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The place that shaped me… PART 1: Summers 1-3

Because people asked for this… So if you know me, and if you recognise the photo, you know what this post is going to be about. And I’ve written about this numerous times but people still want more so here it is. I will aim to be a lot more open and candid talking about it this time. I’m going to give my most honest account of working at Camp Dark Waters for the past 6 summers and how it has impacted me today. I’m also going to name drop a bunch of people because you all deserve recognition. This is going to be in 3 parts just because I have so much to say. So I will recount my first 3 summers then the next 3 then write a post on the impact it’s had on me. Summer 1 (2013)

I have told a lot of people this story but my camp journey didn’t start the same as it did for most people that work at CDW. Most people go up through the ranks, they’re campers then CITs and eventually counselors and what this creates is a very close community where everyone knows everyone. So coming into an environment like this was hard for me. I’m not the most outspoken person ever and being a quiet individual doesn’t really bode well at camp… unless you know how to use it. So I found myself amongst a bunch of strangers who were American, loud and obnoxious. I had no idea what I was doing there, I wasn’t even that in to the idea of camp but there I was, having no idea what was in store for me. I spent my first summer being the low key counselor. People knew who I was, mainly because I was British, but I wasn’t one to make a fool of myself in front of people. I hated the constant singing and the announcements and living in the middle of nowhere. For the first 2 weeks I wanted to go home. But I will never forget the people that made me feel welcome. And one thing I will always remember is Christine making an effort to get to know me during staff week and that is something that still sticks with me today. It’s safe to say that I was a pretty mediocre counsellor and I had no plans to go back for a second summer. I thought it would be a great thing to do just the one time and then get on with my life. But I met a bunch of amazing people, mostly the kids, and when they’re asking you to come back the next year its hard to say no. I had probably the best crew I ever had with Olivia. Probably the only crew that I vividly remember. I was a young 18 year old boy going into the summer with a lot of insecurities and anxieties and even though I am still insecure and anxious this place taught me things that I could not learn anywhere else. As the weeks went on, I felt more and more comfortable being there and by the end it really felt like home. Summer 2 (2014)

Summer 2 started very weirdly for me. I arrived early to camp as I was in NYC visiting family beforehand. So I was there during what they call Ad Staff Week. And the previous summer to this, I had no relationship with Ad Staff whatsoever. Oh for you guys that don’t know Ad Staff are the administrators and they’re kind of the counselor’s boss. No, not kind of… they ARE the boss, forever and always. Anywho I spent the week feeling very awkward as I found myself in bars with people 10 years older than me who I had not spoken to before. And anyone that knows me knows that this is a situation that just terrifies me. But I will say, it was actually good that I had this week. Being a second year counselor is one of the most important jobs at camp and one of the hardest. You not only have to better what you did the previous year but you also have a new crop of first year counsellors that you have to help and guide. So getting to know Ad Staff made me feel a bit more comfortable going into the summer and hopefully put me in their good books. I honestly feel like this summer was the making of me. It was the first time I felt like I was making real connections with both staff and campers. I had a great relationship with my co Stephen, became close with one of my best friends now, Katie, and discovered a new crop of amazing campers. I also want to actually thank Mad-Dog for how my second summer went. You were a huge factor in making me feel comfortable at camp and were always there for emotional support. Teaching Level X will always be one of my all time favourite camp experiences. Everyone knows I love to swim… so being able to impart some valuable knowledge on a group of great kids was quite the experience. All capped off with a nice ceremonial milk jug throwing that may or may not have had some crude messages. I then got the opportunity to become super involved with banquet. I got to pick which staff got which campers and also Maitre D’d the whole event. And summer 2014 was when I made one of my favourite banquet gifts. A quote board with a pretty great painting of Timone that I gave to my good friend Kristen. I always tell people that their second summer will most likely be their best. And still to this day the summer of 2014 is one of my favourites. I think it really solidified my love of camp and was the beginning of a bunch of great relationships for me. Summer 3 (2015)

So this is where things really get interesting. In what probably would’ve been my final year at camp but the summer of 2015 was actually a very big turning point for me. So before this I had made it clear that if I was to be an Ad Staff person I would want to be the Counselor in Training Director. But I had no real aspirations of actually going for this. But staffing for 2015 was proving difficult and probably because I was the oldest counselor I got bumped up to what was my dream position. But because I came in so late and was paired with the baddest bitch ever (Love you Efrosini) it was a huge transition for me. To put it into perspective I only knew I would be doing this job a week before the summer started. So I came in not having a clue what I was doing and working with someone who had already done a lot of work on the CIT programme. So I spent a lot of my time attempting to put my stamp on the position but not trying to step on anyone’s toes. And the first half of the summer was VERY hard. I went from working with effectively some of the youngest kids to the oldest and I just wasn’t prepared for it. Who knew a bunch of competent 15-16 year olds could be so difficult. But having said this I knew this was the position for me. I was now able to have real conversations with the kids I was looking after and have a real impact on their development. And when I am still talking to one of those kids on a daily basis today in 2018 it makes it all worth it. Love ya Emma! So the second half of the summer results in a completely new set of kids and I initially thought it would be easy but tedious because we just had to repeat everything we had just did with the previous set, it was actually a completely different experience. The kids are what make the programme and that is something I didn’t quite get initially. These new TICs cemented my love for the job and by this time Efi and I seemed to come to understand each other a lot better. I had always admired her as a counselor but she did intimidate so in fact getting the chance to work so closely with her was a privilege. It was a great way to cap of such a turbulent summer and one of my favourite memories will always be sitting in a canoe with Molly and Hussain on the last day to spill some tea. Alright that’s it for this post. And honestly looking back there is still so much I’d love to write about but I would honestly be here for days. Stay tuned for Summers 4-6 where you get to hear the story of how I fell in love.

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