Yes, I'm an "adult" and I'm still in love with camp.
There is nothing like being at camp. To be surrounded by my best friends in the middle of nowhere has left me with some of the best memories. This summer was my first summer as a staff member at my camp. Through all of the ups and downs, I can say this summer impacted the person who I am today.
1. My social skills changed.
It all starts during counselor week: hundreds of strangers, awkward ice breakers, heaps of accents you can’t really understand. Nothing in my life has prepared me for counselor week. Being thrown into an empty cabin with 5 strangers isn't exactly ideal, but you have to make it work because at the end of the day, it is a job. The next step is making very forced conversation with total strangers who you may have nothing in common with. Although I look back on some of these conversations and cringe, working at camp has made me more willing to meet new people and start a conversation.
2. I broke out of my comfort zone.
Whether you are getting dressed up as a boy by your campers, forced to perform a crazy skit in front of the whole camp, starting a cheer during color war, or your campers harass you every time you speak to a boy, I’ve had some camp experiences that the “old me” would get red in the face just thinking about. However, being a counselor has made me care less about what people think. Getting involved isn't lame, in fact, it is what makes people shine at camp. You learn to not sweat the small things and learn to not be as easily embarrassed.
3. Appearances mean nothing.
Most of the staff walks around in goofy, baggy outfit, messy hair, and not a stitch of make-up on. There is no need to dress fancy or try to impress people. People genuinely like you for who you are. There is no popularity or cliques. In fact, some of the funniest, most independent people are the people who thrive at camp. This was very different from my high school, where people were constantly trying to one-up each other and look the best. Camp is a place where you can just be yourself.
4. Looking after someone’s children is a huge responsibility.
I was never that person who was in love with children, but for seven weeks, I was somewhere in between an older sister and a mother for my campers. We laughed with our campers until our stomachs hurt; but at the end of the day, my co-counselors and I were liable if anything happened to one of our campers. For a parent to entrust you to look after their child 24/7 is such an honor, but needs to be taken seriously. We were responsible for 24 thirteen year olds, which isn't exactly an easy task, but definitely a rewarding one.
5. Time Off.
Imagine 20 males and females, roughly ages 18-26, who haven't had time off in a week. Now imagine those same 20 people all leaving camp for 1 night to sleep in squished hotel rooms together. The people on my time off became some of my closest friends I’ve ever had. Whether we were at Uncle Tony’s, the movies, or the Electric City Tattoo Gallery, we were always vibing hard. Each day off cared about the others. Some of the best memories with my co-counselors were staying up late, eating food in the bathroom, and exchanging the drama that went down on all of our days off. Each day off has their own gossip and inside jokes. For me, #ForbiddenFridays live on.
6. The stories I left camp with are worth telling.
Living in a building with five co-counselors, 24 campers, and no technology or social media, I have seen some pretty messed up shit. Whether it is my campers comparing their boobs, turning our bunk into a haunted house, rapping the play, Hamilton, or one of the campers leading a meditation session, there is truly never a dull moment. My moments at camp have been indescribable and I wouldn't take them back for anything. All of the drama, catfights, and boy drama is worth seeing some of the amazing, hilarious things my campers are capable of doing. They are the little sisters I never wanted, but love with all of my heart.
7. The people are for a lifetime.
Your bunk becomes your family. You can’t imagine your life without the other counselors you have met. You never want to leave your camp bubble. The people you meet can be from the other side of the world, but you still have a connection with them. You have shared something with them that you haven't shared with your friends at home. I cannot imagine my life without my summer family. They are the people I go to when I’m upset, when I want to tell a funny story, or just to brighten my day. I’ve truly met the most amazing, diverse group of people who have changed me for the better.
After this summer, I can honestly say I am happier with the person I am. I have matured in way I could have never imagined, and I now have friends from all over the world. I spend most of my days counting down until I will be in the hills of Pennsylvania again.