We all have love/hate relationships with our summer jobs. When you get to be the ripe old age of 20 like me, you ideally spend the summer working at a job or an internship that is related to your major and/or potential career path.
However, if you are a poor student about to spend the semester abroad, money comes first. That's why this summer, though I have zero interest in working with children after graduation, I took a job as a teen camp counselor. Steady hours, friendly boss, and terrifying campers.
Spending everyday with kids that just finished the fifth grade to those who just finished the tenth grade can be stressful, aggravating, exhausting, etc. But a simple attempt to look at the bright side of things provides me with some great lessons from my middle schoolers.
12. Take a Break
Today, we are always on the go, jetting off from here to there, leading this club, attending that meeting. Success is action and action is success. It is easy to feel that a moment of rest is a moment of failure.
But in the midst of a heated kickball game, I look out over my campers and I notice the groups of girl with arms crossed chatting in the corner. I see a boy on the bleachers nursing an "injury." I see the kid subtly moving to the back of the kicking line every inning.
Part of me wants them to participate and enjoy the game. But another part of me find inspiration in their apathy. In their blatant disregard for trivial activities. In their attempt to receive credit for minimal effort. Sometimes you just have to take a break.
11. Have Confidence
I have never in my life met someone with more confidence than a middle schooler. From consistently assuming they are the exception to every rule to bragging about the phone numbers a few girls gave them (even though one was to an Autozone), no one thinks more highly of themselves than a thirteen year old.
10. Never Give Up
Persistence is an admirable trait in a person. No matter how many times I tell my campers to stay out of a room, I still find them there. No matter times they are told to put their phones away, they keep it hanging out of their back pocket. No matter how many times I tell them to please for the love of God stop screaming, they never ever stop.
That kind of persistence is awe-inspiring.
9. Don't Waste the Mornings
When the kids get their way, their morning skips the quiet chirps of birds for the rhythmic shrills of Top 40 pop anthems and the pounding of basketballs on the pavement. They do not ease themselves into their daily activities but rather crash into them with an endearing cacophony and a go-get-em mentality.
8. Culture Binds Us All
Sometimes it's fun to analyze a group of friends to try to determine what it is that makes them friends. The answer is always a shared culture. A group of guys gabble on about Steph Curry's career. A group of girls catch up over Vampire Diaries. I gain the trust of some campers with my extensive knowledge of Jane the Virgin. Culture is the thread that binds us all.
7. Laughter Is the Best Medicine
Don't like the activity planned for you today? Make a joke about male genitalia.
Mad about the weather? Make a joke about male genitalia.
There's a brief moment of silence? Make a joke about male genitalia.
Kids are so funny.
6. Seek and Ye Shall Find
I am inspired get off my lazy bum and look for the things I want in life as I listen to my campers' drawn out success stories of capturing an Diglett at the gazebo on Pokemon Go.
5. Appearances Matter
Sometimes dressing up can make all the difference. Jeans make you feel more productive than sweat pants. A dress makes you feel confident.
And a pair of Lebron's can make you feel like a lady's man.
Middle school boys LOVE their name brand sneakers.
4. Be Generous
Generosity can get you far in life. Many of my campers have impressed their crushes, scored brownie points with their counselors, and mended friendships with the simple act of offering a person their Cheez-Itz out of their lunch box.
Sharing really is caring and and butt kissing can make you popular.
3. Play It Cool
Just because you have a crush on someone, doesn't mean you have to gush over them. You don't always want to make it obvious that you like this person. Like my middle schoolers, I have resolved to play it cool around around future crushes by calling them names, pointing out their physical flaws, and chasing them to throw balls at them.
2. Romantic Courage
When you are certain that this is the person you want to enter a relationship with, it is time to quit playing it cool and put your heart on the line and let this person know that you think they are groovy.
I envy the courage my teens have when it comes to their real crushes. An entire camp will know which boy a girl like and the girl is not the least bit embarrassed. A boy will ask out a girl in front of a crowd of her friends. I can only hope to have the same fearlessness with my future romantic endeavors.
1. The Brevity of Love
I know a middle schooler who dated a guy for less than twelve hours. Many of the relationships that bloom during camp wither within the week. And yet no matter how short the relationship, they do not claim it doesn't count. They do not belittle the love they once had. Middle Schoolers understand that the length of a love affair does not correlate with the authenticity of the relationship and I think that's beautiful.