Every summer, since the age of seven, I have dreamed of being a summer camp counselor at Cloverleaf Ranch. After 11 years of anticipation, I was finally at the point of where I could apply. I got the job, and spent this summer working alongside the most amazing and genuine people I have ever met. It was the summer of my life. Other people have felt this way too.
My friends have never understood why I choose to spend two months away from the real world, with only one day off a week. They don't understand why I took a less than average paycheck once a month simply to sleep in a cabin and be around kids 24/7. Yes, there were things I missed while I was gone. I missed my best friend's birthday. I missed another best friend's breakup. I missed my family going on the first camping trip they have gone on in three years. I was isolated and rarely communicated with the outside world. I was too busy spending every moment I could with the staff, making sure I cherished every second I could with them.
What I can never explain to anyone, is the sense of community that is created within not only the counselors but throughout the entire camp family. The way you watch a kid grow from not talking to anybody, to being the one to spend the entire night on the dance floor at the camp dance. How hearing a little kid say they will miss you once the week is over, can pull you out of dark place. Connections with the campers are what summer camp counselors thrive on. Moments like teaching kids how to make friendship bracelets, so they can give their new best friends something to remember them by. Or when a kid needs help swimming in the lake or pool and they ask you to be their swim buddy. Maybe the moments that meant something to you, was during mealtime when you would sit there talking to your coworkers and campers. The moments that create a smile on a kids face, the moments that you created with camp magic. Those moments are what we live for. It's why we do what we do.
It's easy to forget why we are doing what we are doing. It's easy to get caught up in the stress. It's easy to wish you were back home with your friends and family instead of working nonstop with children who tend to not be grateful.
The reason I am writing this article, is to tell all summer camp counselors, that everything you missed while you were gone, it was worth it. Yes, you missed things in the real world. But in the real world, there were shootings, protests and violence. There's hatred and misguidance. At summer camp, the most drama you get is Sally having a camp crush on Johnny, and Johnny being into Rachel. The world may be ending for Sally, but it's something you can fix. One of our camp nurses always said, "Summer camp counselors will be the people to change the world." And I agree. We are showing kids one step at a time that it is OK to be lighthearted, sweet, kind and just happy about living.
While big things are happening, it is OK to not let them bring you down. We are here to show kids that it is OK to be yourself. That the little moments matter more than the big ticket items we all are driven to. I just hope that the summer camp counselors out there, realize that while our jobs aren't the most prestigious, everything we do is worth the struggle.