Lessons learned from summer camp

Graphic by Joshua Awolade

Graphic by Joshua Awolade

I’ve spent every summer since I was nine at my second home: overnight camp.

Now, as a canoe trip counsellor, I take campers out of campgrounds and lead trips into the mystical world of Algonquin Park, and by some inconceivable miracle I get paid to do it.

To me, there’s nothing more uplifting than watching a camper complete their first portage or paddle hard for the final stretch of an enormous lake.

There’s also nothing more inspirational than sitting around a fire in the soothing peace of nature, completely separated from the lightning-speed world of civilization, while stuffing our faces with countless s’mores.

On each of these trips, it’s protocol for campers to hand in their watches. The trippers need to know what time it is, but the kids never do.

Instead, they can surrender to the timeless beauty of their surroundings, with the only notification of moments passing being the golden sun gliding forward overhead.

Canoe trips aside, I’ve met some of my best friends back at camp. Many, who I see as my brothers and sisters, have moved on throughout the years from the need to build up their resumes or gain work experience that can help ease the transition into the real world of adulthood.

With every summer that passes, I wonder how many more times I’ll be able to freely dive off the dock into the lake with my best friends or jump up on tables with a banana in each hand, pretending to be a monkey for a bunch of ten-year-olds.

How many summers do I have left until I’m expected to wear a business suit, instead of walking around shirtless covered in face paint?

To some of you this may seem like a bunch of childish endeavors, but for those of you who have experienced taking care of children and, in a sense, becoming one of them, you’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about.

It’s more than a way of re-entering the glory days of your youth, it’s a way of unleashing the freedom of your inevitable adulthood. In those moments of freedom, worries of the future don’t exist.

I’m not saying we should all give up our summer jobs to go work at an overnight camp; there are countless student opportunities available with outstanding financial benefits and life-changing experiences.

I’m saying we should let our passions guide our way and let credentials and resumes fall afterwards.

The truth, is I have no clue how many more summers I’ve got of going back to camp.

Whether it’s tuition, rent, textbooks, meal plans or affording the next round at the bar, money is a constant consideration for students and summer camp doesn’t do much to help pay the bills. Regardless, sometimes it’s better to hang on by a thread then to let go altogether.

Much like with school, deadlines and due dates will conquer our schedules in future careers, suffocating us by providing little room to breathe.

It’s important to take on each task one step at a time, always aware and appreciative for the now instead of the later. I know time is ticking, but sometimes, just like with canoe trips, it’s better to leave your watch at home.

Despite the machine gun bullets of expectations shooting you in every inch of flesh, it’s important to take cover and do what you’re passionate about.

Jobs will come and go, but doing what you love is the only job worth pursuing. In the end, passion will be the engine that drives you wherever it is you want to go.

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