'You Have Changed'
Updated: Jan 17, 2021
At this time of year, the days are getting shorter and colder and the summer seems like a distant memory. You are constantly posting throwback summer pictures and tossing between the idea of coming back to camp or not. After every summer I feel like I come home and all I do is tell stories about my summer. I mean come on, there are so many different funny moments, songs that reminds you of something, and many, ‘there was this one time’. The list goes on and on. You are spending 24/7 with your camp friends, for months at a time, in your own camp bubble. There are going to be endless inside jokes, that not many people understand. This does not mean you are a mean person. When people say you have changed - they are kind of right.
The summer camp environment pushes you slightly out of your comfort zone, for you to become the best version of yourself. At summer camp you have to jump into the deep end. For me, arriving at a brand-new environment not knowing anyone, meant that you have to go out of your way to talk to people, to make connections and to trust people. With hindsight, these are the people you are living with for the summer. These people are the ones that are going to support you when you have a crappy day. With these people you are going to make memories, friendships, maybe even find lifelong connections. You cannot hide your personality at summer camp. These people see you at your best, at your worst, and everything in-between.
You have to learn to trust people, and to let them in. Especially in a summer camp environment, you cannot keep up with appearances here. It is not like you can go home, be yourself, and shut everyone else out. You are constantly around people. People are with you 24/7, and you cannot avoid it. It is comforting to know that you are never alone, but the downside to that is that you are never alone (I know, catch 22). You have to manage your emotions on a new level, different than you ever have before. Luckily in this environment you can explore that. You have people that are not judging you, they are in the same boat as you. You learn to lean on them and express things that maybe you have never expressed to anyone before, because you would normally be alone in the situation.
You become more outgoing. Camp is the best place to express yourself; you can literally dance like no one is watching, you can jump in the lake with all your clothes on, you can paint your face, hands, body and no one would blink an eye. Summer camp is the one place where the environment is understanding, where you do not have to stress out about what to wear to work. Where you can be a kid, literally. You can climb that wall, or go paddle boarding or any other activity. The support is real at summer camp! You gain confidence at summer camp just by being you. Those ‘real world stresses’ are outside of the camp bubble and nothing else matters. Social media does not dictate what we think whilst we are here. There are no online distractions from watching the sunset or any Netflix binge to keep you from the campfire. Here you are present, and those connections help you become the best version of yourself.
You become more confident. The camp environment on the surface can look rather scary. Many people living in the same place, on the same schedule, for months at a time. However, summer camp allows you to grow in confidence. You can build up the courage to lead a cabin in an activity, or have that awkward conversation with a camper. All of these everyday occurrences build up and without you even noticing you have developed this new confidence. The camp community sees the best in you, praises you and lifts you up as they were there to witness your achievements. It will not come across in a large over the top gesture. It could be just a hug, or a smile and a nod of the head, to know that you have done well. However it is shown, people see you and support you as you grow, which in essence makes you grow even more. Not many workplaces can say the same – if any.
You become a storyteller. Before you started your adventure, I am sure you had great stories about whatever reality TV show was on or what people posted on social media. Whereas, now you have personal stories. Stories that mean something to you. Stories that you cannot wait to tell people. You often start a story by saying: ‘I remember this one time…’ or ‘This song always reminds me of…’ Now people back home do not understand why your eyes light up when you want to tell your stories. They do not understand how you have so many. It was just one summer! Or how funny that moment was, that you still laugh every time you tell the story. They just do not get it. You have had an amazing summer, filled with fantastic memories and you want to share these stories with your friends and family. They will enjoy seeing you happy, however, these stories are just that to them, stories. The sad and unfortunate truth is that they will never understand, until that have a similar experience. And for most of your friends back home, they may never have the chance to have their own adventure.
You have grown as a person; you have discovered qualities about yourself that you never knew existed. You have proven not just to you, but to your family and everyone else that you can do this. You can create your own adventure and stick with it, even if you imagined it would have played out differently. You still made the most out of your experience. Unfortunately, sometimes when you get home, people cannot understand the journey you went on, or how badly you want to do it again. And that’s okay. Sometimes, all you can wish for, is that they see you have changed and how it is not a bad thing.