Monday, March 26, 2012

A retrospective of my summers as a camp counselor.

Going into the summer of 2008, I was coming off my first year in college. It had been a year of growing and change, and I was ready for a break. I applied to work at a summer camp in Brown County with the intention of taking it slow, and regrouping for the next year of classes. I was looking for something that would add value to my summer after a grueling year of lecture halls and taking notes.

I remember going into the first day of work scared out of my mind. I had left all my friends and family for the summer, and I was determined to make this summer epic. I needed it to be.

My job entailed being in charge of a group of 5-8 kids every week. These kids were of all ages and abilities. The camp I worked at was inclusive meaning that they accepted all children and included them in every activity. We would travel around the camp grounds participating in activities like canoeing, hiking, painting, horseback riding, rock climbing, and community service name a few.

Not only was I their camp counselor, I took on a lot of other roles as well. I was their mom, their dad, their friend, their rule enforcer, their shoulder to cry on, their piggy back ride giver, their life jacket in the pool, and their lap to sit on at campfire. I tied their shoes, combed their hair, cut up their dinner, bandaged their boo boos, and stayed up until 3 in the morning with them when they were scared or missed their parents. It was like having a kid, except 8 at once. After a week, when I would get to the point of really knowing them, they would leave and I would get a new batch.

I learned a lot over the course of that first summer. Up until that point, I had never truly put the values of humility and self sacrifice into practice. I was always the most important person in my life. At camp, that changed. Every day I was the last one to eat, the last one to shower, the last one to lay down in bed, and the first one to get up. I never put on make up, and I barely looked in the mirror. I worked 22 hours a day, and my cell phone didn't even exist. It was just me, the kids, my fellow counselors, and nature. I needed those kids to have a good time, and I would do anything to make that happen. Tell them a 2 hour long bedtime story, let them paint all over my legs, face, and arms, eat disgusting combinations of food, let them dunk me 50 times in the pool... their happiness was the most important thing.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that it was hard work.

I realized that working hard for a purpose that you truly loved and believed in wasn't hard at all. It was grueling, and difficult at times, but that's part of the reason that it was so enjoyable. I had found a drive to push myself harder than I had ever done before.

I spent the next three and a half summers at CYO Camp Rancho Framasa. It completely changed my life for the better. I found my calling as a social worker through my experience of giving at camp. I learned how to drive a school bus, how to start a fire, how to convince multitudes of teenagers that nature is cooler than their cell phones, and as a bonus one of my fellow counselors eventually became my husband. Karma?

In conclusion, summer camp changed my life.. If you've never experienced it in one way or another, I suggest you change that. Go camping, leave your cell phone at home, start a fire, roast a marshmallow, let go, sing a song, look at the stars. It will change you.

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