I want to share a personal story of how I have gotten where I am today. I owe it all to the month of August, 1995. What happened then? I was at summer camp. I know that doesn’t sound all too exciting but let me elaborate.
In August of 1995 I went away to summer camp (I was 15 at the time) as I had done for many years but this year I would be gone for four weeks instead of my usual two. The reason was that when a person turns 15 you are now too old for the regular camp and are now entered into the LIT program. LIT stands for leader-in-training but could also be considered a counselor-in-training program. For this program you live in cabins in a completely separate part of camp. The first two weeks are spent on team and leadership development and the last two weeks you spend working with a cabin of campers.
Going into this four week stint, I knew I wouldn’t know most of my fellow LITs (some would be people I have known for years). Anyone that has gone to a sleep-away camp will understand when I say that it’s own completely different world. It’s like a much more innocent version of the Las Vegas “What happens here stays here” slogan. That being the case, you often don’t mix camp friends with non-camp friends. So I knew that the people that knew me at camp only “knew me at camp” and I saw this LIT program as a chance to try something really new. It was a chance to really try to become what I wanted to be.
At the time I was rather reserved, shy, afraid to try new things, etc. I decided to check those bags at the door of my parent’s car when they dropped me off. I got settled in my bunk and met my cabin-mates. Once fully settled in, I took a seat upon a picnic table kinds off to the side in a grove of sorts and proceeded to meditate and reflect. Now I know that sounds contradictory to my intentions of changing but read on. During that time I thought about where I had been, who I was, and where I wanted to be. I reflected about my strengths, weaknesses, and who I wanted to be. I thought about what I wanted other people to think of me, what kind of life I wanted to live, and what I need to do to make it happen. Once I found something I knew I needed to change, I purposely put myself into a situation that would take me out of my comfort zone so that I had opportunity to try something new. During my four weeks at camp I did this daily (usually early in the morning). It wasn’t long before I had a few people who joined me for my meditative sessions and I showed them what I did. They have since told me that it has made a difference in their lives.
The first two weeks were full of the type of activities that you might expect at a leadership camp. Things like having most of us blindfolded while a couple of people tried to guide us by verbal directions to complete a task. There were team building exercises, character building exercises, etc. Some LITs were kicked out of camp for having prohibited items in their possession (I’ll let you use your imagination), some had relationships with each other, others had difficulty adjusting, and others (like myself0 had very moving experiences. Through it all we all grew in ways that I think many of us didn’t appreciate until years later.
I think that the combination of my state of mind at this time along with the relationships I forged really changed me at my core. I can honestly say that my life is very different than it probably would have been without this experience. To this day, I still take time each and every day to reflect and conduct a sort of self-assessment. I try to be as honest with myself as much as possible (which is not that easy as we tend to paint rosier pictures of ourselves) so that the excercise can be effective. I have come to realize that this reflection, along with a willingness to be outside my comfort zone, are what allow me to learn and grow. Now this experience very well may be unique to me, but I am a firm believer in self-assessment, personal inventory, or whatever you want to call it, because knowing yourself well can allow you to achieve so much more.
I know the readership of this blog may be limited at this time, but I invite anyone who wishes to share their own story of a moment of change either through a comment on this post or emailing me and once I collect a few I will post them.