It’s sometimes difficult to describe life at camp, to convey how the girls at Rockbrook feel about the experience overall. They’ll tell you they are having fun, or they’ll say things like, “I love camp!” or “This is great!” But what are some of the emotions that go along with it? What are the campers feeling while they’re here?
Seeing all the smiles and hearing so much laughter, “happiness” is the first feeling to notice. There’s obviously so much joy and exuberance percolating up throughout the day at camp— screaming with delight while flying by on the zip line, laughing so hard at a skit you’re rolling around on the floor, smiling from the string of friendly greetings that seems to follow you everywhere. Yes, the girls here are happy, and we could say at times “excited,” “thrilled,” or “elated.” Of course, there are challenging emotions now and then too, bugs that bother. A camper might feel frustrated, for example when she misses the target in archery, or even angry when there’s a disagreement with another girl in her cabin. These are all common and expected emotional responses to life in the camp community.
There’s another word, perhaps a little surprising, that describes a general feeling at camp: unburdened. It’s a feeling of freedom, in many ways, a welcome relief from the pressures, limitations, and expectations kids bend to throughout their ordinary lives. Put differently, I think modern life is burdensome for kids in specific ways that camp life addresses. How we live at Rockbrook— mostly outside, free from technology, as members of an accepting community, active and engaged, but with free time to explore the world and who we truly are as individuals —is in this way unburdening.
- At camp, we ditch technology. Here, instead of diminishing, and flattening experience, our communications are unfiltered, personal, and face to real face.
- We have plenty of free time throughout the day to play, explore, create and rest. Here at camp, our schedule is always built with flexibility and openness.
- Camp lets us avoid social pressures to “be” (look and act) a certain way. Here, girls can be who they really are, their authentic selves, because they feel genuinely accepted and included no matter what.
- At Rockbrook, we put aside competition and find ways to cooperate and support one another. Games are for the intrinsic fun of it rather than to determine a winner.
- We’re outside most of the day, closer to the wonders of nature, and free from the constraints of regular automobile travel and being indoors.
- Camp is also full of action. We’re doing things all day long, not sitting still at a desk or being passively entertained.
- And we’re never alone. Camp life is immersed in kindness and caring, inseparable from the positive relationships (so many friends!) that comprise our community.
Can you see how each of these aspects of camp life contrast with specific burdens our kids face ordinarily? Kids these days endure a lot, admittedly for often good reasons, but I also believe they benefit from being unburdened in these ways at camp. (Life at camp certainly includes its own set of challenges, and yes burdens, but that’s a topic for another post!)
The girls at Rockbrook may not use the word, but they certainly feel it. I asked a few campers today if they felt “unburdened” in any way at camp and they all enthusiastically said, “Yes!” That feeling of “aahh, I feel good” could be the loosening of pressures, lifting the weight of competition, dissolving the cloudy film cast by technology, the opening of the self usually kept under wraps. Life at camp elicits these feelings, and it does feel really good. In fact, we might say it’s the perfect context for a really great time.
Let’s just add this notion of unburdening to the many reasons why girls love camp. OK?