Monthly Archives:February 2023

Befriending Fears at Camp

I was an anxious kid. Life, for me, meant constantly fighting an incessant stream of questions like what if that plagued my mind. But there was an escape–spending the summer at Camp Woodland. At camp I took six activities, the same every year: swimming lessons, free swim, riflery, archery, tennis, and horseback riding. The familiarity of my camp routine distracted me from facing anything unknown. There was a simplicity in my regimen that I clung to for most of my early summers. I never wanted to try any new activities for fear of embarrassment and failure. So, I stuck to what I knew. My activities were like old friends. I knew them blind. That worked perfectly for three summers, until my fourth year, when I was placed in a more advanced horseback riding hour and my little world flipped on its head.

I had ridden horses for three summers by then, but the prospect of being in the advanced hour, surrounded by older, skilled riders, made me so anxious I felt sick. I had caught glimpses of the pasture during these sessions and seen blurs of beige and brown, clouds of kicked-up dust, and what seemed like impossibly fast speeds. I was certain that the second I mounted any horse going that fast I would be flung off and land somewhere in the trees.

My first day in riding left me in tears. I already felt miles behind my peers. I trooped, defeated, back to the cabin, and I was in no mood to unpack the day with my friends, so I sat on the porch in the sinking sunlight alone. The door creaked open and my live-in CIT, a girl named Arantxa, sat beside me. She introduced herself, but said nothing. I was grateful for the silence. Her presence was comforting enough, as if she was letting me though she was there for me. She would wait until I was ready to talk.

Day after day, I wandered out to the porch. When I felt like crying after being reminded again and again I was the worst in my class, I found some semblance of solace on the rickety cabin steps. Arantxa came out and sat with me every day. Eventually, I began to tell her about riding and my debilitating fear each time I walked into the barn. I confessed I wanted to quit. She frowned. “The fear you have,” she said, “is not something to run from. You have to accept your fear. Live with it. Free it, and it will make you better. Don’t quit riding because you’re scared. Just keep going.”

Those words kept me enrolled in riding for the next six weeks. She was right, I was afraid–that never went away. But Arantxa helped me befriend my fear. I made peace with it, and understood that its very existence was proof that I was growing. Growth, I learned, was not what resulted from natural skill or prowess. It was earned from that uncomfortable in-between, that space where what if still pestered me. But this time I was armed with the tools to twist what if into something powerful. Something hopeful. Instead of asking, what if I fail? I found myself asking, what if I succeed?

We had a horse show on the last day of camp to demonstrate all of our acquired skills. I mounted my horse, welcoming the flutter of anxious butterflies in my gut. Scanning the crowd, I saw my friends beaming at me. But something else caught my attention: Arantxa, breathless from running to escape her CIT duties, stood at the fence with a handmade sign drawn just for me. She waved and smiled, and warm pride bloomed inside my chest. As I rode around the arena, I felt like a blur of beige and black, fast and flying, ready to take on the world. I knew then that I could conquer any activity, any obstacle, and any challenge in my way.

This blog was originally written by Molly K as an influential figure essay for a college-prep English class assignment. We are excited to have Molly join our staff team in 2023!

Cabin Theme Poster Tradition (Featuring Treetops)

One of our favorite camp traditions that we have kept alive over the years is CABIN THEME POSTERS. Each summer, counselors blow us away with their creativity by coming up with a cabin theme and creating a cabin poster and name tags for each bunk. Getting to see the theme and their name above a bunk is one of the most exciting moments for a camper entering their summer home for the first time. These themes and decorations really transform the cabins into the cozy, magical places we call home all summer. The Treetops theme did not disappoint! They embraced differences by appreciating all special gifts and talents with their Encanto theme this summer.

What is something new that you learned about yourself at camp in 2022?

“I am stronger than I think.” – Maddie B.

“At home I’m really quiet, but at camp I’m more open and outgoing.” – Maddie H.

“I’m better at arts and crafts than I thought.” – Casi

In what ways did you GROW this summer?

“I went out of my comfort zone by trying swimming lessons again.” – Monica A. (Live-In CIT)

“I got on a horse.” – Maddie B.

In what ways did you feel part of your cabin and the camp COMMUNITY?

“I feel that I am a part of my cabin because I have a special relationship with each individual peer in my cabin and camp community.” – Orla W.

“I worked through conflict in the cabin and felt supported by my cabin-mates.” – Olivia T.

“I felt a part of the cabin community when we worked on projects like lip-sync and song contest.” – Maddie H.

“We worked together and we included each other.” – Casi

In what ways did you see RESPECT this summer?

“I saw campers learning to live in the same space as each other and respect differences.” – Monica A. (Live-In CIT)

“This summer I saw kindness and empathy all around our camp grounds. The girls I met this summer treated me with kindness by having manners and empathy.” – Orla W.

“I saw everyone appreciate each other’s differences and people could be themselves.” – Olivia T.