Even after 33 summers as Maine Teen Camp, we still learn new things every session. Sometimes we are reminded of things we’d maybe forgotten. Always we realize just how profound and important some truths are. We spend time reflecting on these various aspects of camp, and this year we thought we would share a few of our observations.
1. That diversity is powerful. We sometimes take for granted the things that make us different, that make us unique, make communities and friendships more interesting, more resilient, and more worthwhile. Oh, and that differences matter a lot (a LOT) less to teenagers than adults would have them believe.
2. That camp is a wonderful place to overcome obstacles. So many of our campers (and staff) challenged themselves to overcome obstacles, physical or psychological, at camp this summer. They succeeded, in no small part because the culture at Maine Teen Camp is supportive yet challenging, affirming but honest, cooperative and non-competitive. Whether making the varsity tennis team, overcoming the memory of terrible experience at a prior camp, building the confidence to switch schools, or finally getting up on stage in front of peers, we saw more campers step up to another level than any summer yet.
2b) That confidence is the secret sauce. For many campers the key is not skill development, but having the confidence to exercise their skills (language, sports, creativity). And that confidence comes from many sources. Making new friends helps you play/act/sing better, playing better helps you make new friends…
3. Teenagers are far more resilient than they often realize. Sometimes it requires being in a new place, with no parent or old friends around, for them to find out just how capable they are of rising to a challenge.
4. That even if you think you don’t like to dance, you like to dance. Especially during a storm bell.
5. That the best value spending we can do is spending time in nature. The benefits are immediate, lasting, and deeply satisfying.
6. That the camp community is not bounded by time or place. When some alumni camp community members faced tragedies or challenges, the outpouring of support from around the world, from people whose only connection was a shared love of a little camp in Maine, and from those who spent many summers together was overwhelming.
7. That we all need to seriously reconsider our relationships with technology. Now. We’ve never had so many campers comment how much they “needed” or “loved” the break from devices as we did this summer. It’s not too late, we can change and take charge.
8. That the benefits of social media are offset by the issues it raises. Talking wins every time.
9.That if you are only going to buy one ridiculous Halloween costume this year, you better make it an inflatable T-Rex.
10.That just when you thought a dog who swims in a lake every day couldn’t smell any worse, she finds something stinky to roll in.
10b) You can’t stop petting her anyway…
11. “There’s nothing––absolutely nothing––half so much worth doing as messing about in boats.” - Rat, Wind in the Willows. Opening up access to our second lake, Trafton, was worth it just for the sake of messing about in canoes, let alone the wonderful scenery, access to wildlife, and paddling classes.
12. That books and cards and pick-up games and just sitting around chatting are in fine health, with bright futures in all of our free time for years to come. (Thank you to all who so generously donated books to the camp “library” this summer, with special thank to Mary Rubin, who sent several boxes of books to camp this summer).
13. Having fun and making true friends may well be the very best thing you can choose to do with your summer. These are the things that make all the rest possible, worthwhile, and sustainable.