Sunday, April 30, 2006
( 6:44 PM ) Rebecca
Back when I was a wee youngster of 22, I worked as a drama counselor at summer camp in Northern California. Mostly I was there trying (and failing) to relive the halcyon days of my own summer camp youth where I spent the best days of my entire adolescence singing touchy-feely songs, riding horses, sleeping on beds strung up in trees, and generally feeling like a superstar - in direct contrast to the utter loserdom that enveloped me when I was at school.
My experiences as a counselor in most ways did not live up to my experiences as a camper, mainly because the people who ran this camp were militaristic frat boy as*holes who knew nary a thing about touch-feely songs about the campfire or making kids feel like a million bucks, though to their credit, they did offer exciting activities such as waterskiing and rock-climbing, which my own humble summer camp never offered. (Not that we needed it, of course, since we were so busy getting in touch with our feelings, but still).
As a counselor there, I first made the mistake of falling in love with a rock climber (who later went on a climbing trip, discovered "god" with a lowercase "g," and dumped me) but never mind about that. I was about to graduate from college, had no f*cking idea what I wanted to do - or rather I wanted to be a writer but had no confidence whatsoever that I could do it - and had hoped this summer would be a respite from my ever-increasing stress. Ha.
I spent that summer in a sleep-deprived, ulcer-ridden, lovestruck haze - constantly fighting with the camp directors and in conflict with many of the counselors who viewed me as some hippieish layabout because I preferred not to wear a bra, and got sick all the time because I was so stressed out and dehyrated in that sunbaked hellhole.I'll never forget how the waterskiing counselor (aka the camp director's thick-necked, dimwitted son, who was f*cking the rich horseback riding counselor and referred to her as "the bitch" when he talked to his friends on the phone) accused me of "not doing any work."
Ha! The reason I was perceived as not doing any work was because I had to spend most of my days INDOORS WRITING. My job as drama counselor was not only to teach drama a few times a day, but to write, produce, and direct an original play every two weeks. Despite the various miseries of that place, that particular task was one of the best that could have befallen me at that time in my life.
That's because found out a few things that I needed to remember for a long time afterwards: I was creative. I was funny. I could finish a piece of writing when I needed to.
Oh I had known those things a long time before, when I was a child producing bright, bold masterpieces of art and literature and dreaming of future as a great artiste. But college and impending adulthood had drained me of all my creative confidence, and now, on the verge of becoming a working adult, all I wanted to do was be a writer but I had not produced much in the way of writing since fourth grade. Nor did I ever produce anything worthwhile again for a long time after that hot heavy summer.
But I rose to the task at hand. I wrote four witty plays in eight weeks that the kids loved, and, per instructions from the camp director, included numerous occasions for them to lip synch to the bands du jour (Aerosmith, Guns and Roses, Madonna). And, besides my broken heart, that is what I took away with me from Snow Mountain Camp: the fact that I could DO it. That I could write. Because for years afterwards I was blocked as a writer. As I entered the world and started a series of horrible jobs, I couldn't write. I started things and couldn't finish them. Over and over. It took years to get to the point where I COULD finish something. Hell, it took til NOW.
The funny thing is I'm terrifed all over again now. I've published a novel and am afraid I'll never be able to write another one. I know better, of course. I know that sometimes you just gotta believe when you don't believe, or, like George Michael says, that you gotta have FAITH. It's easier said than done, of course. Having faith and writing a novel. But I can do them both. And I will.
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