In just a few hours, Andrew and I will be escaping the city to spend the weekend at the most amazing adult sleepaway camp in Wisconsin. I actually know the camp's owner, the lovely Tereasa Surratt, from my magazine days, but this connection is through apartmentnumber9.com (two worlds collide!). And as I pack, I can't help but think of my childhood camp days. I spent 2-3 weeks every summer at a girls' camp in North Carolina named Camp Hollymont. It was my home away from home, and I anxiously awaited that mid-summer moment when I started packing my clothes bearing iron-on name tags. In those few precious weeks, I learned more things about life and myself than I realized. In fact, I think we all can learn from them. 1. It's important to start leaving the nest early. My parents had the wherewithal and the strength to send me away when I was just 8 years old. And when I wrote or called to say I was homesick (which from my memory, was rare) they made me stay. They built my wings early so that it'd be much easier to leave the nest for good.
2. Girl time is crucial. Hollymont was an all-girls camp, which meant days and nights of Mariah Carey, Miss Mary Mack clapping games, and boy talk. I learned how to be a good friend to the other girls in my "cluster" and the importance of maintaining friendships over long distances (Jessica Dolter and I wrote very long, ridiculous notes during the school year, some of which included comic strips, drawings, and magic eyes).
3. You're not gonna be good at every skill. Archery, water aerobics, tennis, horseback riding—we had to try them all at least once. As kids, we didn't seem to mind. As adults, we often don't like to be pushed out of our comfort zones, even when the rewards make it worth it.
4. Having a schedule keeps you sane. In order to manage hundreds of girls, the camp arranged our days for us (see my letter to home below). It helped us learn to juggle lots of activities, and gave us security knowing that each day would bring with it some of our favorite moments.
5. Older campers always know what's up. Seek out the nice ones, and depend on them to help guide you and hug you when you feel homesick. In life, seek out those mentors that have been there, done that. They'll support you and give you advice when times are tough.