Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Not Back To School Camp

At this point many, many people have asked how camp went, or asked me before I left to update them on my experience once I got back. Well, it's really hard to know where to start, it really is... I'll most likely end up having multiple posts about various aspects of camp, and various introspection's to do with that, but for now here's an overview.

The first day I arrived, I was bombarded with one of the most boisterous scenes I've ever encountered. 130 people were rushing around everywhere, yelling in delight, exclaiming over changes in hair colour, style and height, hugging everyone (both new and old campers) indiscriminately, lugging huge bags around, joking... I was honestly completely and totally overwhelmed. That first day, it seemed like too much, and I started to retreat into my shell. It was just too much for my introverted self to handle! And so the week started. The first few days, I broke down each evening. In the daytime, I could be outside in the open air, and I was happy with that, but in the evening, with everyone (all 130 of them) inside playing music shouting singing dancing and being crazy, the crowd energy really got to me and I simply couldn't take it. After the workshops started, it got a little better. Small groups doing or talking about specific things I could handle no problem. But in the evening, it was still bad. I've always known that big crowds were not my ideal element, but I'd never noticed how directly the energy of the crowd affected me. As energy levels went up, my emotional state went down. It was very interesting actually, since I'd never noticed that before, never having been in such a high energy crowd with no one I know!

Luckily, early in the week one of the staff suggested I get away from it all by going to the boathouse. That was an amazing suggestion. The first time I set foot in the upstairs of the boathouse, my spirit soared. I was in love with the space. Old wood everywhere, glowing and scuffed by time. Old looms, spinning wheels, a wood stove, and other reminders of a by gone era lined the walls, and through the huge, always open windows that lined one whole wall the fresh Vermont air blew, or more often drifted, around me. The light streamed in, squares of glowing gold shone across the floor... And I was happy. That became the place where I'd go when I needed to, a place where I could center myself.

Another thing that kept me going was the amazing staff. Full of warmth, supportive words, a ready ear, and always ready to give a hug when needed, they were all amazing. I called home every day, since I really felt I needed to hear my parents voices in the alien environment I was in, and it really made a difference that my mother was ready and willing to come get me at a moments notice. I nearly did go when I got sick with a nasty cold! But my mom came down a couple of days early and camped at a local campground, and both knowing she was coming, seeing her briefly when she arrived, and knowing she was nearby, really helped. And, well, I started to enjoy myself more, and although my spirit was still curled up inside of me, the coil started to loosen.

I went to some truly interesting workshops. One standout was a fascinating workshop on the Bible (non religious, simply who wrote what when, in what styles etc.), among many other interesting ones. Although many people complained about it, I loved the all vegetarian, super healthy food! And I loved my chore (if you can call it that. It was fun!) of serving lunch. It was funny seeing the not so happy with the food meat eaters expressions as they looked suspiciously at bits of tofu!

Something amazing that will stay with me always was the trust circle. Everyone came, and I really can't give much info on it, since only those present can ever know what happened, since it is an opportunity for everyone to say the things that are closest to their heart, the most painful, sensitive, important things they have. It was emotional, powerful, and utterly beautiful.

I wanted to make really good friends there, and on the last day, I thought I'd failed. I was planning on keeping touch with one person, but I didn't think I'd really made many connections. But the final morning, as everyone was leaving, I kept remembering people I had to hug goodbye, people I wanted to say something to, people I would miss. Yes, I realized I was going to miss people. There were people I felt like I was just starting to get to know, people whom I DID feel a connection with, people I really wanted as friends, and people I was too shy to speak to, because they were too cool, too attractive, and I figured they'd never want to talk to me. But on the last night, before that morning, several older campers "graduated" from camp, and gave a brief speech each. Two things that two of the campers said really stuck with me, and made me think. One recounted her first year at NBTSC, seeing all of these amazingly cool people, and thinking how uninteresting she was in comparison, thinking that they would never want to talk to her. And then, a couple of years later, realizing that SHE was one of the cool people. There weren't divisions, there was no cooler and less cool at camp. The second thing that stuck with me was another graduate who said how he'd always been shy, and although he's gotten better, he's still working through it. He still doesn't always get up the courage to talk to the interesting looking person sitting on the bench. And I started wondering, what were all those oh so cool/hot people thinking? Did they realize they were so cool? Were they nervous speaking to people they didn't know as well? What an awful day to start thinking of that!

I never did really come out of my shell, but I feel like I may have been close to being able to when I left, at the cusp of being able to be me. Then I left. So, if you'd asked me half way through the week if I wanted to go back to camp next year, the answer would have been no. Now however, I'm not so sure. I got home full of life, full of enthusiasm, planning on continuing to ONLY eat healthy food, planning on joining a choir, on doing other I've been planning to do and haven't gotten around to doing. I also learned a lot about myself. So, if Emilie comes with me next year for moral support (I'm sure she'd love it there!), I think I'll go back. I'll try to open up, try to be ME not a shy imitation of myself, try to talk to all the people I truly regret not talking to. I miss some I did talk to. I miss the woods. I miss the boathouse. I miss the missed opportunities. I want to set them right, to try again. And in the meantime, I want to use my current enthusiasm to follow my dreams the whole year long.



  1. I had no idea you had a hard time getting to know people! I might have been able to introduce you to some of my new friends. You are awesome and I would LOVE it if you came back next year!!!!!

  2. Aww, thank you so much. :-) It makes me really happy hearing (actually reading) you say that! As I said, I wasn't really my normal open boisterous self, so it's no surprise you didn't realize I wasn't fitting in as much as I could... But I DID make friends, I was just too silly to realize it until the last day of camp! I probably will be back next year, with my sister in tow, and I'm really looking forward to seeing you again! :-)

  3. Awww, wish I could have been there. :( I know exactly how you feel. You look back on things and everything seems perfect, but sometimes in the moment it can be very difficult.


  4. My daughter "graduated" from NBTSC last year and missed it so much much this year. She's in college now but her NBTSC times were so empowering to her. This was just a beautiful post and Yes, you write beautifully. Thanks for sharing.

  5. thanks for this post! I wonder if NBTSC will still be around in 10 years, when my daughter is old enough to attend. :-)

  6. Thank you for writing a very honest post. You write beautifully. I hope you go back next year, and maybe you'll meet my son if he decides to go :)

  7. Thank you all for your wonderful comments! I really appreciate it. :-)

  8. my son is planning to go next year. i hope you'll get to meet if you decide to go again.

    you sound an awful lot like me. i can be so shy sometimes. but i've been coming out of it in the last few years...and i'm 37. i wish i had gone to something like NBTSC when i was a teen...heck i wish i could go now!!! i think it would've helped me in so many ways.

  9. awh Idzie!
    it was amazing to meet you in real life and I hope you come again next year :)
    much love, signe.

  10. That sounds so much like my situation. I really want to go to NBTSC but i'm just afraid i'll get overwhelmed by all of the awesome seeming people and high energy. The creative, confident, artistic, open, honest, authentic, exuberant personalities that most teenage unschoolers seem to have is honestly a little scary to me. I'm still trying to pep talk myself into going next year. If i do, i hope to see you there.


  11. K: I was pretty shy at camp, but since then I've kept in touch with some people, and gotten to know a bunch of people from camp through the internet, people I never even talked to at camp! It can certainly be extremely overwhelming, but there are also lots of really nice people there. I'm going to camp this year for sure, and it would be wonderful to see you there! :-) If not, perhaps next year...