Initiative & Self-Direction: “Today Was Epic!”

As part of our summer blog series on 21st Century Skills, we are featuring personal stories from camp alumni and professionals across the field exemplifying how Jewish camp provided the ideal environment to become the best version of themselves.

Certain sayings stick with me years after I hear them, and I was reminded of one of them last summer while talking to a few of our Benjamin Village campers (8-10 year olds) here at Capital Camps. A few years ago, at a camp conference, a speaker was discussing the ways in which camp is a place to test one’s comfort zone. She said, “I hate when people say ‘step out of your comfort zone’ – it implies that the person will eventually step back into their comfort zone.” “Rather,” she continued, “we should expand our comfort zones, and by trying new things, we can grow our comfort zones to continue our own growth and development.” Hearing her say that was such an “A-Ha” moment for me, and I have been trying to apply this terminology to my life ever since.

I found myself sitting with one of our Benjamin Village boys cabins, reviewing their day, checking in on how their session has been so far, etc. One camper looked up from his plate and said, “Today was epic.” He then put his head down and continued eating. I was taken aback. Personally, I do not use the word “epic” unless something truly incredible and rare has occurred. Yet this camper said it so casually, so nonchalantly. I had to follow up.

“What made today so epic?” I asked. He then proceeded to tell me how he was at the zip line, and at first, he was scared to do it, but eventually, he overcame his fear (with the help of our ropes course staff), did it and loved it. He concluded his story by mentioning that now since he had done it once and loved it, he would not be afraid of the zip line anymore. His comfort zone was officially expanded – a great example of how someone can conquer a challenge and not look back, knowing that a fear had officially been vanquished.

Stories like this happen all around us at camp every day. Campers go one step further than they ever thought possible on the climbing wall. A bunk comes together to complete a new challenge on the low ropes course. Campers try a new sport, learn a new dance, learn how to make a new art project, sing a new song, even try a new food. Camp provides a perfect environment for expanding one’s comfort zone, both as individuals and as a community. Personally, reflecting back to when I was a camper, I know that I overcame a lot of my own fears and tried a lot of things that I would not have been exposed to anywhere else. While many camps can provide this experience, I think Jewish camp in particular takes a great effort to encourage overcoming these challenges in a supportive, positive setting. I look forward to seeing what challenges our camp community takes on and overcomes this summer!

How did Jewish camp impact your personal growth?  Tell us your story in the comments, on Facebook or tweet @JewishCamp using the hashtag #JCampSkills.

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