Camp ended four weeks ago. The car has been long unpacked, the laundry has been done and the supplies have been dusted off and packed away for next year. Why am I thinking about unpacking still? Well, to be honest, I've been procrastinating. For the last month, a large binder has been sitting on the corner of my kitchen table. I have looked at it frequently, but hadn't been quite ready to open it and always had a reason for why I needed to wait. Too many projects to do this week. I need to prepare for a meeting. Packing again for another trip. The list went on. But, deep down, I knew why I kept putting it off. I wasn't quite ready to come to terms (and acknowledge my connected emotions) with the fact that summer was coming to a close. Fast forward to Labor Day Weekend, signaling the final days of Summer 2015. So here I am, sitting at my table and opening the binder.
More than 200 pages of rosters, schedules, game plans, programs and charts fill this binder. And yet, it can all be summarized by the single piece of paper that is inserted as its cover. On the last night of the summer, after campers have gone home and we've packed-up camp, we place pieces of paper and pens on the tables of our chadar ochel (dining hall) - one with every single staff member's name on it. Our ritual is to leave notes for our friends and colleagues, thanking them for the great job they did during the summer and recognize the impact they had on us. Truth be told, this was the thing I was avoiding the most, and I'm not quite sure why. This summer was absolutely amazing. We doubled in size as a camp. We explored, discovered, created and developed meaningful connections between science and Judaism, as well as between each other. The camper satisfaction surveys were off the charts, signaling that our goals had been achieved and the impact we had on our campers was real and evident. I even made a few new friends!
Personally, this was one of the most rewarding and difficult summers of my life. I love my job and role at camp, and I wanted to take advantage of the many opportunities for growth. I set the bar pretty high for myself, identifying a number of areas in which I wanted to grow. While helping to run camp, supervise our amazing staff and help our campers have the summer of a lifetime, I was on a personal journey. I wanted to be more intentional about my approach to designing experiences, work on my supervisory and managerial skills, and I wanted to think differently about how I interacted with others at different points of the very busy camp day. Nothing like some light lifting, right? I read books and articles, spent time with friends, mentors and coaches, and did a lot of reflecting - both in the moment and after the fact. I left the summer exhausted (as we all do), but feeling really good about my contributions to our community and what I was taking away from my experiences.
Going back to that piece of paper, I finally looked at it, eager to read what my camp family had written to me. Words of gratitude and friendship spilled off the page (and on to the other side), and I would be lying if I said I didn't get choked-up a bit while reading them. It was hard to hold off from reading them, and I am glad I did. During this period of introspection as we prepare for the High Holy Days and look deep within ourselves, reflecting on the past year and taking count of what we have learned about ourselves and others, I am smiling. After nine summers as a camper and another fifteen summers of working at Jewish overnight camps and summer programs and perpetually feeling that I over-pack, I realize that I always come home with much, much more. Every summer that I come home from camp, I unpack a better version of myself. And that piece of paper? It represents what I was able to accomplish this summer and the person I want to be.