By former MCE camper, counselor, and full-time staff member Natalie Rothstein
In the spirit of the thankful season, I’m taking an opportunity to think a little bit more deeply about the things in my life for which I am grateful. As a psychotherapist, I believe a gratitude practice is incredibly value to one’s emotional wellness and strength, during positive and negative times. I encourage my clients to integrate a consistent gratitude practice into their lives. When I think about the major parts of my life for which I am most thankful, my experience going to summer camp in Maine is very high on the list. I spent six summers for 8 weeks at a residential camp for girls in Maine. My mom and sister both went to the same camp, so the values and importance of our experiences run deeply in my family. My father and my brother both attended the same boys’ camp in Maine. Growing up in the Midwest, I always knew I was Maine camp bound. And I couldn’t be more grateful for that experience (my collection of “Maine: The Way Life Should Be” t-shirts and sweatshirts speaks for itself). I then proceeded to work at the same camp for two years as a swim instructor and bunk counselor and then for three years as a year-round employee hiring and managing the staff.
Closing that chapter of my life to pursue my career in counseling as a therapist was difficult, but I constantly notice the skills I gained from working at camp that have helped me be a stronger therapist. Of course, I am also grateful for the memories I gained from camp and the lifelong friendships. Many of my closest friends to this day are from camp, despite the geographical distance. However, beyond those incredible and irreplaceable memories, I am thankful for the values and skills I gained from going to camp. Going to camp helped teach me how to be appreciative for things that were going well even when some things didn’t go quite the way I hoped they would. At camp, I learned how to live in a cabin with anywhere from 8 to 22 other girls for 8 weeks, and for many summers without electricity! I learned how to share a shower house with 12 showers with over 200 people, (luckily for them, campers today oftentimes have it easier). I learned how to be considerate of others in all of the different shared spaces of camp. I learned how to challenge myself in ways that I never could have at home by climbing mountains and canoeing rivers. I learned how to pitch a tent and navigate a trail map. At camp, I learned how to work with others through so many different activities – whether it was a skit night for an evening activity with my bunkmates or on a ropes course navigating an obstacle high up in the trees alongside other campers. I learned how to be brave in front of others by singing my heart out in bunk shows every summer in front of the whole camp. I learned how to be comfortable speaking in front of the whole camp. I also was able to learn my strengths and weaknesses and how to embrace both of those and use that knowledge to work towards my best potential. I learned to be present, because at camp there are so few distractions and so many things to be fully engaged in. A gift that can be hard to find in the technology era. As a very homesick camper, I learned how to be away from home, which undoubtedly made my transition to going away for college so much easier.
All of these experiences have translated into invaluable skills and strengths that have helped me grow into the woman I am today. There are also so many nostalgic feelings I associate with my camp experience. When I think about them they bring me back to being at camp- one of my most happy places. I’m grateful for the smell of pine trees and the feeling of breaking pine needles between my fingers or hearing pinecones crunch as I walk over them. I’m grateful for the accomplished feeling of getting to the top of a mountain, no matter how hard the trek up was. I’m grateful for the fresh air and nighttime skies filled with stars unlike I’ve ever seen anywhere else. I’m grateful for the feeling of jumping into the lake on a hot summer afternoon. I’m grateful for the feeling of putting on cozy sweatpants and sweatshirt before breakfast on a cool Maine morning. I’m grateful for the sound of 150 girls singing in the dining room while simultaneously eating a meal. I’m grateful for the sound of taps as I wind down to fall asleep at the end of a busy and exciting day. On a rough day, connecting to those nostalgic feelings is incredibly helpful. Camp helped shape who I am in so many ways. I truly believe I am kinder, wiser, stronger and more independent because of my camp experience, something I will always be incredibly grateful for. Whenever I’ve been back at camp, I love observing the camp environment and my heart fills with warmth and so much happiness to see all of the campers and counselors experiencing such a wonderful and valuable place that ushered me to where I am in my life.
Maine Camp Experience Resources & Tools Looking for the perfect Maine camp for your child? Try out our helpful tool where you can select a camp by choosing: type of camp (girls, boys or coed) and session length (1-8 weeks). It helps to narrow down a few camps to a manageable list that includes rates. Then you can research these camps in more depth. Next, be sure to contact our Maine Campcierge™ to discuss these camps as well as for free, year-round advice and assistance on choosing a great Maine summer camp for your child. You can share your own Maine camps memories & expressions of gratitudeon our Memories of Camp section of our website.
Talk to Laurie, our Maine Campcierge™, about choosing the right camp for your child and what to do in Maine.