Ever since I started interning for Campowerment in the summer of 2016, I have been trying to figure out just what Campowerment is.
I know it’s connection, insight, and new beginnings. I know it’s supporting adults (WOMEN) in learning how to live their best lives. I know it’s taking that heavy bag we all carry on our backs and lightening the load, learning to let things go, rock by rock, to make room for more of life’s LIFE.
But Campowerment is more than that. For me and for the thousands of women who’ve been through it. It’s more than a magical retreat from the real world, more than an indiscernible experience, more than that warm, fiery feeling in my gut that lingers and heats up and pushes me to think bigger…even after the weekend wraps.
Campowerment is a community; it’s a community with culture. It’s a culture where women are for women, where there’s zero judgment and zero expectations. At Campowerment, I am me, and that is enough.
It’s impossible to be everywhere at once (unless you’re Juliet, the Campowerment photographer) but I want to share with you some of the moments I got to witness as one of 20 Campower Rangers (a unique flavor of camp counselor).
Some background: My name is Alli, and this is my third time being a Campower Ranger. I have a lopsided smile, green eyes and my hair has recently acquired some feathers (courtesy of Anne “Sussy” Sussman, Meditation teacher-turned-intergenerational friend). If you were at this retreat, you probably saw me sprinting and panting, because I feel the need to do everything at a run.
You also probably saw me with gem eyes, because at this camp I’ve decided I’m my best self with gem eyes.
In the real world, being in a crowd of girls makes me nervous. Sitting at a table of my peers brings me back to middle school, where I sit in the corner and try to go unnoticed. But the first morning at camp, just before the Campers arrived, I found myself at a big, chatty table with my fellow Rangers.
At Campowerment, I often find myself am smack in the middle of things, gabbing effortlessly about my myself, my sister, my mom, the Workshops I am most excited for, and the weird food combinations I like. I am among best friends…and I just met these girls.
A few hours later, Campers begin to arrive, and at Indian Head Camp’s beautiful Lake Canteen, we Rangers are having a dance party. It’s 2PM and it’s drizzling outside, but in here and all around us, I feel nothing but sunshine. Returning Campers prance in, beaming. On new Campers’ faces, I see apprehension; trepidation; natural nerves. Inside I smile, because I know they, too, will soon feel at home.
It doesn’t take to long for the fears to melt away and the friendships start to form. During our first icebreaking game I dance bachata with a woman I just met, and learn the biggest fear of another newfound friend.
At dinner, I introduce myself to the kick-ass group of women staying in bunk six.
Sidenote: bunk six: THANK YOU for being fearless leaders on the dance floor at cabin karaoke, and for coming prepared with the most hilarious costumes.
A few hours later I’m back with the Rangers, recapping a wild day. “Inside the Ranger cabin” exclusive: we don’t sleep. For real, I think we were up until at least 2:30 night one. And to be honest, it wasn’t the twenty-something crowd keeping everyone up. It was my four 50-something friends telling us about how great 70s TV was, sharing the secrets to a happy life and breaking out the late night snacks. As exhausted as I was all weekend, bunk time was some of my favorite time.
You ladies are awesome and I would stay up all night again just to chat.
Another favorite: the ropes course, where I spent most of my Saturday. Ropes is especially meaningful for me every time because I get to see women overcome things in a real, physical way. People call me a spider for shooting up the ropes, but I’m 22 and I rock climb; I SHOULD be able to do that. It’s the women who are scared of heights, who have never done anything like this, who think they can’t do this, but try anyway. It’s YOU who inspire me, and I hope you inspire yourselves, too.
My words are all over the map because that’s where my feelings are landing. I often joke that I feel like I have 50 internet tabs open in my brain, and right now all of them are occupied with the incredible moments I had at Campowerment. From color war to Workshops to s’mores and Circles, I am filled with gratitude for every moment that was mine.
I think, in life, I sometimes feel the way a lot of women feel every day: like if I make one mistake, if I mess something up or forget something, everyone will realize I’m not that great; that I’m just me. But at Campowerment, a culture exists where I AM THAT GREAT, and that being just me is more than enough.
So let’s spread this culture. Let’s continue to be a part of this community. If you don’t feel that connection here, register to re-ignite. You’ll find it. I promise.
I’ll end with a quote from one of my favorite books, Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, which I’ve been re-reading since camp a couple weeks ago. It’s about the way the world can make us mean; make us forget who we are. Society has us bury the imperfect kids we were so deep sometimes even we can’t find them ourselves. Albom records the words of his teacher, Morrie,
“The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. We’re teaching the wrong things. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it. Create your own. Most people can’t do it.”
Lots of thanks to Campowerment for not buying in; for creating this culture. It’s for me, for us and for everyone.