My friends have stopped asking me what my summer plans are. They’ve stopped inviting me to beach trips and concerts and road trips. Not because they don’t like me anymore, but because they know that there is only place I want to spend my summers: America’s Finest Summer Camps.
They know that all year I count down the stays to pack my bags, buy new tennis shoes (that always get destroyed by the end of camp) and head off to my favorite place in the world. They know that I don’t sleep the night before camp, not because I’m nervous, but because I know there are hundreds of kids going to bed anxious and nervous and excited about going to camp, meeting friends, and meeting their new counselors!
I go back to work at camp every year because it makes me a better person. I feel like investing in the lives of kids and watching them grow, learn and blossom into who they are meant to be beats anything else I could be doing with my summer. I go back every year because I made a goal to be the person my younger self needed. I needed someone to trust, to talk to, to listen to me, to encourage me, to answer my questions and to make me feel important. And so I go back every year to be that to the campers. At the end of a summer I am full of emotion, knowing I enhanced the lives of kids. I didn’t get that sense of satisfaction and purpose after a summer of road trips and concerts and beach trips.
I get beach days as a counselor when I spend time kayaking and swimming and fishing on the lake with my campers. I get concerts when I watch kids sing and dance their hearts out on stage. I get to experience adventures as we mountain bike, climb the wall on the ropes course and race down the zip line. But when I do it, I’m not doing it for me, I’m doing it for the dozens of campers who depend, trust and rely on me. And there is not better reason than that.
I go back to camp every year because it is a blast. It is a summer full of fun and excitement, where we learn something new every day. I go back to camp because I’ve built relationships with campers and want to reconnect with them, and be part of the lifelong memories they are making.
My friends see how happy and refreshed I am when I come back from a summer as a counselor, and compare it to how exhausted, sunburnt and broke they feel, and are beginning to ask questions about what it means to be a counselor. They want in on this adventure, this experience that I’ve fallen in love with.
I go back to camp because I become a better person every time I go, and so do the campers. And it fills my heart to be a part of that.