Hold On Tight

My favorite thing about going to camp is the relationships you either make there, or ones you came in with that you strengthen. Camp friends are the best kind of friends. They see you when you’re out of your element and have your guard down. You are the best version of yourself at camp, and so you get to know really incredible people.

The last night of Student Council camp was always hard emotionally. For some reason your council for the week became family. Everyone gathered around the pond and lit candles and shared stories and memories. Then we put arms around each other and sang camp songs like Stand By Me and Tiny Bubbles. The whole night was about reflecting on the week and how we grew. It was also about realizing that it’s people who make you grow, not camp.

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My last church camp as a camper was shortly after graduation. We had a senior class at our church that numbered close to 60 people, but we were all each others’ closest friends. We had been through several years of camp and community groups together. We had dated each other, gone on road trips with each other, and been there for each other on a daily basis. The last night of camp was the seniors’ gift to the kids below us. Every year they present the Gospel in a different way. We walked them through stations that resembled the last hours of Jesus’ life. This was really special because it was our final thing together.We all gathered together before hand to have communion as a class with the leaders who had been with us from the beginning. There were lots of tears. They were for joyful memories but also for the pain of splitting up. This was the last time we were all in the same place.

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As my school year is coming to an end I can’t help but compare it to the end of camp.This semester was the hardest semester I will have to go through they say. I had a class that took all of my time and energy. I got physically ill from how much stress this class put on me. I have always found success pretty easily in life, and this semester knocked all of that confidence right out of me.

Something spectacular did come out of the semester though. I gained some phenomenal friendships. I went through a very difficult class, and so did a lot of other amazing people. We saw each other at our most stressed out and messed up. We also celebrated together because though our victories seemed small to others, we understood how big they were. These are the people I am going to be with for the rest of my undergraduate career, and I don’t mind one bit.

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I also figured out what people in my life really care about me and are in it for the long haul. I was a disaster this semester, both physically and mentally. I struggled to find joy in every day. The people who were by my side through this and encouraged me are the people I want by my side through the rest of my life. I am incredibly thankful for my family and the friends that kept me from completely falling to pieces.

What I’ve learned from camp (some of my happiest and most victorious memories) and from this semester (some of my hardest and most discouraging memories) is that you’ve got to hold on tight to the people who were there. Hold on to the people who will celebrate with you and also the ones that will sit silently by you while you’re sad.

And if you’re lucky enough to have people who can do both, keep them around forever.

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Trying New Things

Camp has always been a place that pushes me out of my comfort zone. You won’t find many people who hate cheesy icebreaker games more than me. Doing silly things with strangers is not something I usually enjoy. Team building games at student council camp were more enjoyable for me, but they were incredibly frustrating to do with people I didn’t know. I am a creature of habit and don’t really like new things. However, camp definitely taught me that stepping out of my comfort zone is when I grew.

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Icebreakers and team building gave me a lot of skills I didn’t know I would need. Now, as a reporting student, I am a lot better at striking up conversations and figuring out how to conduct interviews with different types of people. I have a much better approach to problem solving and leading committees within my sorority. I also learned how to speak up and not be the quiet girl waiting for the game to get back around to me. There are a lot of ways I apply these uncomfortable experiences in life. I cherish the fact that camp made me step outside of my comfort zone.

It’s always good to try new things, even if it’s uncomfortable. I still hate doing it, but I grow when I try new things.

I decided to try my hand at dip calligraphy pens since I love using regular pens to do hand lettering. Now, this hasn’t been a huge growing experience like camp, but it’s still trying something new. I thought I would be able to pick it up and make some really beautiful things. I was very wrong.

 

I learned a lesson in patience today. Trying to figure out how to work the different nibs (the part you dip in the ink) properly was frustrating. And I definitely didn’t figure it out in one day. You can see that from the photos.

 

The point is, I did something with a different approach than I usually do. It was a reminder that I’m not going to succeed at everything right away. Beautiful things take patience. Even though it was small, stepping out of my comfort zone still taught me something.

I still hate trying new things. This was frustrating. My advice is to do it anyway. The rewards outweigh the fear of failure.

I think failure was the real reason I always hated the games at student council camp. Beautiful friendships came out of that camp though because I pushed that fear of failure down and stepped out of my comfort zone.

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People Take You Places

One of the most important things I have learned is that camp doesn’t happen without other people. It’s not a solitary activity. All the fun, growth, reflection, and everything else cannot happen unless you have people doing it alongside you. Sure, you can do those things all by yourself. But, the camp setting proves that the results are magnified when you’re doing it with other people.

I believe that you learn best from other people. Something that someone else says or does often sparks a new thought inside of you. This is a cycle. That’s why student council camp was so effective for me. You can’t learn leadership qualities without people to lead you and without people to lead. At church camp, spiritual growth happens by learning from others’ stories and talking through life with them.

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I feel it is extremely important to keep this mindset year round. The past few weeks I have been extremely busy and often try to spend any free time I have taking some time for myself. I am a firm believer in personal time to keep your mind healthy. However, I realized once I got a free weekend that I was continuing to be stressed because I hadn’t been spending enough time with other people.

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My friends forced me to take some time off and go hiking and hammocking with them. They got my mind off of everything. We just sat in peace and talked about life. I always stress how great it is to foster relationships, but I sometimes forget to maintain those myself.

Without people I get caught up in my head. I get concerned with my successes and failures, when my biggest failure is actually missing out on time with the people I love. This past week was a good reminder that people make me happy and help me get through life. Life is a team effort. We need others to grow and learn, but also to keep us focused on enjoying life as we go.

Don’t take the people who love you for granted.

Basis for Blogging

I want to start off by explaining the name for my blog. Life is Like Camp is kind of a metaphor for how I like to view life. I live my life summer camp to summer camp and all the time in between is filled with thoughts of returning. I have been a camp kid since elementary school, and I still return as a college kid to be a counselor. What I have learned from all the years of camp is that the week or two away really grows you as a person. So, why shouldn’t every day be like that?

At camp, you spend a week unplugged from everything and everyone. My favorite camps were actually the ones where I wasn’t allowed to have any electronics with me. That gave me the opportunity to focus on me and relationships with fellow campers. I made some of my best friends in these environments. The time away is a time to grow. Whether it’s an adventure camp, a church camp, or even a student council leadership institute, the goal is to leave camp a different person. There are lessons taught and learned and time for reflection. The point of camp is really to leave with goals for yourself. Summed up: you recharge, learn about yourself, build meaningful relationships, set goals for the future, and have fun all the while.

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No, you can’t have the mountaintop experience of camp every day (this would be the kind of  motivated “high” you get from being away). But, since I like to think about camp all the time I tend to try and apply little habits of reflection and mindfulness throughout the year in order to continue growth. No one likes the valley that comes after the mountaintop experience.

I am a stress case. I have terrible anxiety and let little things ruin my day. I focus too hard on the small things and things that are out of my control. Thinking about camp and those memories tend to help me bring a little stress control and relaxation to my daily routine. So that’s what I intend to blog about. I want to share my stress coping habits and the things I reflect on. Kind of a look into my head and how I get through my day. I like to call them habits of mindfulness.

Through elementary school and part of middle school I would attend day camp near my house. These alway shad themes about books (like Harry Potter) or were solely for art and adventure. This camp taught me to love creativity and imagination. It fueled my love for literature and playing in the woods.

Starting in middle school I joined student council. For six years I attended the Missouri Association of Student Councils Summer Leadership Institute. It was a fancy name for a camp where we did team building on steroids, shared ideas with STUCO kids from across the state, and had a whole lot of fun. This grew me in my leadership skills and organization. It also taught me how to build excellent relationships, many of which I have been reunited with in college and get to continue growing.

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The camps that shaped me most were through my church. We called it Summerfest because it was a week of close friends, time on Lake of the Ozarks, crazy activities (picture epic food fights and tie-dye with the clothes already on your body), and a lot of time growing spiritually. These were the camps where I really reflected on myself and where I was at in life. It recharged me for the year and set goals for how I should continue growing. It was the kind of place that broke down all the walls I had put up and grew me from scratch again. I continue to go back as a leader and work with younger girls to do the same for them. I will be working at a Christian camp called Kanakuk for a month this summer. These camps taught me how to reflect, set goals, create clean habits for growth, and build meaningful relationships. They are largely why I am who I am today.

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So, that’s kind of a premise of the camps I went to and things I picked up from them. I have developed a lot of these lessons learned into habits I try and do regularly. Things like journaling, organization tools, quality time with friends, etc. I also learned to sit and reflect a lot because looking back is often how you move forward. So, those are the things I am going to share with you: my reflections and my habits I have to aim for growth.

Growth and reflection should be a daily thing, and this is why I like to think life is like camp.