I had about 5 titles prepared for this blog post and managed to narrow it down to two. It was between “Heavy is the Head That Wears the Crown” and “This Week I Got To Wear Big Boy Pants” I like both though I was leaning more towards the former yet I seemed to like the latter so I decided to combine the two into a delightful blog title that will woo audiences everywhere (Thank God for parenthesis’!!!!!). Am I getting off topic again? Yeah it seems like it but just know that this title just like this entire blog was the result of carefully crafted precision and an expertly crafted imagination but enough talking, this post isn’t about the title but if you’d like I could make a post devoted to coming up with awesome blog post titles.
Anyways, those who know me personally will know what I have been keeping myself occupied with for an entire month but for those who don’t then allow me to elaborate. A few months ago I was offered the opportunity to be a Program Director for Easter Seals Explorers camp. Now normally one would instantly jump at a position like this but for me it wasn’t all that simple. Truthfully I was kind of hesitant at first. I had spent the last few years being a camp counselor and working with a cabin of campers directly and watching them grow over the course of the week. To move from working with campers to planning everything and not always having the opportunity to play with the campers felt a little weird. Another big thing how ever was an attachment I had to one camper I was in a cabin with two years in a row. I connected with him to the point that I was the one person he looked forward to seeing every year at camp. Being on the spectrum you learn to understand the routine bound nature of your other fellow Autistics and I was afraid that me being not being in his cabin again would break some routine or maybe I myself was afraid of breaking one of my own. The other thing that kind of scared me was that up until now I had NEVER been trusted to be the leader or director of anything. To be considered as a Director of Programs at camp was a pretty big offer at the time. I didn’t want to turn it down but I didn’t want to jump on the offer just yet.
After some sleepless nights of thinking on the offer and other things I was going through at the time I decided it was time to hop out the frying an and into the fire. It was time to take the camp motto we run to the ground and take it to heart, it was time to try something new for once in my life. After accepting the offer it took some time to process the fact that ME of all people was called to have the word “director” in their name. I have come from environments where very few people trust my judgement. I have been in places where my input wasn’t valued and I was just a guy on the sidelines so to be given a position where I could actually make a or break something and where my input was highly valued was a pretty big deal. Though the word director looks like it carries power it can be kind of misleading as there are checks in balances in place to prevent me from getting carried away. Since my ideas and thoughts are all over the place in pertaining to this, the rest of the blog will be in the form of numbered bullets.
1. Director is a very misleading word at times and when they see that word in your name they assume you carry more power than you actually have. I had program staff asking me what roles they’d get long before camp started and I even had people asking me for information about the programs I had now authority to give in the first place. When people were placed in their roles I had some people complain to me about their placement even though I had no control over that. Program Director does NOT mean head of camp. I have a boss who has a boss therefore, there are many things I am not in control of but because the word “Director” is in my name, people think you run the entire show.
2. Planning anything can be tricky because you will always miss something or over look certain scenarios. I didn’t focus too much on rainy day planning because a part of me is always in denial when it comes to bad weather during camp. Luckily I had brought my massive hard drive of movies so there was plenty around to keep campers entertained. I also over looked the quantities of basic supplies that should be in every part of camp. This resulted in more running than I have ever had to do in my life. If I had a dollar for every time I heard my name on a walkie talkie in pertaining to a lack of certain supplies I could buy a golf cart that would reduce all of the running I did. Timing certain events also got tricky because I never factored in transitions, something that population of campers can have a lot of trouble with.
3. Speaking of missing art supplies, I almost lost my shit looking for a bag of loom bands that disappeared. I couldn’t wrap my head around where they possibly went. Turns out there’s a camper who like to collect random things she finds, those loom bands were one of them so at that point I realized I had already lost that battle.
4. I don’t think I’ve ever had to talk so much in my life and I also don’t think I’ve had to talk so loudly either. Those who know me personally will know that I’m a very soft spoken person. It was also a reminder that at times my verbal communication isn’t the greatest. What I have on paper doesn’t always sound as good when I say it.
5. I’m pretty the amount of running I did that week was enough to span a marathon. Time was always against me and running seemed to be the only way I could get from one place to the other in a short amount of time.
6. You will grow to despise walkie talkies by the time this is over with. When I first got promoted to a Head Counselor and was given the privilege of having a walkie talkie, having that boss status was the best thing in the world. I enjoyed the boss status so much that I dreaded having to give back that walkie at the end of camp. This year however when it was time to turn my walkie in, I felt the way a dog does when you let them off the leash, free. I hope to never see one for an entire year, more batteries or better rechargeable ones would be wonderful.
7. Sure, having an entire cabin to yourself is shitloads of fun but that doesn’t mean you get to stay in it very long. Get ready to lose out on rest hour because you’ll be spending it getting supplies from one place to the other and those campers who went on island adventure, someone has to give them their prizes from the treasure chest. The crown also comes with shorter meals on the days there are field activities because getting there can take some time along with setup.
8. Sure, you’ll have people under you that will follow your instructions but if you’re not the greatest at verbal communication then get ready for loads of questions followed by questions from people that didn’t think they needed to ask questions the first time around but decided to do so at the last possible minute, you know the questions that take a lot of time to answer, the ones you’re fine answering the day before when you have a lot of time at your disposal but can’t be easily answered when you only have five minutes before an activity starts.
9. Before you have a bunch of different people from various walks of life work together, make sure you give them that harsh life lesson you learned ages ago about not having to like all the people you work with. It will help greatly in the long run.
10. There’s nothing wrong with getting really ambitious but you will have to be flexible and learn to scale things down when necessary.
Wearing a crown isn’t all fun an games and comes with a lot of work and sacrifice that is always worth it in the end. I will always remember this year as the year of camp I made. This year brought me out of my shell in ways previous years didn’t. Lots of growing happened this week. Before this week I never really saw myself as much of a leader but I now I know I’m capable of bigger things. Every aspect of this position was a learning experience that I can easily transfer to other aspects of my life. Was it stressful? of course. Did I want to lose my shit at times? You bet your ass I did. Did I lose sleep? Plenty of it. Would I do it all over again given the chance? HELL YES!!!!!!!!!!!!! Because at the end of the day after the loss of sleep and sometimes sanity, it’s for the campers, campers who sometimes come from rough camp environments, rough school environments, campers who just want a place to escape to, to be themselves in a place that celebrates being unique. I hope I have the opportunity to create that escape for many years to come. Stay classy people….