Guest post by Tamsin Andrews
So you’ve made it. You’ve finally got that e-mail or phone call or snail mail letter and you’re over the moon, you’re on staff, and it’s like being a camper without bed time and full access to the snack stuff. You’re thinking of your staff name and finding out who else got hired. But you’ve suddenly realized you have to be in charge of campers like yourself, and you’re lost. Now what? How do you make the most out of your first year in the staff shirt?
It’s almost impossible to be completely prepared for you first year on staff. I’m on my fourth, and I still surprise myself every time. You’ll never pack enough, but you’ll still over pack. You’ll learn how to deal with ridiculous situations before camp starts, but the campers will always invent more. And you can rely on what you’ve observed in books, movies, magazines, and all your years watching your counselors at camp, but you’ll never be completely prepared for your first year in the staff shirt.
There are a million lists on how to prepare yourself for camper-counselor situations, for what to pack, for how to plan your summer. This one is for you, the staff member, the crazy camp counselor, the first-year friend, and making the most out of it. Hopefully these tips will help ease you into the crazy summer ahead.
- Keep a journal. That’s the first thing. Keep a journal, or a quote book, or even a list of whatever happened each day. Just keep some kind of record of the unforgettable but somehow forgettable moments. And make sure someone is getting at least a few crazy pictures.
- Make bracelets, but make them for others. They’ll in turn make some for you, and those bracelets have more of a story than the ones you made for yourself. (But if you make a truly stellar one, there’s no shame in adding that one to your own wrist.)
- Learn how to take 20-minute naps. You’ll love the 20-minute naps.
- If you have an idea, tell someone. Tell everyone! Try them out. Even if your idea flops, everyone loves new ideas and new experiences.
- Be yourself with megawatt energy and less swearing. Your wonderful self was hired there for a reason, so don’t be afraid to let your zaniness show.
- Let yourself be a camper sometimes. You are there for the campers, but you can occasionally be a camper yourself. Let yourself loose in games. Show your insane enthusiasm for your favorite activity, whatever that may be. The campers will feed off your energy, and in turn show their excitement for their favorites. Sometimes being the camp counselor can mean being the camper with a staff shirt.
- It is okay to take time for yourself. We all do it. Yes, you are there for your campers, and you are switched on 24/7, but if you are on your break, and you need to recharge, it is 100% okay to ditch your fellow counselors and take some time to yourself. You can also be with people and still be by yourself. I love bringing a book to wherever the time-off hang out is and relaxing to the background murmur of my friends.
- Drink lots of water! You’ll tell your kids to, but you can’t forget yourself. Nalgenes were made for camp and are meant to be filled to the brim.
- Open up to your fellow staff members. They understand your stress, your fears, and your love of camp. Chances are, they’re going through the exact same things. You’ll know these people for one summer, but feel like you’ve known them for years.
- And most importantly, even if you are dead exhausted, sweating from head to toe, or bathing-in-aloe-vera sunburnt, spend time with your kids. The eight-year-olds, the fourteen-year-olds, the fellow counselors, who are, yes, still kids. Spend time with them, because even in the downtime, the most hilarious, most adorable, most cherishable memories are made.
Tamsin Andrews has been a camp kid for as long as she can remember. She spends her summers working at Long Bay Camp in Westport, Ontario, and has been attending sleep-away camps since the age of seven. She is currently studying English and creative writing at Dalhousie University, where camp continues to influence her pieces of fiction.
Photo courtesy of Camp Howe, Goshen, Massachusetts