Anything you do is more fun with the right people. A party? Yes. A concert? For sure. Dinner? Bon Appetit!
Sometimes, though, we don’t get a choice. There are places we have to be, and we don’t get to make the guest list.
It’s like that at camp. Every summer, we get returning staff and campers, but we also get a fresh batch. The people who come to camp come from all over, and many have never been away from home. It’s hard to explain camp life to someone who has never experienced it. It’s truly amazing, with many rewards—but for new people, the transition is not always an easy one.
Camp takes a minute to get used to. It’s like moving to a new city, or going off to college, or prison. (But hopefully not prison, unless you’re bad.) Every single one of your senses change the minute you enter the gates. The scenery is different, the smell is different, the food is different—all the senses—all different. It can be very exciting, but also very intimidating, especially if you go alone.
When the staff and campers first get to camp, it’s interesting to watch everyone navigate. Camp is a controlled environment, but the wandering is still present. It never lasts for long though. Eventually, most everyone finds their place, because they have found their tribe.
Like most intense life experiences, camp is better when shared. So many things that happen in a day at camp, it helps to process those things with someone else—someone who understands camp life, and understands you.
For some, it’s tricky to find that person. Finding your tribe doesn’t always come easily. There was a counselor many years ago who was STELLAR. He was one who could have moved up the ranks and been perfect for an administration position, but he just couldn’t connect with the staff. I don’t know why; he was very cool. The campers liked and respected him, and so did the staff, but he wasn’t having it. It just wasn’t the right mix of people that year, so for as much as he enjoyed camp, he didn’t enjoy his experience quite as much. To this day, he doesn’t regret any of it, it just wasn’t for him. I kept thinking it would have been different if he gave it one more summer because the people change every year, but he never did come back—at least not yet.
That happens sometimes, a good one gets away. But for the most part, they don’t. The staff and campers come (alone or with friends) and they find their tribe.
It’s not about getting in with “The Cool Group” or “The Whatever Group.” It’s not about the clothes or the cash (especially at camp because nobody has any of those things). It’s about being where you need to be at this time in your life, and the people you need to be with.
Your tribe love and accept you for everything you are. They support through the rough times, and toast the good ones (with bug juice). They stand up when you are being bullied, awarded or married. They are there when you need them, no matter where they are, no matter how many years have passed, forever.
There’s no minimum or a maximum capacity to a tribe. There can be 1 or there can be 1000. But there’s also no formal invite. You have to put yourself out there, at least a little bit. That’s not always easy, but the rewards are worth it. It has to be your best self though—your true, authentic self—and someone will pull you in.
It will happen, and when it does, your summer camp experience will morph into something much bigger than you ever imagined, and you will leave not only with memories to last a lifetime, but a tribe that will do the same.