Friday, February 12, 2016

What Summer Camp Taught Me by Gillian Hines

Here at Camp we often struggle to find the best way to explain why Anokijig is so important to those involved. We think former camper and Jr. Staff member Gillian Hines hit the nail on the head with her article recently published at

What Summer Camp Taught Me by Gillian Hines

I went to summer camp for eight years: five as a camper, and three as a counselor. And those weeks I spent at camp over the summer - they were the best times of my life. Not only were they filled with outrageous fun, but they taught me incredibly important life lessons that shaped me as a person. Without my experiences at camp, both as a camper and as a counselor, I wouldn't be who I am today. The people I met and the lessons I learned will stick with me for life, and I am so incredibly thankful. 
Summer camp was the first time I had any sort of freedom or independence as a kid. It was a week away from home, away from my parents. Of course there were camp counselors, a schedule, and in general, people keeping track of me, but really it was my first time making choices completely for myself. I no longer needed to check with my mom before doing something, I just did it.
My summer camp isn't as structured as some camps are. We have long free periods every day - three hours in the afternoon where every "skill area" (read: activity) is open and campers can do what they want. Of course there were still rules and counselors, but campers aren't being told where to go when. They get to choose for themselves.
As a child I definitely noticed and appreciated this new-found freedom, and lessons I learned from it stuck with me. At my camp, we had a song called "On The Loose," and it's a popular campfire song, I bet you've heard it. This song is about being able to choose your own path in life, or at camp. To this day "On The Loose" means a lot to me. As a camper it stuck with me, made me realize that I no longer needed to ask for permission and made me feel grown up. Now, it makes me realize that I am my own person, and I have the freedom to decide who I become. I shape myself, and nobody else can do that for me. Camp taught me that I get to decide who I am, what I do and where I go in life. I don't have to have a plan or follow a set of guidelines. I can just be who I am. As the song goes, "There's a trail that I'll be hiking, just to see where it might go. Many places yet to visit, many people yet to know." Every day, I'm hiking the trail of life and finding out where it takes me. If there's a fork in the path, I choose where I go, nobody else.
With this freedom, of course, comes responsibility. I had to learn to make the most of my time, and not waste it. I started learning this at camp, but admittedly I'm still learning it today - I spend way too much time on Netflix or Tumblr or even just sleeping when I could be being productive or at least enjoying myself with friends.
One of the other things we talked about at camp was "Camper Number Three." There are three types of campers: Camper One gets super involved in one thing, Camper Two tries a little bit of everything. (I'm a Camper Number Two. I always wanted to do everything in camp, and I still do in college. Really, you should see my schedule.) Camper Number Three, on the other hand, wastes their time. They sit around and talk to people, pretty much do nothing, and don't enjoy camp at all - until they realize free period is over. Some people live their lives this way, and camp taught me not to be one of them. I learned from the story of Camper Number Three to live life to the fullest. It doesn't matter if you're a Camper Number One or a Camper Number Two, as long as you're doing something you love, and not waiting around. Our time on earth is limited, and we have to be able to enjoy it.
Being a counselor, of course, taught me a lot of things as well. It made me a part of something, gave me a family and provided a support system that I'll have for the rest of my life. It became a home away from home. It taught me about leadership, responsibility, selflessness and self-improvement, putting my campers first, setting a good example, and also how to row a boat. (It's surprisingly hard. Rowboats are complicated.) But these things pale in comparison to those first lessons I learned as a camper - I need to live my life to the fullest, and do what works for me instead of waiting around and wasting my time doing what other people want me to do. Summer camp taught me to always have outrageous fun, because camp was over way too fast, and life will be too.

Special shout-out to the full-time staff at my summer camp and to all the counselors I had along the way, as a camper and as a staff member. You guys all shaped me as a person and made me who I am today, and I will forever be thankful.

Gillian Hines
Lawrence University '19
Kappa Alpha Theta

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