Rethinking the Retreat

Rethinking the Retreat

Letters to self: Seniors open the letters they wrote to themselves their freshman year three years later at Allaso Ranch. PHOTO BY ANA ROSENTHAL
Letters to self: Seniors open the letters they wrote to themselves their freshman year three years later at Allaso Ranch. Click here to see the most memorable lines from their letters. 
Photo by Fourcast Staff

Senior year at Hockaday brings a lot to the table: off-campus privileges, cutting the lunch line and the best seats during assemblies, to name a few. But the annual overnight senior retreat to Allaso Ranch in September is a remarkable highlight. It’s meant to unify the senior class to plan for upcoming events, relax (with a no-homework weekend) and bond with each other as a way of setting a positive tone for the rest of the year. Although the retreat focused on the future, I found myself thinking about the past.

Some people might say that you find yourself when you’re in high school. During these four years, you realize your best attributes, the flaws you’re reluctant to acknowledge and the distinguishable quirks that contribute to the person you carry on into the world, post-Hockaday. Upper School is a period focused on self-discovery. In the meantime, however, you lose touch with most of your class.

School becomes more stressful, cliques solidify and friendships fade when there aren’t many common interests to hold them together. Save for a few minutes in advisory or form meetings, people usually don’t set aside a time each day to be with their class. People might wonder how much so-called “bonding” between an incredibly diverse group of 119 girls can get done in a day somewhere in the middle of Texas. I think they might be surprised.

At Mo Ranch, girls write a letter to themselves as a time capsule. This letter is to be read during their senior retreat, three years later. As a freshman, I reflected on my trivial, teenage problems and my lofty hopes for the future. After reading my letter at Allaso, I realize that I still have a strikingly similar personality to the one I had three years ago (which is perhaps something to be embarrassed about). Unlike our time at Mo Ranch, we didn’t get our phones taken away on the bus ride to Allaso, and our teachers didn’t check our bunks before bed. Our activities were loosely scheduled, and we were given a lot of freedom to spend our single afternoon in the way we pleased. On the other hand, we still played “Never Have I Ever.” Some things never change.

But the senior retreat brought a unique aspect my grade had never experienced before: the infamous campfire. We had all discussed this part of the night thoroughly prior to participating. All of my classmates that I had talked to were fairly sure that they wouldn’t say anything during it, and for good reason. We had heard rumors that during previous senior retreat campfires, tense confrontations and drama-loaded fights had taken place.

But after our own campfire, to say that I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement. I was absolutely amazed. We sat together in a circle for four whole hours, confessing deep thoughts that required incredible courage to voice. People shared their admiration for one another, and friends expressed their gratitude for each other. Old friends reconnected, and I’d like to think that new friendships formed.

When the campfire was finally over at 1:30 a.m., everyone congregated in their respective cabins to cry, laugh and reminisce into the early morning hours.

I don’t want to reveal too much about the Class of 2014’s senior retreat, but I do want underclassmen to take note. While you absolutely should focus on your academic classes, take the time to get to know the people that constitute them as well. Don’t wait until your senior retreat to bond with your classmates, or you’ll risk wishing you hadn’t wasted so much time waiting for them to bond with you.

-Amy Tao