The Legacy of Camp Monroe

November 2019
Camp Monroe archive photo of camp staff

Summer 1994. I was 10, and my mom signed me up for the second four weeks at Camp Monroe. It was mid-season and everyone seemed to know each other. I was one of three Marylanders and the only person from Baltimore out of 500 people. Everyone I met had a totally different style and accent than me. Kids were from Long Island and Brooklyn. Staten Island kids’ entire way of being blew my fragile and somewhat southern mind. When I got to my bunk, it was clear that I was the youngest and the shortest (everyone was 11 because they didn’t have room for me in the 10-year-old bunks). I said goodbye to my mom and didn’t even kiss her or hug her. I wanted to look tough for my older, camp-experienced bunkmates. The day went great, but by nighttime — holy homesickness, Batman! I would have killed for that hug and kiss goodbye. I cried every night for two weeks. Daytime was fine. I was so occupied with sports, activities, games, and nonsense. However, once it got dark, thoughts of my parents crept into my mind and shattered my spirit.

There isn’t a thing anyone can do to get a child out of homesickness but just be there for them as they get used to being independent. So that is what my bunk did. Shout out to my counselors Todd Rosenbluth and Ezra Berkowitz for that support! The kids in my bunk didn’t make fun of me either. It is an unwritten rule to support the homesick kid — like a rehab for momma’s boys. For two weeks I sent my parents many letters with sad faces, complaints, and reasons for them to come get me. After four weeks, on the last day of camp, I told my mom to put the deposit down for next summer — all eight weeks. I was hooked.

I ended up going to camp for 14 summers. I made so many friends every summer, strengthened existing friendships, and actually had girlfriends, which was not really happening for me at my all-boys high school. I was a camper in the 90s and a counselor in the 2000s. My last three summers I was an administrator and ran the dining hall, which was the best job ever. If you do the math, that means I went to camp every year through grade school, college, and even a year after college right before I moved to New York City at 23. I didn’t want to do anything else. There was no reason to do anything else. I was addicted to camp. But, why?

Camp was two months every summer where I got to be with people 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It was supremely intimate. It took me out of my comfort zone, because for me, being alone can be comfortable. Separating oneself from others can be safe. As I write this, I am alone behind a computer. Social media can be used for sharing and connecting, but often we use it for the opposite, and we don’t even realize how disconnected and alone we are. For two months at camp, there was nowhere to hide. It was impossible to play the game of life separate and alone there. This dynamic brought out who all of us were at our cores. It exposed us. Some people struggled with it at first. Some didn’t. Either way, we were our joyous, beautiful, light, weird, imperfect, powerful, fragile selves at camp.

Relationships are the foundation of life. And the most important relationship camp actually cultivates is the relationship to oneself. Because of camp, I was able to fully express and relate to myself as perfect in all my imperfections. I got to embrace me.

Camp Monroe shut its doors after eight decades. It may be gone, but its legacy sure isn’t. Being who we truly are day in and day out is the legacy of Camp Monroe. 


Josh Kline is an associate certified coach under the International Coaching Federation and the founder of The Catalyst Cradle, which supports organizations and individuals in achieving their goals. Josh can be reached at josh@thecatalystcradle.com

Photo courtesy of Josh Kline.