The big difference this year was my age group. I had 9th grade girls which absolutely terrified the shit out of me. 9th grade girls are a species all of their own. I know. I was one of them many moons ago. Everything is a BIG deal. Everything results in emotional tears and everything is the best thing ever or “epic”.
My time with my girls was different than with the 10-12 yr olds I’ve had in the past. It wasn’t worse, or better, but different. At night, we end the day with Evening Embers, which is normally a time that I use to teach the girls something about IBD or life. I’m like the IBD Yoda. It often turns into a heartfelt conversation however in the past it never included tears. Every one of them spilled their life story. It was amazing and exhausting all at the same time. I never wanted to cut them off, but after a 15 hour day, I wanted to sleep. Instead I had 9 girls balling their eyes out on my bed. Again…a different experience. 10 year olds cry about things I can fix. Their arm hurts? I can fix that. They are embarrassed? I can help that. They miss their mom? I got that. But tears over life dilemmas? Fuck.
I don’t even have my life figured out, so my advice to fretful 9th graders probably wasn’t the best. But the more I talked about my life, the less I was their fearless leader…and the more I became a crying teenager. When the topic of guilt came up. I lost it. I have talked about guilt on here before, and it hits such a strong chord within me. They were crying over disappointing their parents and I cried about the same thing. While their concerns were over their failing grades, mine were about the money and time I’ve cost them during my sickness. I guess some things never change no matter your age. Then I had a camper who had a close family friend pass away unexpectedly the day before camp. She was talking about triggers all over camp that reminded her of her friend…and that did it for me. You might remember my friend and co-counselor Katie who passed away last year. This is the first year at camp without Katie. We’ll just say it was very difficult for many reasons, and leave it at that. But watching this girl fall apart over her friend was where my emotional capacity for holding it together hit its max. More tears.
So did I bond with my girls? Of course. Was I the best counselor to them ever? If I’m honest, probably not. My cabin suffered some serious issues within the first 2 days of camp. I lost my co-counselor to sickness, and then a camper who left because she was “sick” and by “sick” I mean…well…let’s just say camp wasn’t the right place for her. I was just starting the process of building us as a family by late Tuesday night and at this point I was already exhausted. I gave those kids my all, even though I feel like I have done better in the past. We had some former campers come on as counselors this year and they mentioned how they never realized how much harder it was to be a counselor. Or how much work it actually was. That right there was validation for me. Sometimes its really hard to get up, and be the cool mom to 9 kids for a week. You’re constantly worried about their health, happiness, what they are eating, who has allergies, who is home sick, who can’t find their bathing suit, who is skipping meals, and everything else you can imagine. No seriously…EVERYTHING. I do my best to make sure these kids have boat loads of fun, but at the same time run myself into the ground. My jpouch hates me after a week of camp. My body is tired. My mind is exhausted. And I am confirmed in my decision to never reproduce.
But you know what? This year was very different for me. It was super emotional, and more mentally exhausting than physically. It wasn’t my best year. But I still love it. I love Camp Oasis for everything it represents and everything it means to me, my friends and those kids. I cannot explain it more clearly but Camp Oasis changes lives. It changed mine, the kids say it changes theirs and every new person can vow that it changed theirs as well. It creates support, family, understanding and true friendship. I can’t say enough good things about it. This year was hard, and there were many things I wanted to gripe about, but at the end of the day, it is still the best week of my year. And I will keep going back until they kick me out.
But gladly I have another week coming up here soon but this time in Wisconsin and I couldn’t feel more privileged to participate in 2 weeks of camp this year!
So here are some pictures from camp.
And here is a poem a camper wrote and performed in the talent show. I think it hit home for all of us.
I Thought I’d Be Nervous To Share This But I’m Not Because Camp Is Home
By Olivia, read at MI Camp Oasis Talent Show on 7/13/12
Because here we know everyone bleeds sometimes.
Because I like myself most when I’m here; am joyous and
loving and less afraid. Closer to the person
I want to be. Because leaving this and leaving friends who are more like
tears me to pieces
and coming back feels like coming
home. Because we have to be Crohn’s and
all the time
and not one more kid should have to be that.
Because I have seen pain I can barely understand splayed
on the faces of my sisters.
Because I have seen them fight with courage.
Because sometimes it’s so much
easier to give up;
because medicines stop working and our
bodies get tired and it’s
so. hard. to go forward; so hard to be grateful,
hard to be loving,
hard to feel stronger,
hard to be vulnerable and
open when our broken places still
But because my sisters around me are doing the same,
crying with me and singing encouragement,
falling and hurting and rising and loving with
going forward; because
here, together, we are strong enough.
And here is a video of the rain storm that we do around the camp fire