Tuesday, December 5th 2017
By Jamie Weiss
I went to camp for 14 years. It’s an odd feeling to make that statement as it may be the first time I’ve ever used the past tense. Alas, the time has come for me to hang up my camp shirts and leave behind the magic that is summer camp. However, I’m not so sure that the magic is really ever going to leave me. It’s what I always say about summer camp: The days are long, the weeks are short, and the impact is forever.
Some may see camp as an opportunity for a child to eat as many s’mores as they want and get out of their parent’s hair. In reality, summer camp is the foundation of my very being and at the forefront of everything I do in life. I have carried with me the many lessons and memories that only a summer (or many) at camp can bring.
Let’s start from the beginning; I’ve begrudgingly had to sweep the bunk during clean ups, resolve arguments with bunkmates while living in the closest of quarters, and learn to navigate the heartbreak of losing a game of Jack’s (you get through it, I promise). Patience. Team work. Respect. At camp, these lessons are hidden in the smallest of events.
In times of doubt, as a counselor in my 20’s, when I had that little voice in my ear saying “maybe it’s time for an internship” I would think back to these lessons and remember I was exactly where I needed to be.
The leadership skills that I have developed from my time at camp will forever be invaluable. At twenty and twenty-one years old, I led a leadership program for 89 teenagers. I honestly believe I developed the leadership skills to run this program through the many opportunities that presented themselves to me throughout my years as a camper. Was it the self-confidence and dedication of organizing a bunk talent show at age eleven that led me here? Was it the determination to conquer the climbing wall that taught me resilience? It was all of the above and the culmination of every obstacle, hurdle, and triumph of my camp career.
Camp taught me about responsibility, and about learning while you lead. For the past seven years I have been lucky enough to have watched over dozens of 12-16 year olds. The job description of a camp counselor is to ensure the safety of your campers and give them the summer of their lives. However, it never really says that they will in turn change yours. The life lessons that they have imparted on me, and the trust that they put in us remains the biggest takeaway from my entire camp experience.
Camp is not just my happy place. Camp is the one place where I am fully comfortable to feel and convey any and every emotion under the sun. I went from being a shy kid leaving home for the first time, to a self-confident but still unsure teenager employed with the task of being a counselor, to a matured and forever grateful adult who knows it’s not goodbye but see you later. And it’s amazing what I’ve learned along the way.