I grew up going to camp every summer.
And I absolutely loved it. There is a vibe at camp that is inexplicable; non-camp people just don't understand. The distinct feeling of camp can't be replicated at school or back in your 'normal' life. With different kinds of people at camp, you get to be a different kind of person: a more authentic one. Your weirdest, most natural self comes alive at camp.
I always knew I wanted to be a camp counselor. As a kid growing up going to church camp, there came a time when I not only needed to be a counselor to the kids, but also needed to lead them in faith. And I knew I was not the person for that role. So camp went on the back burner.
Fast forward four years. I'm at college and a spunky dance team friend returns after the summer sharing stories of her AMAZING time at this camp in Connecticut. And how she had the the oh so cliché BEST SUMMER EVER. I was sold. I knew nothing about Connecticut, which spiked my interest even more.
I got the gig, my grandparents drove me all the way out to Connecticut (10hrs from Ohio), and I landed at Camp Jewell. Little did I know that that decision would have a ripple effect on so many things to come in my life.
Although this was 2008 - the economy hadn't crashed yet - over the next two summers when I decided to return, it felt as if everyone else was taking internships. Making career moves. And I can't say my parents were exactly happy that I was frolicking around in the woods with 10-year-olds for 8 weeks of the summer. But it was where I needed to be.
And camp did more for me than any internship ever could.
It gave me confidence in my weirdness and encouraged it
It's hard to realize the heavy social expectations that weigh on you daily until you find yourself in a utopian community where all of those are stripped. Camp is where you are allowed to be free. Let you freak flag fly.
Camp has this amazing power to be a place that encourages individuality while at the same time creating a huge sense of community and belonging. That is how the world should be. Living weirdly in harmony together.
It introduced me to different cultures and different ways of living
Have you ever tried to understand a thick Yorkshire accent? Or learned the Swedish midsummer frog dance Små grodorna? I hadn't.
Camp hired tons of international staff. From Brits to South Africans, Slovenians to Czechs - we had a ton of interesting co-workers to learn about. And we had the privilege of learning how to work and live with people who grew up seeing the world through totally different eyes, with different norms and different values.
I remember seeing an Italian cafetiere for the first time. This was not in Italy, this was just outside of Alliance, Ohio. It was the first time I was really exposed to a liberal community - including my friends' liberal hippie parents. I became friends with Jewish people - actually a totally new experience for me. I learned that you could actually go and hike in India for a semester and get college credit for it (WHAT!?!). I was seeing new perspectives, and I realized they were the perspectives I wanted for myself.
My mind was opened. And I loved it all.
It made me realize what was important in life
Nature, moving slow, singing and dancing, hugging your friends, being creative, and living simply.
Those things. Those things are most important in my life, and camp showed them too me. All rolled into one perfect summer package.
When I look back, I can clearly see how Camp Jewell was a huge catalyst in the butterfly effect that propelled me to this point. I can truly say that summer camp changed my life. Had it not been for my three summers there, I wouldn't have studied abroad. I wouldn't have flown to England on a whim with 10 other friends and skipped a week of university (sorry Mom and Dad, more on that later). I wouldn't have eventually met my husband. And I wouldn't have gained my passion for the outdoors and the world.
Thanks camp! Love you long time. x