By Morgan Kubelka
The Camp Friend Network: What You Don’t Already Know
Camp really is everything they say it is: fun, meaningful, influential, preparatory, educational, productive, athletic, liberating, social & healthy. But it’s also more.
My name is Morgan and I’m 24 years old. I am two years out of college and was a camper not too long ago. I spent seven summers at camp and loved every second of it. While I had a superficial appreciation for camp growing up, it wasn’t until now — years later — that I can truly recognize the opportunities that going to camp afforded me.
In this day and age, it’s all about who you know. Social media intertwines us all in an ever-growing web of interpersonal connections. To be “winning” in the social media game — whether through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, you name it — you must constantly work to expand your network.
“But my kid is only 10 years old!” Yes, she is … right now. But in just a few years your child’s life will be a lot more complex than it is now. A parent can only hope that their child goes on after high school to pursue college and ultimately begin a promising career. These arenas are not the structured communities your children grew up in. Instead, they are made up of other communities, millions of them, and this eye-opener can be extraordinarily overwhelming. For that reason, we rely on our own social networks to make the world more tangible, accessible, and of course, more meaningful.
Enter The Camp Friend Network …
Unlike your child’s other networks up to this point — school, afterschool activities, programs, etc. — The Camp Friend Network is made up of friendships completely owned by your child and your child alone. While you, as a parent, help determine where your child goes to camp, you relinquish control of the camp experience as soon as your child boards the bus on his or her first day. That is not to say you cannot be in contact with your child or the camp once your son or daughter leaves (God only knows my mom had the camp director on speed dial.) I only mean to suggest that perhaps what’s most worrisome to you — separating from your child for any given length of time — is exactly what will prove to be the biggest reward for your child. There is a sense of pride in the kind of independence afforded to a young camper who is free to own the process of befriending from start to finish. Perhaps for the very first time, your child is empowered by the ability to pick and choose who they’d like to buddy up with. They are then charged with the task of cultivating this friendship through bonding activities (what camp is known for) and are free to do so in the perfect, no-pressure atmosphere of camp life.
The result? Most people who went to camp will tell you that their camp friends are some of the closest relationships they have in their lives. Spending every waking moment with the same people day after day will do that! But more than this, the camp atmosphere fosters a sense of camaraderie that simply cannot be matched by places like school where academic and social pressures overshadow all else. In camp, your friends see you with bed head, sweaty after soccer, covered in mud (often voluntarily), and without the same amenities of home to make yourself look your absolute best. You work through shared struggles together and watch each other grow up. You’ll often hear camp friends laugh and say, “you wouldn’t get it – it’s a camp thing.” And it’s this kind of bond that’s nearly impossible to break.
While my camp friends and I eventually went our separate ways, the connection between us never disappeared. Like a needle and thread, camp weaved us together inextricably and contributed to the fabric of our lives. The Network became clear when after years of sporadic talk, one of these best camp friends of mine reached out and offered to connect me to her best “home” friend who was also attending the University of Michigan in the fall. And years after that– just last week–another member of my former camp friend “group” enthusiastically offered her knowledge and connections in a career I’m looking to pursue.
It’s now over a decade since my camp days and I’m living in NYC. It just so happens that all four of my camp friends live here too. We’re back together in the same place, once again sharing fears, hopes, ambitions, and accomplishments. We might not be young tweens anymore but some things never change. And when I’m with them, these four special people that share the key to my past, I feel a little less overwhelmed by that big world outside my window. After all, The Camp Friend Network is a special club that offers you a free membership long after your camp days are over. As for me? Well, I’m a lifer.