The hardest part about being the newbie on staff is the staff. Everyone already knows each other and has relationships, and here you are. Brand spanking new. I just realized where that term came from! When babies were born they used to spank them to get them crying, which in turn opens up their airways and kick-starts breathing. While I don’t particularly agree with this practice (doesn’t sound very helpful to me, but what do I know?), this is a great metaphor for how it felt. A small shock after the arduous journey, but still enough to wake you up with a start.
As a camper it’s not hard to know the names of most of the staff, especially the “top dogs”. You look up to them and remember what they say. But as staff you may not remember every camper’s name. There are a lot more of them than you. Coming from being a camper to being on staff was really different. Even with CILT there really is no way to fully prepare. It was really hard for me to get used to being, not necessarily peer level, but working together with these ladies who you look up to as role models. You feel like you know them, but they really don’t know you at all.
It’s like going from standing on the deck of the pool to diving in. Looking down you can see everyone clearly, in fact you are watching them. They are doing their own thing down in the water; aware of your presence as part of the group on deck, but not really you individually. When you jump in you are suddenly no longer part of the group on deck, you are down in the water. The others have been swimming longer, so they already have their routines, but you are just getting started. Are you going to do laps, or are you just going to splash around? You may swim up and start chatting with a group, but you are coming in half way through the conversation.
Some of the staff remembered me from my years as a camper, even though those years were few. There were times when I was having trouble keeping a kind, happy face. Talking with them always helped. Hearing about when they were in the same spot of being the baby. Listening to things that were happening in their lives, things that they remember about me, things that they observed me do with the girls. I’m not sure if any of them really know how much it means to me. I’m often forgotten, it seems. Sometimes I feel like a stalker or a spy. I’ll remember something someone said, and they have no idea who I am. I think this will come in handy someday. It’s very useful at camp.
You have a short amount of time to learn and mesh. Remembering about a girl can make or break the relationship. Not just her name, but specific events, things you share. Like, I remember sitting in a canoe for an hour talking with my counselor. I remember walks up from the pond and who said what. I remember walking to the nurses cabin for a late night headache and what we talked about, and even in the dark the facial expressions. From the position of staff it’s easy to get the mindset of the campers being a mass. You have to remember that they are individuals, created in the likeness of God and equal with you where it really matters. From the position of a camper it means the world to me if you remember me. I look up to as a role model of what it means to be a woman of God, an expert fire builder, the glue gun guru, or just a really awesome person.
They are watching.
They are learning.
They want your affirmation.