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Life > Experiences

The Summer Camp Narrative

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SBU chapter.

Starting at age five, I became a summer camp kid.

Every morning for two weeks a summer, my mom pulled my sister and me out of bed early, loaded us up into our minivan and dropped us off at our local YMCA for a day of adventure. I would pack my backpack up with sunscreen, water, snacks, a lunch and a bathing suit and declare myself ready for any challenge I may encounter.

Though my sister and I complained endlessly, I loved it. 

Summer camp became the smell of my sunscreen lather as the morning sun warmed my bare shoulders. It became silly songs that I sang loudly, complete with movements and dances and laughs. It became hikes in the woods, a trip to the stream and a rock collection of all different colors. It became the sound of a tetherball game, a rhythmic bounce that always came back. Swim lessons, rock wall climbs, circle games, boondoggle, friendship bracelets and ziplines on a seemingly endless loop. 

Somewhere along the way, it felt like I wanted more. I asked my mom for more camp, and what she found was sample camp. Sample camp was a chance to try overnight camp. You had to stay for three days, then you made your choice to either stay for the rest of the week or go home. Sample camp was, for twenty-four hours, the scariest thing I had ever done.

I was eight-years-old and suddenly left with one duffel bag and my backpack on the porch of a dusty old cabin. I started back at my bunkmates and my counselors, and I told myself that I was ready to be an overnight camper. I happily went along with the flow of the evening. A walking tour, dinner, a campfire, a few of those same familiar songs, and then the rush to bedtime.

This was when things went downhill. I was, after all, a very sensitive child. I cried and cried to my counselor, Danielle. I was eight and I was scared and I missed my mom. Danielle told me that I had no choice but to sleep there that night, it was already late. She gave me a hug, rubbed my back, and told me bedtime stories until I fell asleep. 

That is the only notable event I remember of that week. For the rest of the week, I was on cloud nine. I went sailing and rock climbed and tie-dyed and sang songs and I was perfectly happy. I learned the map of summer camp as I walked it, place to place, day by day. A summer camp kid, again, through and through. One week every summer of obliviate bliss, ignorant to any of the chaos of the outside world. 

This narrative continued for eight summers. Each week I’d return, I’d fall into it all over again. New friends, new skills, and newfound independence. Endless games to play, challenges to beat, and awards to win. To me, camp was magic. It was an oasis in the middle of nowhere that held all the kindest people in the world. It was at camp that I learned that people liked me. My counselors complimented me. They listened to me. They taught me to be both aware of myself and confident in my great qualities. They were my first teachers in unrelenting patience and respect.

I can’t quite comprehend all I learned at camp. I couldn’t name then what camp was to me, and it’s hard to express now all that I have learned. What I can explain is what it has meant for me to be a camp counselor and all the growth that has come from that experience. 

A decade and a half after my first summer camp days, I have become the counselors I once looked up to. At first glance, I look like the counselors I once admired. I wear a colorful watch, my chaco sandals, athletic shorts and my camp-provided counselor t-shirts. I carry around a backpack filled with anything I could possibly need, complete with a water bottle and a walkie-talkie. I wake up to the bugles, happily drink camp coffee and navigate the dining hall like a seasoned professional, stopping by many tables to greet friends and campers alike.

Sometimes it feels like camp is a stage that I have walked in on, and I have no choice but to perform. I have become a great performer. 

I can easily pretend that any activity I do at camp is the most fun I have ever had. Delivering water coolers, cleaning dishes, landscaping, painting, all under the July sun and I do it all with a smile none of my school friends have ever seen. Waking up early to sound the bugles, sweeping the dining hall, delivering goggles to the waterfront, done with a “no problem” and access to a golf cart.

Though it is sometimes a performance, I often am truly having the most fun of my life. Camp has taught me an immense amount about how to be grateful for any opportunity. Though each of those tasks may be considered annoying, I know that each has a purpose essential to the functioning and flow of an entire camp of people. I love the idea that something I can do with a new friend by my side is contributing to something bigger. “Thankless jobs” become gifts of trust. I become grateful simply to be living in the day that I am in. Never more than 100 yards from a beautiful lake, under the summer sun, wearing a uniform I dreamed about donning for years.

It is a privilege to be exactly where I am. 

Summer camp has taught me to bring this grateful mentality to every day. From this angle, every day is an opportunity to grow, to learn, to make a friend, and to help others. Every task becomes an essential task for one reason or another. Everything can be looked at from another angle. All it takes is a shift in mentality. I can now acknowledge that my feet have carried me to many cool places, my brain has kept me safe, my hands carry out many essential functions, and my body has supported me through it all, good and bad. I have shifted from negativity to gratefulness.

Every day I am grateful to be who I am, and where I am. Every day I feel grateful for each opportunity, all because of that summer camp narrative.

Allie is a new member of the Her Campus chapter at St. Bonaventure University. She plans to write pieces on topics such as pop culture, music, health, and more! Allie is currently a junior studying both Early Childhood and Childhood Inclusive Education and Music. On campus, Allie is involved in College Democrats, the Bonaventure Education Association, Empower, and SGA. Allie also enjoys volunteering at the Food Pantry and Bona Buddies. In her time away from academics, you can find Allie reading or taking a walk on the River Trail with her friends. Allie is also an avid music lover and can tell you a fun fact about any music from any culture and time frame.