I woke up this morning expecting to be laying in my familiar wooden bunk, seeing the same familiar dark room, and hearing the familiar stomping from breakfast happening just a floor above me. Instead of experiencing this, I woke up on a daybed in my sister’s apartment and the reality sunk in that my summer truly had come to a close.
Camp is over and Chicago is calling my name. It was harder to leave Squanto this summer than it ever has been. Although this summer was nothing short of a roller coaster, it was beautiful in its own regard. It is said every year, but each summer has its own challenges.
This summer, I took on the position of night chef. For those of you who are unsure of what this means, I basically assistant managed the kitchen at camp. When I walked in on my first night I felt unsure of myself and utterly terrified. After a week I had gained my confidence and my memory of how to do certain things around the kitchen prevailed. There was a whole new set of nerves to conquer on my first night planning a meal for campers. Messing up a meal for the staff was one thing, but messing up a meal for campers was a completely different thing. Despite my fears, the first week of campers went off without a hitch and I felt on top of the world. At that point I knew that the summer would work out just fine as far as running a kitchen went for me. I got past the confidence hurdle.
Everyone who has ever worked at an overnight summer camp knows that your staff becomes your family (especially after 9 weeks with them.) The camp culture allows for relationships to grow faster than in any other environment. If you asked me why, I would probably say that it happens simply because those are the only people you’ve got and human nature demands for us to have companionship. Being basically in the middle of nowhere with little cellphone reception, and little connection to current world events makes in-person fellowship not only desirable, but necessary. To add to the already obvious factors, a camp staffer even gains a warped concept of time. My life revolved around the ringing of a bell all day, everyday, for 9 weeks. The bell informed us all when it was time to wake up, time to change activities, and time to eat. This sort of environment practically screams for human interaction (and thank God for that–I would like to consider myself a little old school in that way.) Despite natural human tendencies, I couldn’t help but feel excluded sometimes. Many of the returning staff members fell back into the rhythm of their old friendships, and the new staff members quickly found their new friendships, however I felt stuck in the middle.
Working in the kitchen means that you are on a completely different schedule from the rest of camp. My time off was when others were working, and vice versa. This is not to say that I was lonely, or that I didn’t have great friendships (because I most certainly did), but it is to say that I often felt like I was really missing out on some key experiences that the rest of the staff was having. This hurdle was one that I never really got over, but I was blessed with some pretty amazing friends this summer who just truly understood the position I was in as a member of the kitchen staff. I definitely felt loved this summer, despite missing out on some great inside jokes.
When you peel away everything that makes up Squanto, you find God at the core. We all work towards Him while we work for Him. Our entire mission is simply to share His love with the kids who come through our doors. As we work for Him, we logically spend even more time with Him and this is where we learn what is broken inside of us. I did a lot of journaling and poetry writing this summer in response to all that God was showing me. He placed a heavy burden on my heart about halfway through the summer and I continued to wrestle with it for the remainder of my time at camp. Although this burden was something I had lived with my entire life, and was essentially the reason for my strength in Christ, He was finally breaking my heart for what surely breaks His.
It is hard to try to debrief my summer as I am already packing up to head back to Chicago. The truth is, life doesn’t slow down for anyone and it is already time for me to start my latest adventure. Pray for me as I continue to process the amazing works God has done in me and others this summer and as I leave on Thursday to begin my first year as an RA.