the lake, the consumption of strange food combinations and one improvised performance of Cinderella at dinner time. This phrase gave birth to some of the best inside jokes and memories of my life. Now, I have carried this battle cry into college. It stopped being about inciting specific actions, and more about not taking myself or my minute struggles too seriously. Even this last week, it allowed me to change an awkward accidental text to a high school crush into a moment of laughter, by making my failure to click the correct name a joke. And though I am not leading Aslan’s armies like Peter the Magnificent, I am happier.

I know. I used that metaphor ad nauseam and it never quite worked, but I continued to use it for — you guessed it — the (very bad, not funny to anybody but me) joke.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.