Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Things I Learned at Summer Camp

Once you enter adulthood, summers tend to lose some of their appeal. As much as I love summer, I spend most of those beautiful daylight hours trapped at work. Sure, there are fleeting moments of joy ... beach vacations, 4th of July BBQs, Saturdays by the pool, an evening at the ballpark ... but nothing like the sheer possibility of a summer that stretched before me as a child.

And of course, those summers usually included at least a week spent at Girl Scout summer camp, representing some of my most favorite childhood memories. It wasn't all fun and games though -- I learned plenty of valuable lessons from my days as a Girl Scout camper.

- The importance of an encouraging word, especially when you're paralyzed on a 40-foot high-wire on the ropes course.

- Sometimes it's better just to strike out and do your own thing. After multiple years of going to camp with "buddies" who suffered from relentless and dramatic homesickness, I decided maybe I'd be fine on my own. I was.

- The importance of role models. I remember the all-consuming awe we had for our Senior Aides - for us, they were the definition of cool. I tried to remember that when I became an aide and later a leader myself. (Although, as adult leaders, our coolness quotient goes down a bit.)

- Don't fear wildlife. I say this as someone who shared my first tent with 7 little friends -- 3 other girls and 4 small bats hanging from the rafter. (I suppose this lesson doesn't apply if your area is prone to poisonous snakes or man-eating bears, but for the most part I've found it to be true.)

- Hammocks are really comfortable for lounging - not so much for sleeping overnight.

- Make new friends but keep the old. "Keep the old" being the important message here.

- If someone suggests going on a "snipe hunt," just say no.

- I will do just about anything for a patch. Including getting up at the butt-crack of dawn, donning a swimsuit and jumping into freezing cold water to participate in ridiculous swim challenges - just to say I was a member of the Bluefish Club. I'd say I was ambitious and persistent, except once I got the patch, I never did that crap again.

- It's ok to ask for help. I remember being so worried before I went off to camp at the age of 7 because I couldn't pull my hair back into a ponytail on my own. Spoiler alert - I survived.

- Nothing tastes as good as a popsicle on a hot summer afternoon or a s'more around the campfire. In fact, everything tastes better when camping - and you'll never be able to replicate that experience at home.

- Canoeing with another person is the ultimate communication test. In fact, it should probably be required in pre-marital counseling.

- Before writing a nasty letter home to your mom blaming her for not packing your rain poncho, maybe do a doublecheck to make sure it didn't get pushed to the bottom of your sleeping bag. Trust me, you'll never hear the end of it.

- Even the hardest of hearts will feel a little tug when you hear "Linger" sung around a closing night campfire.

- That sometimes you have to get away from everything in order to truly see and appreciate the beauty of the stars. I feel like this might be a metaphor for life.

What about you? What did you learn from your summer camp days?

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