For about nine summers now, I have spent my days playing crazy games on a mound of dirt, teaching soccer to children who couldn't speak English, jumping in the lake on hot afternoons, sneaking out after curfew (sorry, Vinny), dealing with homesick children and the list goes go on. Having me attend a summer camp 1,390 miles away from home is truly one of the best things my parents did for me as a kid. Summer camps have the ability to teach children so many valuable life lessons. For me, personally, camp has played a large roll in shaping me into who I am today, it has taught me things about myself that I didn't even know I needed to learn and for that I am forever thankful.
Little did I know my first year at camp that this place in the middle of nowhere was gonna change my life forever.
It is so much more then a place my parents shipped me off to for the summer, although it felt like that for the first week of my first year. But then you realize that you are a part of something so much bigger than yourself. You are welcomed and accepted into a family, a place full of history and traditions dating back to when your own dad was there as a kid. It is honestly an amazing feeling you get knowing that this place truly feels like your home away from home and the people around you have become family.
Camp has given me the ability to have friends all over the word and the travel bug in me loves that! Camp doesn't just give you friends for two weeks, but for life. It is crazy to think that I am still friends with people that I met my first year there. Camp gave me my best friend, and, although she lives in Mexico, she is the other half that makes me whole and I would have never found her if it wasn't for camp. (I also wouldn't have an excuse to go to Mexico every year.) Each year, that list of friends just grows as the new staff comes in, but you would never know they were new. The great thing about camp is it teaches you how to make friends. A simple "Whats for dinner tonight?" or "Can you make me a bracelet in arts and crafts?" can be the start of a wonderful, life-long friendship.
I learned very quickly my first summer at camp that you can be whoever you want to be. Camp is a place where no one is judged, and it is a safe haven for many of us. Allowing you to be the weirdest, craziest, best version of you that you want to be. Camp has showed me that the people that matter will love you no matter how stupid you look dancing alone at mound or how many chocolate eclairs you eat from the canteen.
Its truly amazing going through the cycle of camp. I remember being a camper and looking up to and idolizing my staff members in the cabins, and now it's me that campers are looking up to. You play such a large role in a camper's life for the few weeks that they are here, and it is so rewarding. You are role models in their lives and it is just the best feeling having a camper run up to you to tell you that they passed their swim test. As a counselor, you will do almost anything, no matter how crazy, just to make a camper smile, and it's the best thing to see.
Leadership and team work skills that you learn at camp you won't get anywhere else! The skills you learn as a counselor you will carry with you forever. I would have never guessed that I would be Color War Co-Captain or that I would ever run a soccer class for 30 campers. I have taken the skills I learned at camp over the years and brought them back to my home life and would probably never being doing some of this stuff here if it wasn't for camp.
The memories that I have made at summer camp are some of the best ones that I have - the friendships you make, the chants you scream for your cabin, the late nights at staff lounge, the summer love you fall head over heals for as a CIT, the 5 a.m. banner collection during color war, the star gazing, the camper who sleeps in your bed, the days off and so many more. Even the bad memories are good at camp.
Summer camp is a place that I could go on forever about because I love it so much, and it is truly become a part of who I am. However, as I get older, I find it harder and harder to dedicate two months of my time to camp. It breaks my heart knowing that I will not be returning, but know that it is what is best for me. It is something that I will never let go of—it is a home forever, and forever a part of my heart.
So, to all new staff, whether it be at my camp or any camp, I can not stress enough that you should cherish every moment, because you will be surprised how fast two months will fly by. Enjoy every sunset you can, because you will miss those almost as much as you miss your friends when you get home. Be open to anything and everything, just say yes. From running an errand for you director to having 12-year-olds paint your face for a contest, just say yes to it all—you never know what you will get from it. This is the best job that you will ever have. The paychecks might not tell you that, but the memories and experiences you gain will show you that this was truly "the best summer of your life!"