Chatter and giggles softly arise,
Creating music for the fireflies.
Whispers from the winds
Intertwine with those of friends.
As night stretches on till daylight begins
Shooting stars blazing all around.
The trickle of the Guadalupe runs with the slightest sound.
The smell of cypress is carried in the breeze.
A steady beat is sounded, through the buzzing of the bees.
The friends lie in a circle,
Taking in the beautiful sight.
Discussing the past, the present, the future
And their many views on life.
Secrets are revealed, and pranks are played.
Minds run wild under midnight’s shades.
Eyes stay open into the morning light.
Sunrise on the river is a sacred sight.
These summer nights built me into who I am.
11 years later, and adult life seems like a scam.
Stressed, hyper-focused, and full of obligation.
Daily reminders of the heavy expectation.
But If I take a deep breath and close my eyes,
I am back on the riverbank under starry skies.
This The End
When camp ended my 16th year, I thought all the good in my life was over. Childhood was over. Fun was over. Camp was over- that was it. Thinking about it now, it makes me giggle. Ugly cry didn’t even begin to explain the state of my face on closing day 2008 (thank goodness it didn’t get stuck that way). Oh to live in the mind of a 16 -year-old again. A mind where everything is so polar, concrete, bold, and permanent. What a scary place to live in, honestly, but it’s true, and raw, and pure. And that is what I (and I am sure many others) felt when facing the end of my camper years.
I giggle when I think about that moment now, how lost I felt. I find it funny because I had no idea the best was yet to come.
The LITe Life
Ok, so let’s fast-forward a year, I’m 17. I’m going back to camp to be a Heart LITe. I’m excited to be going back, but also bummed and terrified. Heart LITes always look so exhausted, there would be no sleep. I knew what I was signing up for, long nights, cabin coverage, mail duty, physical labor, and serving. But hey—free camp! I knew this is what needed to be done to be back in my favorite place. So I signed up.
It’s funny because my Heart LITe year was one of my favorite camp experiences. Going in, I never would have thought. But it was! Sure it was unpaid “long nights, cabin coverage, mail duty, physical labor, and serving.” No I didn’t get any sleep. It was camp without counselors—so why would I sleep (this was a personal choice that I still have zero regrets making)? I got to live in a cabin with my best friends. And there was no “grown up” to tell us what to do. That was on us (I mean within reason, our amazing Head LITe was there if we needed some guidance, but it was mostly on us).
Also, we got all the staff perks without the obligation to a cabin of kids. We got time off camp where we could go to lunch, or the movies, or the dam— with our Head LITe, of course. We got to have access to our technology, AND we were able to “legally” stash snacks and candy!! How cool!
All Work and All Play
If we wanted to dance in the rain, we danced in the rain. After, of course, we moved the canoes up from the waterfront. But, this was a small price to pay. Although messy (and heavy), these random, necessary tasks were always filled with laughter.
As long as we did the things we needed to do, “long nights, cabin coverage, mail duty, physical labor, and serving,” there was very little pressure for what we did in our spare time. That summer was filled with self-discovery. My friends and I foraged so much understanding of personal identity and the world over late night chats and siestas “off”.
Professional and Personal Perks
Professionally, I learned about work ethic, initiative, loyalty, professional boundaries, time management, how to be responsible with freedoms, and that it is ok to ask for help.
Personally, I learned that I liked kids (who knew? This realization changed the course of my life), how to let my mind be free, personal time management, how to accept all sides of myself, how amazing and dynamic my friends and friendships were, and how sometimes you just need to “give it to the universe.”
EVERYONE ONE SHOULD HEART LITe.
They should! No, you will probably not get paid. You might not sleep a ton.Aand you will get food spilled on you at least once. You will have late nights,. Kids will freak out at you. And you will work crazy HARD.
With this being said, you will also get to do something impactful. In addition to sharing what you love with others, you get to have amazing freedoms and free time in a really special place. On top of that, surrounded by the most amazing people in the world, for a whole term. That bonus opportunity never really happens again—it’s special! Heart LITe-ing will change you. It will give you grit. It will teach you about work, life, and yourself. And if you are like me, it will remain your happy place. Forever. Even 11 years later, you’ll think of those starry nights.