By: 3x-Camper Barbara Palmer
This is the true story
Of 12 strangers
Picked to live together (in a bunk) … To find out what happens when people stop being polite
And start getting real
The Real World – Campowerment
It’s hard to say it was ‘just like the other times’ because it is never the same twice. The women are different, the issues they are facing are different, the experts are different – I am different – and yet, there was a comfort going back to the Poconos for the second time. The Poconos are different than the Malibu camp – in so many ways. One is not better, just different. Indian Head Camp is the quintessential sleep away camp with a certain architecture and woodsy feel that immediately puts me back in a bunk as a 12 year old girl: that magical place where life is different and oh-so-special.
My first camp was guided by professional instability. I was drawn to sessions and Experts that helped me realize a complete career change was in my future, and camp prepared me to face, accept and conquer that change. My second camp challenged me to attend alone – completely outside of my comfort zone – and to forge relationships with complete strangers. My discomfort lasted mere minutes and within an hour, it was clear that I was on a personal journey this time – to learn meditation, seek comfort in my own skin, and find support in the sisterhood of my fellow Campers.
I expected to have no discomfort attending my third camp. After all, I had been to the location, I knew the drill for camp, and I was meeting old friends and knew the staff. And yet, in the days leading up, those pangs of fear started to find their way into the pit of my stomach. I realized that it would not be the same – it never could be. This time, my best friend and college roommate was joining. What if I had built it up too much? What if this camp was different in a way that impeded her experience? What was I looking for and going to work on? And yet, all of that fell away as I walked over the foot bridge to join my fellow Campers and check in.
There is such warmth at Campowerment that you can’t help but feel welcome. Come alone, come with a friend, come with a group – you are greeted with open arms (literally) and smoking sage to clear away any negative that you may have brought with you. The first greetings were reconnecting with women from past camps and the ‘Leaders’ of this incredible experience. Staff is so keenly focused on making sure that everyone is greeted, hugged, connected with.
The largest Campowerment ever, it was odd how well the larger group blended. There didn’t feel to be as many factions or subgroups. Campers moved easily from sessions to circles to happy hours to social gatherings. There was a lot of movement between tables in the dining room. And my own bunk seemed to branch out and make connections beyond our living quarters.
My ‘moment’ at camp didn’t actually come in a session. While I was blown away by two of the new experts (and the returning staff seemed to up their game and present new material), my “aha” moment came when I was walking alone – from my first session of the morning toward the woods. I was walking to support bunk mates tackling the high ropes, swingshot, and leap of faith, I realized that I had a complete sense of one-ness, peace, and calm. I noted that I had not woken up in the middle of the night with the anxiety that had been chasing me for months. I wasn’t plagued by financial burden or stress about career choices I had made. No anxiety about my kids, parents or self. I was truly at peace. As I walked (head held high, back straight, short quick steps as Michelle had instructed), I noted the tension from my neck and shoulders was gone. I was in my happy place.
When had that happened? It was a process. Time contributed. Hugs helped. Happy Hour didn’t hurt. But it was more than time away from my life and my routine. As each layer was peeled, I shed my armor. As I learned and connected with others, I softened. As I listened and was heard, I evolved. There is a reason camp is 4 days. There is a reason for how the days flow. I was drawn to spend my time at Campowerment exactly as I was supposed to and with people I was destined to meet.
There is a reason I went into the woods…and came out a better me.