Nothing really went to plan, and that’s alright.
In the spring of 2020, I was finishing my last classes as a senior at Syracuse University, beginning the arduous process of applying to jobs in journalism, and generally soaking up the end of college life. Like everyone else, COVID-19 threw my trajectory off-kilter. For as privileged as I was that I still had a roof over my head, food on the table, and my family’s health, my career and life paths irrevocably changed. In the midst of that seemingly endless uncertainty, Manitou saved me.
After being a camper from 2007 to 2014 and a counselor the following three years, I missed the summers of 2018 and 2019 to work in “the real world” and gain professional experience. While I wasn’t physically on East Pond, my mind never left. So, when the opportunity to go back arose in 2020 with some of my closest friends from my bunk growing up, it was a no-brainer. Spending hours with them every day, being in charge of a fantastic group of 13-year-olds, and seamlessly reintegrating into camp life was phenomenal for my mental health and I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world.
Between that summer and 2021, I returned to the reality of our global situation. The industry I originally planned to enter pretty much went kaput and the events of the past two years prompted me to reevaluate my priorities. For as much as I love journalism and the time I dedicated to it, I decided to enroll in graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, where I am currently matriculating towards my masters’ degree in education policy. After speaking to those in the camp community who I trust and know beyond a shadow of a doubt have my best interests at heart, including but obviously not limited to Drs. Ian Mette and Adah Murray, I am confident this new path will allow me to make an impact on those around me and pay forward the privilege I’m fortunate to hold.
However, that still left the question of what to do in the summer of 2021. The obvious answer? Manitou. Despite not having my friends from 2020 with me, I found my niche this summer in a way I never had before. Not only was I lucky to have my unit again as slightly more rambunctious 14-year-olds, but the extra year of experience bolstered my self-confidence and made me a better leader. More personally, the opportunity to once again share a cabin with Reuben Ambat – my CIT counselor and one of the most important people in my maturation – and ingratiate myself with staff beyond the ex-campers with whom I had grown up allowed me to experience camp in an entirely different and ultimately more meaningful way.
My point in all this is to say your path is undefined; what you may see as your battened-down course in life could very well change in the blink of an eye. In the face of such fluidity, appreciate the beauty of the constant. Since I was nine years old, Manitou has been my rock, my safe haven, and my source of growth. The ways I have engaged with camp these past two summers have not only strengthened my relationship with the guys I grew up with and the place I call my home away from home, but have also made me a better man.
As for advice: actively and consciously appreciate camp and what it has given you in any way you see fit. For me, any day in which I get in the lake, watch the sunset, and stargaze on the track is a successful one. Tell your friends you love them and you can’t wait to see them next, regardless of how long it’s been since you saw them last. And wherever you are, whether that’s in the dining hall or on the other side of the world, hold the values you learned from camp with you every day.