The Best Job I Ever Had
A few too many moons ago, I took the best job in my life. I wouldn’t know it at the time, but I recognize it now. It’s a state of being and a mindset that I hope to achieve again one day soon.
I recall having moved back home from my second attempt at attending a University and wallowing around my parents house that Spring trying to figure out what to do with myself. My grandparents happened to be visiting and my grandmother was looking through the newspaper (the internet was still a relatively new thing) at the Classified ads.
She looked over at me and asked, ‘You enjoy camping, right?’. Sure, I had been a Boy Scout and spent my share of nights in the woods. However, I was more of a computer nerd these days. There was even the white pasty skin to prove it.
“Why don’t you go be a summer camp counselor?”
I was skeptical, but I called the next day anyway and applied for the position. Besides, I didn’t really want to spend the summer as a cook. The interview went well and a few weeks later I was packing my stuff for the summer and moving to camp.
He’s Not Going to Make It!
Driving up to camp and getting out of the truck on that first day, I can remember feeling like I had wandered into a club where I wasn’t a member. Maybe it was those first day on the job jitters or maybe it was the way all of the staff seemed to already know each other like they had been doing this for years.
I quickly learned that I wasn’t the only new person as the two weeks of staff training passed.
Of course, there were a couple of old timers (even though I was technically the second oldest staff member) that joked around about whether I’d make it to the end of staff training.
In those short two weeks, we came together as a team. Inside jokes were formed, shenanigans were pulled, and memories created. The next eight weeks of camp lead to more of the same. By the end of it all, we were less of a team and more of a family.
What It Meant to Be There
How could I not love this life. I spent my days in the outdoors on the side of a lake teaching children how to love it as much as I did and playing while doing so.
I learned how to white water kayak.
I learned how to rock climb.
I got to go swimming every day.
There was a zip line and water slide.
All of my meals were provided
I had a neat little cabin with no AC and a metal roof.
The kids were (for the most part) Awesome!
I made friends that I can go for years without seeing and we can pick up like it was just yesterday.
All of these things became a part of who I am. We were isolated out there in out little bubble world. News from the outside rarely made it in to camp. We didn’t have TV. We didn’t listen to the radio. I went entire summers without checking email.
This agreed with me very much.
Going Back for More
Needless to say, this made an impression on me. I wasn’t the same person that I was before my grandma happened to find an ad in the paper.
I chose to go back to work at every weekend opportunity they would give me over the next Fall and Spring. The next summer, I was probably one of the first to submit my application. I ended up working at camp for three more summers after the first.
Eventually, it got to the point where I was getting a bit too old to go back. Life was changing and I was feeling the need to ‘grow up’ some. Rent needed to be paid and I had an offer for a full-time job where I wouldn’t be able to take off for the summer. I hadn’t studied in the right field to pursue a career in camping, so I jumped back into IT to pay the bills.
The Best Times Pass Too Quickly
The new (much) larger paychecks and the desire to finally finish school kept me distracted enough to balm the ache of not being at camp the next summer. There were a few folks around town that would get together regularly from the old staff and that was good enough for a while. As with everything in life, eventually it all changes and we ended up going in different directions.
I did end up marrying the girlfriend from my last summer. That was ten years and two children ago. I’ll save those stories for another time.
This past weekend was the annual Alumni weekend at our old camp. It didn’t happen for a long time, but this was the fourth year. We jumped at the chance to get back up there and reminisce. There were a few familiar faces and some dear friends. We sat around until way too late both nights rehashing the same old stories that we tell every time.
During the day, we took the kids around camp to do all of the activities that we enjoyed so much. My son did the water slide forty or fifty times. It was awesome. Paddling, swimming, climbing, archery, and hiking around. It’s all still there. It’s all just as beautiful as it ever was.
My heart longs for it as I sit here behind all my screens staring at my work stuff. It’s hard to focus. I need to ditch this and get back there. Soon.
The best part, though, really is seeing my children becoming a part of this. I know it will be a part of their lives too. That helps me to be content. Maybe they can find a way to hold on to it longer than I did. Maybe my life can be that simple again too.