They don't tell you much about working at Camp Walt Whitman besides the fact that most of the kids who attend camp are Jewish, and that everything at camp is made of wood so if there's a fire we better book it to the top of the golf course.
They don't tell you how much that place will change you in eight weeks.
I went to CWW as a kid. A kid coming from a well-rounded family who was looking to have the time of my life and meet my best friends. And that's exactly what I did. I returned from my summers happier and more caring and accepting as a person, but I never realized how big the impact was until I worked there as a counselor.
As a camper I always looked up to the people who were campers and returned as counselors. They knew the place inside and out, all the lingo, and how camp is supposed to make someone feel. So this summer, I decided to return to Piermont New Hampshire, and see what being a counselor was all about.
What I did not realize coming back, is that the staff go to camp to escape the real world, and to help heal the wounds that had occurred during the previous ten months. They are not there to pass the time, or to have fun with their friends, and they are definitely not there for the money. They are there to escape their own issues and the societal issues, and go to a place where no matter who you are you're accepted, and a place where they know one hundred percent they can be themselves.
While I had always known why I wanted to come back, none of this really hit me until I talked to one staff member one night. I realized my problems were nothing compared to his, and that camp was truly a place where he could physically and mentally heal. He told me that he had never felt this much love in one place, and didn't even know that this level of kindness and empathy existed in the world. I had never heard anyone say this before. My entire life I had grown up with this love and support, and it was the first time it really hit me that it's not always this way.
I went to camp to help piece together who I truly am, and I did this by learning from my campers and by learning from the staff around me. My freshman year of college was not the best year, as most aren't, and for a while, I lost myself. I would do things one day and wake up the next morning asking myself why I was doing them; I could never give myself a concrete answer. Camp helped me re-discover the person I am, and it made me better for it.
And of course, the campers helped me along this journey. If it had not been for my 14 eleven-year-old crazies, my summer would not have been what it was. They taught me what it's like to be a kid again, how to strategically rock someone else off a paddleboard, and that giving children pop tarts at eight at night makes it impossible to put them to bed.
Most importantly they taught me how to be patient, and you're going to think I'm crazy for saying this, but when I tell you I became best friends with a bunch of 11-year-olds this summer, I'm not kidding.
Now you're probably thinking I'm just another person ranting on about how amazing camp is. And while you're probably right, I'm not writing this to get you to come to CWW, although Ashleigh and Jacko would be very happy that you applied and you'll probably hear him scream "That's my wife" from the background of your phone call. The point of this article is to tell you how important it is that you find your own Camp Walt Whitman. Find the place where you can learn and grow as an individual through different cultures and backgrounds while also having the time of your life, and making the best friends you could ever ask for. Find the place where everyone around you supports you all the time no matter what. Find the place where you feel most at home. Mine is where I wake up where the purple lilacs grow.