Camp & My Quarter Life Crisis

“Vulnerability is vital.” –Adam Braun, Founder, Pencils of Promise

I didn’t want to believe it for much of my life, and I often still rail against it now. But I have come to accept that vulnerability truly is a vital part of life.

In order to be vulnerable, you must be willing to admit who you are and accept both your good and your bad qualities. Recently I have been forced to face this dichotomy very honestly.

I have learned that sharing your successes will help you establish credibility; but sharing your fears and failures will allow you to establish connection.

I am finally crawling out of what I deemed my quarter-life crisis. Well, with Donald Trump running for president, ISIS, and millions of people starving, I guess the word “crisis” is a bit too dramatic. Nevertheless, these past few months have been quite the whirlwind.

“So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s the age old question that dances around in our heads from a young age. Whenever someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said I wanted to be a Camp Director. Of course that answer was endearing and cute when I was 16. But the closer I get to college graduation, the more I realize how immature “I want to be a Camp Director” sounds to the rest of the world.

The response I always get is, “Well, what would you do the other ten months out of the year?” Ugh. *insert eye-roll here*

I’ve never been able to fully explain my profession in a way that doesn’t sound completely cheesy and corny to non-camp people — but who cares, I think it’s awesome.

The cause of my quarter-life crisis was an issue that I assume plagues many of my peers: purpose. I’m a few years into this so-called “real world” and I recently started questioning whether my 9–5 was the best use of my time and energy.

So, I quit.

That statement left mouths hanging open in disbelief. I had just been promoted into a position I coveted for five years. I put all of my energy into my organization, devoted hours upon hours of time into growing our programs, and worked tirelessly to build positive relationships with our families.

So, why throw it away? Simply put, my internal flame started to burn out. I was unmotivated and had an undefined urge for change. I wanted to explore, to learn. And I wanted to find out if this whole camp thing was really what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

“If you live for the weekends and vacation, your shit is broken.” –Gary Vaynerchuck

So, in an attempt to reignite my flame, I moved across the country. I took a (what I thought at the time) temporary, 3-month job at a sleep away camp in California and the rest, my friends, is history.

Our camp season ended just about a month ago and I can confidently say that it was the best summer of my life. I know now that I for sure want to work in the camp industry. In fact, I begin working for my camp in California year-round starting next month. My passion for (and belief in) the power of camp is stronger than ever.

I realize now that the dissonance I felt at my old job stemmed from my search for greener grass. I believed that once I got to do this, or work on that project, or earn this amount of money, I would be happy. However, my quarter-life crisis was never actually a function of my job title. I was tripping because my head was constantly on a swivel. And it was my own personal need for higher expectations that had me feeling unsettled.

There are plenty of recipes for leading a meaningful life. It just so happens that creating a safe haven for kids at camp is mine. That is my purpose. I have come to appreciate that, at the end of the day, the greatest accomplishments of my life aren’t printed on my diploma or displayed in my bank account. They are the special moments that I was able to make a child smile.

I thought that people in their twenties had to have their life all figured out; that they had to act like adults all the time. However, the best cure for my quarter-life crisis was going to camp and acting like a kid again. Through age we may gain wisdom, but we can also lose our childlike passion for learning and exploration.

In the end, nothing ever really turns out the way we plan. These past few months have taught me that uncertainty is a blessing in disguise. And while sometimes it can feel like the world is caving in on us, we have to remember that the blank pages ahead are all parts of our unwritten story.

Here is to hoping that my next chapter is filled with magic, ponies, rainbows, and extra s’mores…

Yours in Camping,