This will be my 8th session of Not Back to School Camp and my third year on staff. In some ways camp has changed on a fundamental level for me. I am no longer 15 years old, freshly out of high school and terribly accident-prone. I’m no longer a new camper, or even a new staffer. In many ways my relationship to camp has come full circle as I take on the role of First Aid Person at this session. Despite this deep sense of familiarity with camp I still find myself surprised by the magic, the challenges, and the beautiful connections made here.
Coming into staff orientation I was feeling extremely prepared. If you know me, you know how much I like to be prepared. I like plans, and I like having back up plans to those plans. Ideally those plans are color-coded and neatly organized, too. I had visions of myself being blissfully not stressed out by medical and administrative pre-camp paperwork during staff orientation and throughout camp. Unsurprisingly, I found myself blindsided and overwhelmed by the time the evening rolled around as my plans unraveled and new information poured in. I was no longer super prepared. I was tired, sad, and stressed out.
Luckily camp is a pretty safe place to feel vulnerable and terrified that you’re extraordinarily bad at your job because you can’t predict the future. Camp is a sanctuary, a place to practice asking for help and mentorship. Last night, as I delegated the making of spreadsheets and asked for hugs from my fellow staff members, I remembered the sense of safety and support I felt my first year of camp. I also wondered why I’m surprised that I’m met with such kindness and sweetness every year, no matter what my role at camp is. Now, as I sit on a rumbling school bus listening to the hum of excited campers with my staff binder by my side, I reflect on how grateful I am to be able to both create and experience the mission of Not Back to School Camp:
“Not Back to School Camp aspires to create a sanctuary that affirms, inspires, and mentors unschoolers; where campers and staff transform spiritually, emotionally, physically, creatively, intellectually; where profound friendships begin and grow; and where adventure, mystery, music, wild spontaneous fun, and magic prevail.”
Even as the boring staff meetings, seemingly endless health forms, and to-do lists piled around me yesterday I found myself collecting inspiration from Nathen’s presentations on development and value-making stage models, Margie’s enthusiasm for Spot the Pig (Latgawa’s newest edition), and Robin’s remarkable grace under the pressure of her role as the lone Jr. Staffer. I slid down a waterfall, drank coffee under a beautiful blue sky, and listened to my fellow staffers sing. I got to know our new staffer Jim, and caught up with the rest of our staff team whom I consider to be very close friends. As staff orientation ended and we prepared for arrival day I knew we were already creating and experiencing camp. I love this timeless place. It is an eternal home where adventure, mystery, music, wild spontaneous fun, and magic always prevails.