A sense of belonging is one of the most powerful motivators. Not having a sense of belonging can break someone’s image of themselves and damage their relations with other people. If you don’t have anywhere where you feel like you belong, it can leave you feeling hopeless or misplaced; however, when you feel like you truly belong somewhere and you are accepted for who you are, it can rewrite how you view yourself and make you see the world in a different light. There are many different ways you can have a feeling of belonging- be it in someone’s company or at a specific place. The place you feel that you just “click” will always be an unforgettably special place.
Personally, I had a really hard time fitting in at school. Most everyone was in a clique of some sort, and I just didn’t seem to fit into any of the predesigned boxes. I wasn’t overly sporty or athletic, so I couldn’t hang out with the “tomboys” because I got bored. On the other side of the spectrum, I wasn’t over-the-top “girly,” so I didn’t really fit in with that group either. I was pretty in the middle, which at the time, I thought was normal. Soon I realized that it wasn’t. I felt like a tertiary color trying to be grouped with the primary colors. As a result of this, I realized very early in life that people don’t just “fit into boxes.”
As part of Girl Scouts, I ended up going to a Girl Scout camp called Camp Pisgah when I was 7 years old. The very first thing I noticed was how warm and inviting it was. It was a completely new concept to me. Everyone joined together as a group and worked and played as a cohesive unit. Only when I started having one on one conversations with my friends, did I start to notice the differences in personality types. It amazed me how everyone was able to get along and put aside their differences. Besides the fun programs and amazing weekly themes, the diverse community was one of the many reasons I kept going back year after year.
During my time at Camp Pisgah, I grew as an individual and started becoming more independent and responsible. It was a safe environment, one where I didn’t have to worry about what other people thought of me. Nobody knew me from outside, so I was able to redefine what I wanted to be remembered as. One of the aspects of Camp Pisgah that I find so amazing is that it really feels like a giant family. Once you drive through the rusted white gates, you can no longer discern between who has known each other all their lives and who just met a couple days ago. “Camp Magic” is a feeling that I strongly believe in. To me, it really was a place like no other. It became a second home to me.
These past few years I’ve been able to see the opposite side of the “Camp Magic” while working my way up to staff. As I went through CIT (counselor in training) 1, CIT 2 and my internship week, I broadened my perspective on what the “magic” of camp meant to me. No longer was I just a camper coming for a week, having a blast and then leaving to return back to my mundane life. I was learning what it meant to be a staff member and how to help the girls have the best time imaginable. This summer was my first time on staff, and it was definitely an adventure! I lived at camp for the entire summer, very unlike the few weeks a year that I used to spend there. All summer, I cared for my Camp Pisgah family, including all of the girls who came to our camp. For all intents and purposes, I was an adult at camp. I had all the responsibility over the girls and their schedule. I danced with them at parties and helped them whenever they needed help. It really gave me a sense of purpose. One of the most amazing feelings you can have as a counselor is when a camper comes the first day wishing they were anywhere else and starts crying on the last day because they really don’t want to leave. I personally have gained a bigger appreciation for the effect small things have on people’s lives. I always do my best to make someone smile, even just for a second, because I know it can make a bigger difference than it seems. As sad as it is, we know that for some of our campers, this is the only place where they can feel loved and cared for. Everyone on staff works as a team and becomes a family. Being a counselor certainly has its ups and downs, but I think that it is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world.
While I started my childhood often feeling lost and like I didn’t belong anywhere, I found a place where I feel truly loved and welcomed by my peers and my environment. My dedication to camp- and the magic of Camp Pisgah- is something that I carry with me through all aspects of life. One of my mentors as a counselor once said something that I will never forget. She said, “We make the magic that the kids wait all year for.” I wholeheartedly agree. While the campers see the magic of camp as the fantasy creatures that we have inhabiting our beautiful camp, I see it as the sheer joy on a camper’s face as they think they hear a fairy but when I know that I have a little windchime hiding behind my back. I see “Camp Magic” in the family that Pisgah creates and the lifelong friendships I have made. :Camp Magic” is in everyone and everywhere- you just have to look for it. Camp Pisgah has truly helped shape me into who I am and will always be my home away from home, if only in my memories.