As the end of the summer has drawn near my mind has turned again and again to an opinion expressed frequently at camp by campers and staff alike- the idea that camp is not real life. I myself have said this many times, and lately I’ve got to thinking about what exactly this means.
Real life, for campers and staff, means work, hard work, homework, schoolwork, it means the prospect of not being included, accepted or valued as we ought to be, it means exposure to all kinds of role models, not always positive ones. It also means electricity, real beds, long showers, internet and air conditioning.
Then for a few golden weeks or months a year we have camp life, no phones, no air con, 3 minute showers. But we also have independence, inclusion, acceptance, we sing and stamp and dance at meals, we have an identity, our own identity, we can be ourselves at camp, we are exposed to positive role models and have the incredible fortune of being able to influence in a real way the lives of others.
So, how do we conclude that camp is not real life? At camp we have many of the qualities that people think of when that envision a perfect society. Camp is a place where we can truly be ourselves and strive to be the best we can be. Nowhere else in my life do I find myself day after day laughing so hard I feel like I’m going to break a rib. In no other job (and I’ve had a few) have I gained such satisfaction and joy or felt so valued and loved.
We all have to grow up and get ‘real life’ jobs someday and leave camp behind. But in my opinion, real life and the real world should be striving to be more like camp, because to me, and countless others, of all the places we’ve been in our lives, camp has been the most real.
-Beth Nelson (Apache Village Chief)