In 2010, ten-year-old me took my first of seven forty-two minute trips to Camp Ocean Pines from San Luis Obispo. My first year, I was signed up for two weeks, but only ended up going for one because I was so nervous, that the first week I was to go to camp, I had a terrible stomach ache and would not go. Then the next week, when I finally arrived at camp, I realized that it was dumb to have been nervous about coming to camp, and had missed out on a fantastic week. In my first week of being there, what would have been my second, I met some awesome people who made me have a great experience.
My first year of camp had been an awesome experience for me, but my toes had only brushed the surface, and I had yet to experience the magic of camp. When I went back to school, my life had pretty much returned to normal, and I quickly forgot about my week at camp. However, at the end of the year, my father asked me if I wanted to return to camp, and I thought “Eh, why not? It was pretty cool last year, and maybe I’ll have just as much fun this year.” This idea of mine however, was completely inaccurate, as the following year was 10 times better than my first. That year, I met some good friends named Maya and Sam who I still remember six years later. My first year is very blurry, and I do not remember many people, but I do remember how I felt. However, from my second year, remember how people made me feel, and can picture the faces of those who made my week at camp one of the best weeks of the year.
Two years later, I was signed up for a different session because of new trip my family planned. Sessions 4 and 5 were the ones I was signed up for that year, and I was very nervous because I knew I was going to meet new people, and I wouldn’t know anyone. I was right, and I walked into my cabin as a stranger. Even so, I met Cole, Robert, Julian, and J’aime, who all made me feel welcome in the camp. Together, we explored Morro Bay in kayaks, we learned how to do archery together, and we grew closer together. Even when we left camp, we still stayed in touch throughout the whole year.
Five years passed for me as a camper, and I made new friends throughout the whole time, and I took away an important lesson. During the school year I was always worried about how others viewed me, and my “standing” in the social world. I didn’t want to be an outcast or rejected by anyone, and there would be many times I would put on a fake persona in order to avoid failure. However at camp, I could be myself, without the fear that someone would think I'm crazy. I don't know the reason behind this phenomenon, maybe because I knew I would only see the people for a couple weeks, maybe because everyone else was showing their own quirks, or maybe it was the magic of Camp Ocean Pines. Even to this day, after seven years of coming to camp, I still don't have an answer. I took this idea of being yourself back to school. It was weird and different, as my friend group switched from one group of people to another, and in the beginning I felt confused and lost, but as time went on, I became more happy than I had been before.
After finishing my time as a camper, I returned as a Counselor in Training because I loved Camp so much, and couldn't keep myself away. As a CIT, I was in a leadership position, and helped create the magic of Camp Ocean Pines. It was a whole new experience, as I was “on the other side of the curtain”. This last year, I returned as as Junior Counselor, and loved it as much as the past six years of being at camp. These past two years of being in a leadership role were very different from being a camper, but both were great experiences, and i learned lessons from both. As a pseudo-counselor, I learned how to work with children, and I became a babysitter as well as a volunteer at a local elementary school.
If you are potential camper considering coming to camp, or a parent considering sending your child to camp, I highly recommend Camp Ocean Pines, as my decision to come seven years ago has changed me and my life for the better.
Noah Galpert a.k.a. Squirrel