If you believe in epigenetics, you would know that we Jews come from hardy stock, having survived persecution, pogroms and the Holocaust. So maybe I come by it naturally, though I don’t think so. I’m quite certain that I learned my 2020 survival skills at YMCA summer camp.
I went to an all-girls summer camp beginning at the age of 10, until I was a counselor in my late teens. I lived in a cabin with 12 other girls under the supervision of college-aged counselors. It was from my bunkmates and counselors that I learned how to navigate deep female friendships, take risks that were unavailable to me at home and thrive without my parents, who were only accessible via the US mail.
Camp was where I learned how to sleep on a top bunk, shoot a rifle, and sail with my back arched over the side of the boat. It was where deep secrets were shared over a game of Jacks or Spit on the cabin floor with the same girls summer after summer after summer. My camp days may have ended 40 years ago, but I think about their impact daily.
For the first time in 25 years, I am not sleeping in the same bed as my husband. Instead I am on my mother’s queen-size pullout couch for the next few weeks, until I move into my own apartment. While my mother claims that the memory foam mattress is top quality, there is definitely that pullout-couch-feeling of random metal rods poking my body. But I can sleep anywhere after having slept in a bunk bed for nine summers, either claustrophobically enclosed on the bottom or hanging from the precipice on the top. This is a good thing because I need my sleep to keep up with my nonprofit job, which too feels a bit like camp these days.
Pre-Covid, we were careful not to overload our donors with fundraising events. With philanthropy down and in-person events impossible, it’s important to maintain a meaningful connection, which is surprisingly easy and slightly campy on Zoom. Virtual Mah Jongg or Bingo? No problem. Book groups with virtual author talks? Piece of cake. Lectures with top medical professionals, remote from all over the world? Bring it. I was trained for this job at summer camp. Perhaps my title should be camp director instead of managing director.
While I have lost touch with many of my camp friends, except for the occasional Facebook post, I learned from that first summer at camp that I thrive in the company of good women. It’s no coincidence that I went to an all-girls camp, a women’s college and now I work for a women’s health care organization, owned and led by women. Summer camp taught me about girl power which in many ways informed some of my most important life decisions.
As we approach Thanksgiving 2020, I thank my parents for sending me to summer camp where I learned that I can do anything, especially when I am among like-minded women. Therefore it is my inner circle of women* for whom I am especially grateful this Thanksgiving. Without their wisdom, encouragement and humor, i might not have survived the perfect sh*tstorm.
*This includes friends old and new, family, work colleagues and especially my blogging group, without whom this story would not be possible. ❤️