So, You Wanna be a Camp Counselor

If you haven’t been able to tell, this summer my job includes being a theatre director, improv teacher, and camp counselor far away from home.

In the past, my summer jobs have included stage management, nannying, and theatre tech crew. All jobs that involve working for and with others, but at the end of the day I could lock my door and turn off my phone and call it a night.

The closest I’ve gotten to being a counselor was being an RA at my school, but even then I could shut my door or go home for a weekend before I had to interact again.

There have been days this summer where I’ve called my mom sobbing, asking her why I did this, how I’m going to make it through the rest of the summer. We just passed the halfway mark at camp and I’ve had so many ups and downs that I feel like I’ve been here for years.

There have been days where I knew I would miss camp when I leave. Moments that, as my friend refers to them, solidify the feeling that we label as “this is camp”. To us, that’s come to symbolize the idea that we’re really experiencing the stereotypical camp experience.

If you, reader, are looking to be a counselor I have a bit of advice for you: make sure you’re ready for it.

There are going to be days where you want to go home. The homesickness I’ve experienced here is worse than anything I’ve felt before.

But the feeling I got when I came back from 12 hours of airport duty on changeover day to my campers running towards me for a group hug, exclaiming that they missed me, reminded me of why I’m there.

Hearing my campers talk about how much they enjoy the bunk solidifies that “this is camp. “

Watching all the kids having fun, goofing around in the pool and giggling, solidifies the feeling that “this is camp”.

Campers opening up to me, even if they’re not in my bunk, and entrusting me with stories about their life or their feelings and fears, fills me with warmth and the memories of those confessions helps me move through the tough times.

When I can’t get my girls up in the morning for the fifth day in a row, and we’re late to line up again, and they’re rebelling for the eighth time that day already, but still tell me all about their day when they come back for curfew reminds me that “this is camp”.

There are days where I steal a moment away to cry, to call home and talk out how I’m feeling, and then I have an improv class where kids are laughing, participating, and telling me how much they enjoyed class or what games they want to play that really reminds me that “this is camp”.

Having advice sessions with my group leader, or my fellow counselors and friends at camp, give me a feeling of community I haven’t felt before. It’s strange, because I’ve had a sense of community in the past, but this is a different ball game. Camp has dynamics you would never expect in the real world.

Moments like these, that ground me and help me center, are the pit stops in what feels like an endless summer. They are all camp.

My other piece of advice would be accept the highs and lows, and approach this job you would a move to a new town. There’s a culture there that you need to get a feeling for, time passes in a new way, and you need to get through growing pains to gain attention. There are going to be kids who don’t like you, and that’s just part of the package. Focus on the ones who do like you, the ones who participate with you, and work to get the moments where they call you ‘mom’ or tell you that they love you.

If you can take the lows, then welcome the highs with open arms. Keep those memories secure somewhere for when you’re stressed, feeling alone, or scared while doing your job.

And hey, taking it one day at a time never hurt either.

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