By Molly Aitchison | Print Managing Editor
“I’m going to summer camp!” I told my mom enthusiastically as I shipped my last bag off to Oakland, Maine. Still skeptical about this impromptu adventure into the heart of New England, my mom just shook her head and asked for the seven thousandth time if I was ready to work with children all summer.
At the time, I thought being a camp photographer was the easiest job in the world. I had scored an amazing deal where my entire summer was practically paid for, and all I had to do was take pictures of smiling kids so that their parents knew they weren’t friendless losers stuck in the woods. The camp was gorgeous, the staff seemed super cool and I was going to be free of responsibility for a whole two months. By the end of the first day, however, my opinion had changed completely.
Working at summer camp is a lot harder than it seems. While orientation was a fun, relaxing week getting to know my fellow counselors, once the first swarm of children descended on the camp, I realized that I would not have a free moment for the rest of my time there. Within a week, I had already cleaned up blood, sweat and vomit on multiple occasions, and three kids had already tried to throw my precious camera into the lake. I was balancing my photographer responsibilities, my counselor responsibilities and two online summer school classes, all while making sure none of my 12 campers got lost or worse, had cold pasta at dinner.
Despite all of the messes, noises and general unruliness, this summer was one of the best summers of my life. I learned more about my talents, discovering my hidden ability to match wits with 10-year-olds and that I should never try professional sign painting. I slowly became more capable of balancing responsibilities, using the late nights when I was in charge of bedtime to edit and upload photos and finding “me time” in the 15 minute breaks between meals and activities. Most importantly, I figured out how to stay calm in stressful situations, such as when one of my campers jumped off the top bunk and knocked two teeth out, or when one of my coworkers deleted all of our bosses’ personal photos off his laptop.
My summer brought me close to friends from other countries, taught me about how to learn from my mistakes and reminded me how to be a kid, even when I was responsible for them. It took me out of my comfort zone every day and left me desperate for one more gorgeous lakeside sunset.
I lived every moment of every day, both out of necessity and because I became addicted to trying new things and absorbing new experiences. All of the stupid mistakes I made and the hilariously epic teachable moments renewed my faith in people, in myself and in the beauty of adventure. After being so incredibly drained from a difficult school year, spending a summer at camp was exactly what I needed. What started out as being a way to earn some quick cash and live “the good life” soon became an opportunity to learn how to live a full life in any situation.
Whether you decide to go work at a summer camp on a whim or take the internship that you didn’t really know anything about, sometimes the unexpected opportunities in life can be the ones that teach you the most. They can leave you breathless, and you’ll return to the real world invigorated and ready for anything. So when you get a random offer to do something different, be like Nike and “just do it.”