The secret life of a camp counselor


Tori Cayle, senior, poses for a picture with her camper.

For some, summer is a time, free from obligations, to go to the beach and spend time with friends. For others, summer is an exhausting four-to-eight week roller coaster filled with sweat, tears, throw up and pure bliss. I am one of the “others.”

I am one of the fortunate ones lucky enough to spend their time as a camp counselor.

From the outside, being a counselor can look like a babysitting job. In reality, you are a mother: 24 hours a day, seven days a week and in my case, a mother of 17 nine and ten year olds.

My first day on the job I could not wait to start. I had already endured a month’s long training and was ready for the real deal, or so I thought. The minute the campers poured off the busses I realized that this was nothing I could have prepared for.

One by one my campers approached me, each one jumping up and down screaming their names in an extremely high-pitched voice. Along with this, each girl had her own set of 1000 questions to ask. On top of the flurry of name remembering and question answering, my co-counselors and I had to be constantly counting our dysfunctional Brady Bunch.

I thought I was at the zenith of the awfulness, I was so far from right.

The cabin is where campers feel safe to show their true colors. For one of my campers, her color was green. This camper took every second of my time as her personal platform for “Hypochondriacs Anonymous”. I heard the classics, “I feel like I’m dying,” and “this is the end of the world,” and my personal favorite, “help, my tummy is blowing up!”

Because of her Boy Who Cried Wolf antics, it was impossible to know when she was serious about her problems. This contributed to my most memorable night at camp.

At two in the morning, I heard a knock on my door followed by a soft whisper claiming to have a stomach ache. From the comfort of my bed I advised, “just go back to your bunk and see how you feel in the morning.” My mistake.

Before I could even finish my sentence, I heard the pitter-patter of small feet running to the trashcan and the splatter of throwup.

All night I was by her side singing, telling stories and holding back her hair as she yacked up unidentified objects.

Despite the fact that I cannot get these foul images out of my mind, at the end of the day when a camper tells you, “you’re the best counselor ever!” or, “please come back next year and be my counselor again,” it makes all the terrible stuff worth while.

The incredible feelings I have at camp are incomparable to anything I feel at home. These feelings are why I would rather spend eight weeks on a roller coaster than eight weeks sleeping in the sand.

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