It has been one month since we wrapped up a fantastic summer camp season here at Tumbleweed. These past few weeks have been filled with family vacations and starting school for our family - a much-needed break from the go-go-go summer schedule that we have to keep up. In that time, I was able to steal myself away for some daydreaming about this past summer, one which (on the books at least) was successful, productive, and dare I say, normal. And it was - but it was a lot more complicated than that. After spending some time reflecting on our 9 weeks together, I have three take-aways that have stayed with me: an immense sense of gratitude, a new understanding of the need for connection, and some serious mama bear pride.
I know a lot of my friends and peers in the industry really struggled this summer. “Why are we doing this to ourselves?” they said half-jokingly. I had a very different summer.
I have felt somewhat guilty about how well my summer went. A lot can be said about the fact that I already had 12 months under my belt of running in-person programming. I also thought I had seen it all this past year, but as with every summer at camp (COVID or not), you always surprise yourself. A few weeks into June, I was already feeling “over it”. You might be thinking, “you just said you had a good summer” and now I’m complaining about being over it… That’s where gratitude comes into play.
Had it just been me running camp this summer, engaging with parents, teaching campers, this probably would not have been one of the best summers ever. But obviously, it was not just me and 280 campers. We had some of the kindness, most caring, fun, and intentional staff I have ever seen. Our directors dug deep to create a wonderland of summer memories and our executive team constantly had a keen vision of how to deliver the best experience possible. So when I felt low, they brought me up, they reminded me why we work so hard, and they are the reason why camp was so amazing. When I think about Summer 2021, the feeling that rushes over me is this immense sense of gratitude - because it wasn’t luck that Tumbleweed did so well, it was hard work, passion, and kindness. And for that, I am incredibly grateful.
Running an operation like Tumbleweed can be a little lonely. I don’t really have any peers at camp, and my camp friends are off running their own programs and are deep in their busy season as well. I’m so “in the zone” with Tumbleweed that it’s hard to stay connected with my non-camp friends. But boy, I learned fast this summer that keeping those connections up was vital. In reflecting on Summer ‘21 and thinking about what made it so successful, a huge part of that was making and keeping connections all over the place. Whether it was taking time for myself to hang out with some non-camp friends, or it was sending a text to a fellow camp owner, these little branches of connection that I grew helped to center me and in turn made camp better.
Best of all were the connections I made with other camp parents at Tumbleweed this summer. It was so nice to have a camp parent pull up in the morning at drop-off and get a chance to just chat about being a parent right now, about having a soon-to-be kindergarten, about what it’s like to send your child off to sleep away camp. These conversations helped keep me connected with camp and aided in driving conversations and decision-making that made Tumbleweed better all summer long.
More than anything, the lingering warmth of these connections has sustained us after camp. As you can imagine, going from a bustling, busy 300+ person camp to 4 people on 100 acres is quite a change. We have been able to use these connections and the memory of the conversations to keep us feeling that summer joy. I hope that when you and your camper are feeling a little lonely this offseason, you think back to the connections you made a camp and let them carry you through.
I like to use the weeks after a summer to think back on what made that year unique. What set Summer 2021 apart from all others? What lessons did we learn? What things am I going to leave behind because they didn’t make the cut? After isolating “Graditute” and “Connections”, I was left with overwhelming pride. I am so proud of what our counselors accomplished, of how brave YOU, the parents were, of how adventurous our counselors-in-training were, and I am so proud of our campers. In the face of incredible challenges, they were brave enough to HAVE FUN. To explore. To try new things! After everything was said and done this summer, I was left with such a sparkling feeling of pride. Everyone who interacted with Tumbleweed this summer was fighting the adversity that was 2020. Everyone was looking down the long road at another year with COVID, another year of social tension, another year of “what now?”. And in the face of all of that, everyone came to Tumbleweed and lived their best lives. There is nothing I could be more proud of than everyone getting to be their true selves at camp.
Gratitude. Connections. Pride. I want you to take these 3 lessons from Summer 2021 and have them carry you through the next 9 months until we meet again.