Written by Laura Davis
6am. My alarm goes off and I shut it off quickly so it doesn’t wake anyone else up. I roll onto my back and feel the early morning sun on my face through the fly screen on the window. I breathe a contented sigh and then throw back the covers and jump out of bed. I throw on some clothes, grab my sneakers and my iPod and tip-toe softly out of my bunk, taking extra care not to wake any of the 12 sleeping girls I share my summer home with (though I do stifle a giggle at the enormous snores coming from the tiny one on the end!).
It’s only 1.5 miles into my 3 mile run along the edge of the lake that I realise how damn lucky I am. Who else can say they jump out of bed on a Monday morning after 11 straight days of working 18 hours a day and then still have the energy to go for a run and be excitedly looking forward to the day ahead?
No, I’m not high. Or drunk. Or insane (or at least not clinically). The answer is simple. I LOVE my job. I am a counsellor at a summer camp in Maine and I can honestly say it is the best thing I have ever done.
Every day I wake up and look out across the beautiful, crystal clear lake that looks like it has come straight off a postcard. I spend my days surrounded by nature, greenery, fresh air and the most inspiring, hilarious, incredible young women I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.
At home all my friends say to me “you’re so lucky to get paid to be on holiday all summer”. They are both right and wrong. Yes, I am lucky but no, I am not on holiday. Working as a camp counsellor is without a doubt the hardest and most exhausting job I have ever done, but it has rewarded me in ways I never imagined possible.
Working at camp has given me confidence I desperately needed. I was always the kid in school who would never speak up, I would sit in the back, bury myself in my schoolwork and do my absolute best to be ignored. I hated the limelight. I hated attention. And I suppose part of me still does. But when I’m at camp you can find me having dance parties in the middle of the Dining Hall, leading cheers with my girls, prancing about on stage like a complete idiot with the sole hope of making them smile. I find myself speaking up for the girls who are too afraid to speak for themselves and helping them to find their own confidence.
Camp has given me friends from all across the globe. I have met people of different ages, different cultures, different social classes. I have had deep and meaningful conversations with people who don’t even speak English as their first language, been amazed at how fluently they speak and then been laughed at when I tried to learn something in their mother tongue. Some of my closest friends live thousands of miles away but that doesn’t mean I don’t talk to them every day.
I have been given the chance to learn new skills I never imagined I would learn – who would have ever imagined the girl with the fear of water would learn to water ski? I’ve also learned how to think on my feet (try planning a campfire with s’mores only to have it rained out with 5 minutes to go and then having to entertain a bunch of disappointed 12 year olds), to cook over an open flame and to care for someone other than myself.
I’ve been introduced to new cultures and had experiences that really cannot compare to anything else. I have travelled to places I never thought of visiting before and had the time of my life. I have learnt a lot about the world and also a lot about myself. Camp can change you for the better if you are willing to let it and it will give you memories that last a lifetime.
Yeah, some days are hard. The kids can be grumpy, you might miss home, the chocolate isn’t as good. But the positives outweigh the negatives a million times over. And all the hard work is so incredibly worth it to hear those 7 little words from the kids who have become your family over the past couple of months: “I’ll see you again next summer, right?”