Camp NaNo starts today and I’m pretty excited. For those of you that don’t know, Camp NaNo is the little brother of November’s “National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)” contest. What’s nice about the camp version is that your word goals can be flexible. I’m shooting for 40,000 during the month of July. You can’t add friends in this version, but if you’re a camper and want to exchange info, my camper ID is “alexhurst”. (I know, creative.)
I’ll be working on my desert MS this time, about a young slave bride who must persevere without hope for a better future. The theme I’m trying to grapple with is, sometimes, the idea of hope can be damning. In this woman’s case, her present is the only place she can live, and she struggles to find worth and purpose while the society around her crumbles under civil war. It is a fantasy, and though the main character is only 14 at the start of the book, I wouldn’t consider it a young adult book. That’s basically the synopsis, anyway.
I thought, in light of Camp NaNo, I would share my one and only camp experience with you all.
My mother signed me up for summer camp one year, and I was really excited. It was going to be a five day trip in the woods, in cabins, and the campers were going to get to do all sorts of ‘adventure’ themed activities, like rope swings, archery, zip-lines and rope bridges. I was super stoked.
Unfortunately, by the time I arrived at the camp, I realized 1) there weren’t many kids my age in attendance (they were all older) and 2) I didn’t know anybody. Awkward penguin that I have always been, this caused a bit of anxiety. It’s not so bad now, but when I was a kid, making a friend was a big deal, and only happened after careful observation and consideration of the party involved. I think I had a total of two friends through first, second and third grade. (You can imagine how, at a camp like this, there would neither be the time or patience to pull off a sense of camaraderie.)
Nonetheless, the first activity of the day was archery, and so I waved goodbye to my mom and threw myself into it. I used to make little bows and arrows out of twigs at home all the time, so I was sure it would be a blast. These were the days of fewer safety regulations, and so we were allowed to use real arrows. It was really fun. I don’t think I ever hit a target, but it was fun to hold the bow and feel the arrows. If I had the time these days, I would absolutely take up some sort of archery again.
We had lunch shortly after, though true to Alex-fashion, I huddled myself on the roots of a tree and ate alone. I didn’t even try to get to know the other campers. My social anxiety was really bad, like I’ve said.
Anyway, eventually this guy in a camp shirt came over and patted me on the back and encouraged me to join the group. It was time for zip-lines, he said. Now, I should mention that I have a horrendous fear of heights. I can climb trees, because I can trust a tree not to fall over, but put me on a ladder or on a thin cable with a buckle for support and panic rises like a summer typhoon. I tried to tell Mr. Do-Good that I wasn’t sure I should do it. He shook his head at me and lifted me onto the first step of the tree ladder. The crowd of kids waiting encouraged me to climb. So I did. I dreaded every inch of it, but I finally climbed to the top of the ladder and Mr. Do-Good started instructing me how to put the harness on.
I remember crying, and begging to be let down, and the crowd of kids’ encouragements and Mr. Do-Good’s instruction morphing into “Hurry up!” They gave me no choice but to use the zip-line to get down. Sobbing, shaking, I simply grabbed the zip-line and didn’t buckle, jumping from the platform and landing in the dirt halfway down the line once my hands couldn’t hold on anymore. My knees were scraped, but I was on the ground again.
Naturally, seven-year-old me didn’t trust Mr. Do Good anymore, and they had to cloister me in my cabin until my mother could drive back to pick me up. The experience only strengthened my social anxiety and my fear of high places.
In regards to Camp NaNo this month, I’m braving the zip-line again. This time, I’ll take the plunge, and I’ll make it to the end.