Camp State of Mind

I know it’s been awhile since there was a blog post – the entire month of July and August in fact, but who’s keeping track?  Our hiatus wasn’t planned but in hindsight sorely needed.  So what happened?  Did Superman Week annihilate us?  Did the end of the NBA/NHL seasons give us nothing to talk about?  To be honest, life happened.

For the past five summers, life happening means that camp happened.  I’ve written plenty about it and it has been the most consistent thing in my life since I graduated high school.  Even if this was my fifth summer at camp, there was still stuff that surprised me.  Even after five years there was still things for me to learn.  The summer was weird, a good weird though.  I don’t think I was ever comfortable during the summer, which was okay.

The summer felt like a sprint, but some moments and days dragged on.

The summer was rejuvenating and exhausting all at once.

It was frustrating, confusing, and stressful.  Most days after I got home the only things I wanted to do was shower, eat, and try to recover for the next day, except for the minor detail where that never happened.

It would be easy to say that camp destroyed me this summer and I was too tired to write anything that Nicole and I felt was worthy of being posted here.  But since when did we ever do the easy thing?

In a way Superman Week here did kill me.  Writing – I’ll admit – too many words on Superman in a week, while I was in condensed classes, not one of my brightest ideas but it worked out.  I went from finishing my condensed classes to flying back and forth from Vancouver and Calgary about three different times in a span of a week and a half for training for camp and finishing my finals.  So once camp rolled, around my energy level was no where it needed to be.  Oh and, this hectic mess of a week was also the same time as the Alberta floods.  Timing and I don’t get along.

However, despite how tired I felt I was certain that I would be able to do all of the things I wanted to this summer.  Be a better Team Leader, keep some semblance of a workout schedule, go out every weekend, and make time to write.  Out of those four things the only thing I know which happened for sure was I did go out every weekend.  Whoops.

Even though my body felt dead, my spirits were high.  I can’t help it, even after five years, camp is an injection of adrenaline.  I’m pretty sure I got through the first three weeks or so on adrenaline.  You would think I would want to be responsible and go to bed earlier on nights I’d have to work or something, but during the summer I go to bed at midnight and wake up at six for camp.  Some mornings where I didn’t feel it, I looked myself in the mirror and told myself, “If you don’t bring it today, you’re going to be fired.”  Of course this would never actually happen but it’s the kick in the ass I needed.

So let’s review: body feeling dead going into camp, screwed up and condensed training schedule. I mean, I can think of worse ways to get into summer but if you gave me a choice, not the one I would pick.

Thank goodness I had a strong team.  I don’t know if they feel this way but they carried me for the first bit of camp until I got my legs under me.  I still feel terrible about this fact but it was needed.  Going into each summer, my biggest worry is if my team will hate me or not – and thankfully this has never happened.  There was a ton of new staff this summer and I had four new staff on my team, with one other returning besides myself.  For everything that happened over the summer which we will get to, I wouldn’t have asked for anyone else on my team.  Not everything was perfect, nothing ever is, but we dealt with everything we needed to and everyone was able to step up and made sure we didn’t implode.

Quick description of everyone on my team in twenty-five words or less:

Jazz: Most dependable person ever, to the point where I didn’t need to talk to her at camp.

Hazel: A comet of energy for our team, more excited about activities than our campers.

Muscle: The whipping boy on our team but he never did take anything seriously, kept us all loose.

Lilac: Never afraid to speak her mind, great people watching partner.

Belle: Always came to camp excited, somehow knows every word to every song she’s ever listened to.


The first week of camp is always baptism through fire.  No matter how prepared you think you are, camp has a way of just blowing up any and all of your expectations.  And it takes a little while to adjust yourself.  Being ready is overrated anyways.  For me, I like to step back and let my team figure things out and if they need help or there’s a situation they aren’t comfortable with, I’ll jump in.

Going into the summer I framed camp as a four act play.  There’s four two week sessions in the summer and each is it’s own act.  The first act is everyone on the team just figuring out not only where they fit in with the team but how they fit in camp.  The second act is seeing everyone take their roles and find where they are comfortable and minor adjustments are made.  The third act is where I want to see growth, the team has had a month to connect and figure each other out, let’s see where it goes.  By the fourth and final act, everyone understands everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, we should feel like a completely different team than when we first met, and hopefully we feel super tight and close.

Of course, the summer I come up with this idea it cannot be applied to my team.  Did I mention how bad I am with timing?  The reason being by the start of the third week people on my team missed work because of getting sick.  It was like our team was avoiding a zombie virus, we were The Walking Dead.  Everyone on our team missed time at some point during the summer except for Jazz and myself, but I’m not allowed to get sick or be injured or hurt or miss time.  People missed anywhere from a day to an entire week. So that was something new to deal with and put quite a dent in building team chemistry.  We figured it out and people stepped up and I’m sure most of my team did things out of their comfort zone but it just made us stronger.  I feel bad for people who had to miss extended periods of time because camp is great and I know they felt terrible for missing time, but you have to take care of yourself.  In related news, I’m great at not following my own advice.

Going into this past summer I knew it would probably be my last summer at camp.  I was thinking about last summer being my last but I wanted to prove that my first year as a Team Leader wasn’t a fluke.  After session one it just reaffirmed what I was feeling going into the summer.  It’s part I feel like I need something new, even though I’m excited about camp it’s getting old, I’m not sure if I could go through another summer; it feels like I destroyed my body.  We’ll see what happens because I do love camp.  There’s nothing quite like it and I think that’s why I keep going back.  It feels like it’s a break from the real world. It’s like it exists in it’s own pocket dimension.

Camp is two months long and those two months eat your summer.  If you truly invest in it, it becomes the center of your world.  I’ve been lucky because I’ve had five great summers there and it is a place which becomes better with each summer spent there.  The good stuff always outweighs the bad – in fact most of the time, the bad stuff ends up being the funniest and most memorable.

Two months doesn’t seem like much but you would be surprised how much you change and grow in that time.  The change isn’t always drastic or apparent but I do believe you are a different person than when you first step into training.  Camp has a way of revealing things about yourself that you never knew.  It takes your personality and turns the volume up on it.  I believe it could only exist in the summer and not just because of logistical reasons.  In the summer when the weather is warm, you feel different; you are different.  You feel more free, more attractive, more of your ideal self.  Camp ignites this state of mind.

A funny thing about camp is you introduce yourself to people as your camp name.  It’s as if you shed your real name when you walk in.  It takes some time to get used to.  Most people pick their own camp name but some get bestowed one.  I picked mine and it is Ice.  I remember trying to decide between Ice and Flash and my ex-girlfriend told me that if I picked Flash, people would think I was an arrogant asshole.  To be honest I’m not sure picking Ice helped in this department.  Your camp name has a way of energizing you, it’s as if it’s your own superhero moniker.  To be honest, most times at camp that’s exactly what you feel like.

At the end of summer everyone gets “awards.”  Usually these come with a funny or memorable story.  My award this summer was the “Iron Man Award.”  They told me that it was a nod to both the Iron Man Competition and Iron Man the superhero.  They told me they thought of this as my award was because nothing fazes me.  They explained that I was always ready to deal with anything at camp and after whatever I dealt with I would act as if nothing happened and everything was normal.  It did not matter how ridiculous a situation got, nothing affected the energy I brought.

Camp has been over for three weeks and I’m still trying to process it.  All of the good and bad that happened; it was an eventful summer to say the least.  That’s the thing about camp and summer, it ends.  And before you start dreaming or making plans you know that it’s only two months long, yet it doesn’t stop you to wish for more.  Even though you accept that camp won’t be there to keep you warm in the fall, you understand that is not its purpose.  That’s the thing about camp, it always has sweet beginnings and mostly a bitter-sweet ending.  But you cherish the time you had; you cherish it as if it was twelve months long and beyond.

Looking back I could take many things away from this summer such as: I should listen to my body and actually take care of it.  Or even, why does my timing in life have to be so horrid?

I feel raw.  Not in a rough around the edges type of way.  Rather, I feel open and exposed, like if I was lyrics in a song or words in a book.

If I have one thought or lesson I learned from this past summer it would have to be this: Ice has no limits.  But what about Irving?

I guess we’ll find out.

It’s Like I Have ESPN or Something – Nicole

Sometimes life sneaks up on you from behind and two-handed shoves you right smack onto your face.  And gives you cauliflower ears.  And pulls your hair.  And then sits on you, trapping you belly-down (life is really heavy).

Sometimes it even tickles you.  In the armpits.

Life can be a jerk.

But it’s what Irving is describing – the guts, the focus, the best friends that come prepared with bandaids, the heart, (and the pizza) – that we learn from tricky situations.  It’s the stuff that camp teaches us.  It’s what Irving needs when he looks back over his shoulder on a complicated summer, gives it a wave, and keeps walking away.  It’s important business, this authentic bravery stuff. We should be thankful that through camp, we’ve been given such a rich chance to learn all about bouncing back and toughing it out.  And being tickled.  In the armpits, obviously.

What Irving has said here reminds of a favourite quote by Brene Brown – “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.  Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness”.

Semi-related: “Don’t try to win over the haters; you are not a jackass whisperer” (Brene Brown).

Irving Chong (@Irving_Chong) and Nicole (@_nicoliooo) are co-creators of This is Why we Can’t Have Nice Things even though it doesn’t make sense why they’re friends.


One thought on “Camp State of Mind

  1. We Aren’t Any Closer to Having Nice Things: 50 – This is Why we Can't Have Nice Things

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