Before I went to camp, if you were to ask the adults in my life to describe me in one word, they would probably say “focused” or “disciplined” or “passionate.” This would be their nice way of saying I focus on one thing and one thing only, my grades. Now of course this makes my parents really happy, and they are proud of all of the A’s I bring home on my report card, and are excited about all of the opportunities I’ll have after high school. But they also realized that something was a little off balance. The time and energy and stress that I put on myself and my rising GPA left little room to enjoy other things typical teenagers should be enjoying, like sports and friends and a book other than a textbook. I was worried when they mentioned a summer camp, and then especially worried when they clarified that it was NOT an academic camp. How am I going to relate to the other kids? I should be using the summer to study quantum physics, not floating around in a canoe! But I packed up my suitcase, said goodbye to my calculators and science magazines, and headed to camp where, my parents hoped, I’d learn to find some balance.
The second day of camp, I found myself balanced. Balanced atop a shaking rope, a hundred feet off the ground, with sweat running down my face. I had been encouraged to try the ropes course, and one shaky foot in front of the other, and with a crowd of pretty much perfect strangers cheering for me, I faced my fear of heights and made it all the way across the challenge course. I was pretty sure this was not what my parents meant by finding balance, but it did give me a rush and helped me face a fear.
As the days flew by, my hours were packed with activities and events that I never would have tried back home. Instead of passing up on social activities to study, I was racing from tennis matches to pottery class and then to the lake for a swim. People were asking ME to be on their team, to hang out with them and to try something new with them. And they were doing it because they liked hanging out with me, not because they wanted to copy my homework or get answers for a test. That was such a great feeling!
I even started to notice this “balance” theme sneak into other areas of my life. For the first few days I only ate food that was familiar to me, but as time went on I started to eat healthier foods, and with the guidance of the counselors, learned to balance the healthy food with the snack food.
At the end of the day, during quiet time in our cabins, I would write down everything I had done that day. I began to see that my likes and interests were broadening, and that each day I was involved in many different areas. I was being creative in the morning, athletic in the mid afternoon, pensive and reflective in the late afternoon (with my quiet time by the lake) as well as social, independent and confident all day long. I began to see how much I was missing at home by focusing all of my time and energy on one thing.
Now, if you ask the adults in my life to describe me, they’ll say “always on the go” or “diverse” or “busy!” And it’s true, camp helped me realize that while grades and education are still at the top of my list, it doesn’t have to be the ONLY thing on my list. I’m thankful for my time at camp, and that it opened up windows for me to live a healthier, more balanced life.