I turned down the gravel path that would lead me to my home for the next three weeks. All of the excitement I’d been holding since I sent in my application suddenly turned into worry and trepidation. This place that I had known for years, the place I called my “Home Away from Home,” felt foreign. Inside, I was still a camper at heart, but I knew the pressure was now on my shoulders to create incredible experiences for my own campers, much like those that had been created for me.
I attended Camp Olson for six years as a camper, not including the “forgotten summer” where I was supposed to participate in a four-week counselor-in-training program, cancelled due to COVID. I returned home in August from my first summer working as a counselor and now realize I haven’t properly reflected on the experience.
I knew I wanted to be a counselor immediately after my first summer of attending. I continued to return and participated in leader-in-training (LIT) programs and a shortened version of the counselor-in-training (CIT) program. My passion stemmed from that first summer, when I was only a fifth grader. Eleven-year-old me had an epiphany: I wanted to create memorable experiences for kids.
To my surprise, the transition from camper to counselor was not as easy as I assumed it to be.
The moment I arrived at camp, it struck me that I would be there for three weeks straight. I became anxious and awakened by the thought that this was far beyond my comfort zone. I only knew a handful of my coworkers and, furthermore, I was a 17-year-old, the youngest age one can be on staff. Even with the experience that I got from participating in LIT and CIT programs, I was uncertain of how suitable I would be as a leader.
Nevertheless, I endured and applied the skills I had to create connections with both my co-counselors and my campers. Soon enough, my worry turned into confidence and those three weeks transformed into memories and newfound friendships.
With the new school year, opportunities are going to present themselves everywhere. Engaging in events outside of your comfort zone is far easier said than done. In fact, many of us come to find that the opportunities we have excitement for can shift into things we eagerly anticipate, comparable to my own experience.
While new opportunities may arise, it is also a busy and hectic time of the year. Although events may gravitate towards you, it is important to keep in mind whether the outcome will allow you to succeed or not. During this time of year, many tend to take on more work than they have time for. From the perspective of a full-time PSEO student, I often find that I apply myself to more things than I have the time and motivation for. Still, I keep in mind the opportunities that will certainly contribute to my benefit, much like this teen columnist program.
I took a leap of faith this past summer, throwing myself into the Northwoods for three weeks. The adventure began with doubt, nevertheless it shaped itself into an experience I would be eternally grateful for.
Pursue the opportunities that may fall at your fingertips. Take that leap of faith, go to that job interview, get involved in your community, apply for that columnist program.
Consider that the beginning may be tough, but with persistence, you can accomplish valuable things.
Lydie Lake is a senior at Byron High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters, firstname.lastname@example.org.