I first arrived at Camp Ocean Pines late in the afternoon, having spent the last two days in 3 different flights and 5 different airports. I was 9 hours behind time zones, I had never met any of the people I knew I would be working with for almost 2 months asides from short skype conversations, and I had the vague feeling that I’d left something important behind at home. I was out of my comfort zone. But, the second I got a bit of time to myself to get everything in order, having finished the introductions and tour that all shot by in a hazy blur, I began to get comfortable. Looking out at the sun setting over the ocean, with the forest all around us and the clouds slowly drifting by, the reality of the situation hit. I was in an absolutely incredible place, working a job that I was so excited to get started. This was the moment of something that I had spent so long working for and worrying about being recognised. And there really wasn’t anything that could take away from that feeling.
However, as always, you get the real feel of a place from the people there. And the people here are amazing. The whole staff did so much for me and all the others, and we all quickly adapted to our roles and schedules. We all became comfortable in leading any of the activities the camp offers, and started to add our own experience and quirks to the syllabus plans, introducing new themes and games from all our varied backgrounds. And what I said about individuals making the place doesn’t apply to just the staff. When the first session started, we all quickly realised that the kids that came our way were going to be the ones that set the experience. And watching every single one of them shine through as individuals in even the smallest of moments that we caught, whether it was in helping a friend keeping their arm steady when aiming a slingshot, or coming out of their shell at a campfire, dancing, singing and throwing themselves into comedy skits, these were the moments that made us so proud to be doing what we’re doing, and were what we’d leave the camp holding the closest.
As I’m writing this blog post, I’m sitting in a small internet café near Yosemite, realizing that I’m probably among the last of the counselors to put all their thoughts and experiences into a few short paragraphs. It makes me feel a little bit guilty. But, even as I’m sitting here, I can name every camper that I’d ever had in my cabin, or an activity, and hundreds more besides. My bag is filled with things like tiny teddy bears I’d been gifted, a pair of once-white silk trousers that had been tie-dyed, and a drawing of one of my good friends as Bob Ross. I have every email that had been sent my way printed out and kept in a small folder near the back. I left camp with so much, with amazing friends, with incredible experiences, and with lessons and memories that I’m going to hold for the rest of my life.