I first came to camp as a shy, bilingual-enough, 8 year old girl who just REALLY didn’t want to brush her hair. Arriving at camp was like stepping into a big, spectacular Broadway show, with inspiring actresses, spectacular stories and invisible magic that somehow made it all come together. As I grew up, I went from being in the audience to being on stage, to being part of the magic.
8 year old me LOVED Gabz’s Spesh! On Wednesday’s night, all of the counsellors were sent to do... who-knows-what, and we got to play a secret camp-wide game. We might try to find a flag to win points for our team, or maybe we got to dress the older girls in the weirdest (but most fashionable) way we could imagine for a Miss Wacky Ouareau fashion show. To be honest, I loved it mostly because 8 year old me got to play, and share a ‘secret’ with the super cool 15 year olds, and we were all in it together.
I grew up, and I still loved Gabz’s Spesh. As a 15 year old, I got to be captain of Sakhikan, one of the two Ouareau teams. Gabz’s Spesh was a night when all of the campers, but especially the younger ones, looked up to me for direction. Their counsellors weren’t around, and often, their trusted Counselors In Training were now their rivals, dressed in black and trying to tag them. As Senior campers, we were the ones answering questions, helping the younger ones, brainstorming ideas and leading our team to victory. Again, whether you were a first year camper, or had been there for 8 years like me, we were all in it together.
My last week as a camper was one of the hardest I can remember. After 8 years of being in the audience and enjoying the show, the thought of taking the stage was terrifying. I knew I wanted to be a Counsellor In Training, but it felt like the end of an era, and the thought of never being a camper again was heartbreaking. Oddly enough though, as my CIT summer began, it didn’t much feel like the end of an era after all... just a change, another chapter.
I’ll admit, it was weird at first. Suddenly, we were no longer THE priority: campers came first. It was a hard adjustment, but the fact that campers DID look up to us (as if we were super-heros!) made it easier. When I was asked why I wanted to come back and be a CIT, I had said I wanted to give back to camp. If it wasn’t for Ouareau, I know in my heart I would be a completely different person, and I wanted to have a chance to influence young girls the way camp influenced me growing up. When I said that, I honestly thought I was ONLY talking about inspiring 8 year old campers like me, who were shy and didn’t want to brush their hair. What I didn’t know is that I would get the chance to have an impact on Chipkas, as a kind of sister they might look up to, and even on Seniors, as a friend who was playing the role they were going to play the next summer. And as the weeks went on, those were the parts I learned to appreciate more and more.
As the summer drew to a close, the feelings I had had the previous summer came back; It was the end of era, and I would never be a CIT again. And then I remembered. It would indeed be different, but it might also be better.
This brings us to last summer. I was 17, and a full fledged counsellor. I’d made it. It was my 10th summer at camp, and I finally had the green shirt that told everybody at camp I was a staff member. After my CIT year, I thought I knew everything there was to know about being a counsellor... It took me about 2 seconds of being a staff member with campers of my own to realize it is a completely different experience. It was one of the most humbling realizations of my life. As I stayed up later, woke up earlier, worked through my rest hours and kept going and going and going, I realized first that this was nothing like being a CIT, and then that I wouldn’t have it any other way. The funny thing is, even though I’d never been so tired, I was smiling at every early morning meeting, laughing through every late night of paperwork, and always looking forward to the next day.
This summer, I’ll be specializing in an activity, and I’m expecting it to be as much of a change as it was to go from camper, to CIT, to staff. This time though, I won’t be sad: every time my camp life changed, the magic stayed. I just continue to take a bigger and bigger part in being part of its creation, every year. And how magical is that!
About the author: Katie started at Ouareau in 2007 as a camper. An avid swimmer, she is studying kinesiology at McMaster university, and will be camp Ouareau's assistant head of sailing this summer!