I grew up with camp as an innate part of my life. Based on the fact that my siblings, both older than me, did not go to nearly as many camps as I did, I have surmised that I actively chose camp to be an important part of my life. My December school holidays were typically scheduled for three camps (perhaps four on years when I was feeling adventurous). My basic camp diet consisted of YP camp, drama camp and Girls’ Camp. Alongside with these annual camps, my holidays were sprinkled with other varieties such as SUFES adventure and writing camps. There was something about camps that drew me back to them again and again and again although some of my most painful and lonely moments were experienced there. Sometimes the pressure of finding friends within the first 12 hours of camp overwhelmed me and I would be desperately finding a way out of social awkwardness when I realized that I was all alone. There was also the pressure of being “cool” and performing well in games and skits and crafts. I often felt like my inadequacies were being highlighted.
It’s the times when I “performed” well that made me giddy in love with camp. Being away from home for three or four days, living with my peers, playing water games, baking cookies, finding friends that I was so sure then that would last forever… Years later it appears that the whole camp thing has stuck with me. I found myself working at an American summer camp when I spent the summer of 2010 in the States. I fell in love with camp all over again and I plan on going back again this summer. In certain aspects, camp as an adult did not change much since I experienced camp as a teenager. I went through some extremely lonely and challenging moments as the pressure to perform as a counselor crushed me.
While relaying my painful camp experiences to Jonathan a couple days ago, he asked me, “So why do you keep doing these camp things despite them being so painful?” I had to think for awhile because the games and fun couldn’t be it. I realized that I hold camp so dearly to my heart because it was where I first truly experienced emotional intimacy. Granted, none of the most important people in my life now are a result of merely spending 4 days with them. My camp friends showed me in my teenage years how to trust and how to be vulnerable. Those bursts of joyous friendships cultivated over four days were simply a shadow of how friendships can and will change me in the future.
Apart from wanting to give campers what I received when I was a camper, I would also like to be there for those who can’t throw a ball, those who can’t aim and, of course, for those who are terrified of water and can’t swim and so on… To help soothe the pains of not fitting in and not being “cool”. Though I think I might have a harder time finding a kid that fits the last description apart from myself.