Stage One: Shock
What is this? What have I gotten myself into? Its training week, the returnee staff are dancing and singing camp songs…Omg what is this? It is really hard to watch from the back of the hall! Maybe if I slouch down in my chair they won’t notice me. Oh no they’ve asked me to dance… ok. WHAT DO I DO WITH MY HANDS?!! Oh this is actually quite fun.
Suddenly, you remember this is not your normal behaviour and you take a seat. But 5 minutes later you are back up stealing the show just like the dancing queen you are. This is the beauty of camp.
Stage Two: Panic
They’re here!! Campers are here…Wait what? I’m totally unprepared!! A whole week of training and I’m STILL this nervous? OMG, how has it only been a week since I met the other counselors? Why are they not freaking out?
This reaction is completely normal! By the end of the week you will have fit right in with your co-counselors and kids. You will become a tight-knit family.
Stage Three: Public Humiliation
Without a doubt, at some point in the Summer you will be expected to go way way way outside of your comfort zone. For me it w as Night Court. Night Court is the campers’ one chance during the week to seek revenge on their counselors. The campers present their accusations against the counselors and the judge and jury decide if he/she is guilty. If the counselor is not guilty they walk free. However, in the unfortunate event that you have been found guilty you will face a horrible punishment. Prepared to get gunged with slime, milk, honey, BQQ sauce, cereal…basically everything that has gone out of date in the kitchen. I was accused of farting on pillows and making the campers smell the pillows (still makes me laugh out loud) and to redeem myself I had to perform an Irish dance. I’ve never went to Irish dancing lessons… I panicked, I literally freaked out. I had to come down from the stage and dance in front of 150ish people. To my best efforts I tried my 1, 2, 3s, my 7s and a couple of kicks. Yep – that’s right – I failed and got gunged. It was one of the best nights of my whole camp experience.
Stage Four: Self-Humiliation
After all the weeks of telling yourself no, the peer pressure has amounted to a critical level. You are walking into Walmart to buy your first pair of crocs…thank God your friends from home aren’t here to abuse you. They’re just so handy for getting out of the lake, wearing in the shower AND water sports.
Stage Five: Surrender
Although this is very unhygienic it happens to the best of us. You will be running around frantically having so much fun that you cannot find the time to shower. When you plan to shower something more important comes up like campers can’t sleep or there is free ice cream! You finally understand the saying, ‘follows you like a bad smell.’ It happens no matter how hard you try to prevent it. More importantly it’s sign that you are doing your job right, putting the kids’ needs before yours.
Stage Six: Experimentation
Buying those crazy shirts from Walmart that you can only wear at camp, and finding out 10 other people from camp have the same shirt. In camp I’m described as a hero for wearing this extremely fabulous top, but outside of camp I look like a guy who has the mental age of a nine year old. I’m talking Pokémon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Cat’s on a rocket flying around a burger and much more. Camp at this stage has released your inner nerd who rarely sees the light of day and now your crocs are accompanied by an equally weird piece of clothing.
Stage Seven: Acceptance
OMG we are dancing and singing again!!!! This time you are giving it your all, arms flailing, legs swinging and most importantly – you have your grind face on. You are nodding your head, dad dancing and have completely lost all timing and rhythm but this just makes it even more fun! All the campers laugh at you and try to teach you how to dance, you fail miserably but they love it and you secretly love it too.
Stage Eight: Embrace It
You have officially become weirder than all of the campers. In arts and crafts the campers are now painting you rather than the paper. There is endless amounts of glitter everywhere, but the funniest part is that you are ok with it. You stop caring about your appearance even more and simply try to live every day at camp like it’s your last. You are now leading all the camp songs and making up your own, frequently losing your voice. Camp has moulded you into a better person, this new so called weird you is the best version of yourself.
Stage Nine: Nostalgia
To be honest I am quite sensitive at times but rarely so much so that I cry. The last day of camp I dropped dignity completely and cried like a little girl – that’s probably quite disrespectful to little girls but you get my point. It’s not that you want to cry, it’s just you can’t help it. It’s very hard just to walk away without shedding a tear. You are saying goodbye to your new home, some of the closest friends you will ever have and all of the memories you made. Camp changes you for the better. People can learn so much from the experience. Being able to laugh at yourself is a blessing and nowhere else is self-humiliation more celebrated than at camp.
Eoghan Kennedy – CCUSA participant, 2016 & CCUSA Specialist.