Alternatively titled, why working at a summer camp should be considered a “real” (and best) job
Public Service Announcement: I may be biased but if you don’t consider working at a camp a “real” job…
Dear Twenty Somethings,
I rarely admit this but I’m closer to the end of the twenty-something spectrum. I know what you’re thinking- “but Sam, you possess the flawless skin and peppy personality of a twenty-three-year-old.” I know, I’m blessed with youthful appearance (only a curse when people think I’m in high school and call me “sweetie”), but my age is scarily approaching the thirty-something mark (yikes!) At least I’m young at heart, right?
Back in 2015, I had spent the year post teacher’s college struggling to find a job in my field. I worked my little butt off in the retail industry trying to make money but it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life- my passion was working with kids (aka unemployment city without that retail life). While having drinks before a Jays game (obviously) with a very dear friend, she suggested a temporary solution to help me get experience with children- working at a camp. Being the self-proclaimed
old hag old maid maturely aged lady, I worried that I was too old to work at a summer camp. Like many people, I had a limited view of working at a camp, and perhaps even may have considered it not being a “real job”.
Boy, was I ever wrong (although some might still consider me too old to work at a summer camp? who knows !) It ended up being my absolute favourite job in the world and I wouldn’t trade it for everything. Through my own experiences, I learned that working at a summer camp was the most “real” job I’ve ever had. I could write a very lengthy post about what summer camp has taught me, but like always I’ll save it for another time.
Now, at the ripe old age of twenty-eight (you might want to write that admission down because it may be the last time I write that secret out), I’m faced with the dilemma- how long can one work at a summer camp. The pressure to get a quote-un-quote real job is on. Rather than face the crippling reality that I probably won’t be able to work at my lovely summer camp anymore, I’ll spend my time talking about why working at a summer camp is a REAL job (and repressing the possibility of never working my favourite job again).
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that it was time to get a “real” job, I’d probably have enough money to retire already. For some reason, camp workers hear that phrase more often than not. Honestly, what are the arguments for camp not being a “real” job? Do you need to get benefits for something to be a “real” job? Do you have to work in an office, or dress nicely to be considered to have a “real” job? Be paid a salary or hourly wage? I just don’t understand. Working at camp has been hands down the best (and most real) job I’ve ever had.
Let’s put it into perspective. Working at a summer camp, I work SIX days a week. On a good day, I make sure to wake up early to get a shower. On a bad day, I spend my very limited free time showering to make myself look like a human. Sure, unlike supposed “real” jobs I can show up to work in my sweats, but who wouldn’t want to wear sweatpants after spending EIGHT hours working with children. Those hours aren’t even counting evening program and putting kids to bed. Meal times and bedtimes are probably where I work the most. Half of my “rest hours” are spent hanging out with kids and playing games rather than actually resting. An hour of my “days off” (23 and a half hours, 8 of them usually catching up on sleep) is spent buying candy and chips for children and planning what activities I’ll be doing the rest of the week to convince them that music IS FUN! (It’s fun guys, don’t get me started!) All that effort is more than most “real” jobs require. Don’t confuse this for complaining. It’s an amazing job. I consider half of the campers (and probably have of the staff) to be my children- I love them and they are the majority of the reason why I love working at camp. That doesn’t mean that my job isn’t “real”. In fact, that’s probably what makes it the most real job I’ve had.
At your “real” job, you get to enjoy lunch. At my real job, I spend half of my lunch getting food for the kids, teaching them to clean up after themselves, or comforting sad/anxious/homesick kids. At your “real” job, you learn how to write reports, hold meetings and whatever “real” jobs require. At my real job, I learn how to eat, hug one child and rub another child’s back at the same time. Sure, at your “real” job you get a decent salary in exchange for the work you do. My real job, however, rewards me in hugs and unconditional love. If that’s not a job, I don’t know what is.
We have to stop telling people like me that working at a summer camp is not a real job. I work too hard at it to let anyone do so. Plenty of people manage to make it their full-time job (living the dream really). Even those who end up moving to another field, working at a camp builds innumerable skills for their resume- team building, time management, responsibility, teamwork, independence, adaptability, conflict management- I could go on for pages!
Do I make a ton of money working at a summer camp? It’s not the highest paying job monetarily speaking but it’s enough to make a decent living (especially if you can get a full-time career out of it). Beyond that, working at camp has made me a more compassionate, well-rounded and hard working human being.
Here’s some (unsolicited) advice:
- Do yourself (and the rest of us a favour) and stop dismissing working at camp by saying that it is not a “real” job.
- If you want to work at a camp, do some research. It seems like common sense but as we know, common sense isn’t common. Trust me, working at a summer camp probably isn’t exactly what you think it’s like.
- Don’t let yourself or anyone tell you that you’re too old for something (well 99% of the time at least).
Thankfully I ignored my thoughts in 2015 and took the plunge into working at my camp. The only things I love more than the children I’ve worked with and the friends that I’ve made there are puppies (and my family of course).
Come May, if I’m not working at camp (you’ll be able to tell by the FOMO tears), it won’t be because it’s a “real” job. It’ll probably be because of health benefits. Until that sad day comes, I’ll continue to wax poetic about camp life.
P.S. Have you ever worked at summer camp? Have you ever been told that something you love isn’t “real”? Leave your answers below in the comments.
P.P.S I’m pretty proud of the amount of references I’ve managed to make to puppies in my blog posts. Feel free to go back and see if you can find them all!
If you are considering a camp job, look at camp association websites. In Ontario, we have the Ontario Camps Association and they post various camp jobs.