Last week, I spent 5 days in the woods of North Carolina with 70 other women (or Soul Sisters). We connected, told our stories, dug deep, and left with a renewed sense of purpose and power.
The magic of Summer Camp was alive and flowing (along with lots of wine)!
This was the second year of Stratejoy’s Summer Camp and like last year, I went into it with an open heart, ready to grow and be challenged.
Summer Camp for Women?
In case you hadn’t heard, summer camp for adults is now a thing. Last year, I hadn’t heard of anyone going to summer camp for adults, but since then, I’ve seen numerous articles about this new way to feel like a kid again.
But….Stratejoy’s Summer Camp, while weaving in activities reminiscent of childhood, also brings in a personal growth & development piece. In fact, that’s the starring role in the daily activities. It’s all about journaling, peeling back some layers, being vulnerable, and emerging with a stronger connection with yourself (and others!).
Last year I went into summer camp not knowing a single person that would be attending. I had no idea what I was getting into, who was going to be there, or if I would even fit in! It was terrifying!
By the end, I had new friends and had experienced one of the best 5 days of my life.
This year, I knew what I was getting into and couldn’t wait to experience it all again! I wasn’t sure how it would differ, but I didn't expect to be as blown away since it wasn't such a mystery this time around. I was right, but it was still an amazing 5 days.
A few notable differences this year...I knew a bunch of people that were coming and I was a counselor! This year, I’m part of Stratejoy’s Elevate mastermind group which instantly provided 12 other amazing friends and the opportunity to lead a cabin.
I loved being a counselor and loooooved the women in my cabin! Each one of them came in with their own stories and their own struggles. Each day I had the honor to witness each one open up to the magic of summer camp and to themselves. It was very much like watching butterflies emerge from their cocoons.
These women worked hard to take a new look at themselves and even though, in some cases, it was hard, I think they all left with a greater sense of self and lots to think about.
As for what we did at camp…I don’t want to give away all the details! Some things just need to stay within the circle to be kept sacred, but the highlights included daily lessons from Molly Mahar, Stratejoy’s fearless leader; lots of journaling; a daily reflection hour; play time (arts & crafts, lake time, etc.), optional movement (yoga, hiking, dance, etc.); bonfire evenings; dance party; etc.
All those fun activities occur on the grounds of an actual summer camp that is traditionally used for kids. So…it’s not 5 star accommodations, but true rustic summer camp —> bunk beds, plastic mattresses, no A/C, outdoor showers, and lots of sweat and bug bites!
This year, it rained a ton! Every afternoon, the skies opened up and torrential rain fell from the sky. This was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it cut the heat (I don’t enjoy really hot weather), but a curse because it kept everything damp. Our towels, sheets, pillow, clothes, etc. stayed damp the entire time. So, not exactly cozy comfy, but it didn’t take away from the magic.
Lessons Learned at Summer Camp
You can’t go to something like this and not learn lessons! That is the beauty of attending a personal development event, even if it is presented through the fun of summer camp!
#1 | Getting uncomfortable allows you to take off the masks
There’s something about being in a place where you are not in your usual element that allows you to more easily strip the masks off. It was summer camp! This was not a 5 star retreat or going glamping.
This was bunk beds, plastic covered 3-inch thick “mattresses”, no A/C, spiders, sweat, bug bites, etc. We skipped makeup, doing our hair, and all of the other ‘normal’ things we do on a daily basis.
It’s a tad uncomfortable being out of our element, but it allows us to shed our typical mindsets to explore new areas within ourselves. The masks fell off and it allowed us to hold a mirror to our face and see the stories lying underneath.
Lesson learned…don’t avoid the uncomfortable stuff since it allows you to see yourself in a new light.
#2 | When you’re in a safe place, you let you guard done fast
While we certainly didn’t know all 70 women there, when your masks fall off and you realize you’re in a safe place, you let your guard down fast. I think most of the women were surprised at how quickly they started sharing deep personal things with each other.
Everyone was there for each other and everyone held space for each other. We connected with strangers that turned into friends. A bond was formed and I know from last year, it will stand the test of time.
It was a safe place of no judgement, but tons of support and love.
Lesson learned…find your safe space and embrace it. It will open up doors and allow fresh air to flow in.
#3 | I have more work to do
I already knew this because we all have more work to do, but I have a clearer idea on what needs a bit more work. Last year I went into summer camp having done some personal work, but not to the intensity of the sessions at camp. It started me on a new path and I left camp last year completely open to new discoveries about myself.
Since last year, I’ve been immersed in the personal development world through my work in the Elevate mastermind group and while in coaching school. I know I have things to work on, so the work done at camp this year didn’t feel overly uncomfortable.
But…I was happily surprised to have a few a-ha’s during the morning sessions that has left me with new paths to explore now that I’m back home.
Lesson learned…we’re always a work in progress and it pays to get excited about that instead of discouraged!
#4 | I still don’t like costume parties
This was another thing I knew about myself, but was it reinforced at camp. Some people love dressing up in costume and partying the night away. I am not one of those people.
I have never enjoyed wearing costumes and every time I have to attend a costume party I stress about it for weeks. But, I’m a big girl and I’m not going to avoid it, so for the Super Girl costume dance party on Friday night, I donned my cape, strapped on my wrist bands and walked into the room ready to dance the night away.
But, as soon as I entered the room, I instantly felt awkward and uncomfortable for the entire night. Eventually, I took off the costume which instantly made me feel better, but the uncomfortableness stayed with me. I didn’t leave, though! I stayed and tried to dance (I might've been holding up a wall while I tried to make myself dance...but, I was there, dammit!) and slapped a smile on my face, but was very relieved when it was time to head back to our cabins.
Lesson learned…its okay to step out of our comfort zones for a little while, even if it makes us feel awkward.
#5 | My time is now
During one of the morning sessions, Molly led a powerful visualization exercise. I won’t go into all of the details, but the message was clear…stop wasting time, playing mind games with myself, and start living the life I want to live (more adventure, getting my own business off the ground, finding love, etc.).
As I keep wasting time or finding excuses to stay behind my self-built wall, the clock is still ticking.
My time is now. I have the tribe, the support, the motivation, and the means to make the changes I want to make. I just need to start taking those steps (which is, of course, the scary part!).
Lesson learned…listen to that inner voice and let that guide me instead of the fears or I will regret everything that I’m not allowing myself to do.
#6 | I need a tribe of strong women
This is a need in my life - the support, connection, and understanding that comes from a tribe of strong women is like nothing else. They hear you, hold space for you, and lift you up when you’re down. It’s the place where I can open up and be me…no masks, no games, just the real me.
This can sometimes be a challenge to find because I think women can be very competitive with each other, but don’t let that discourage you from seeking it out.
Your tribe is out there and when you find it, you’ll know. You’ll feel the connection, the love, and the support.
For me, I went years without a tribe and I feel like those years were my surface years. I wasn’t very deep and I was cut off from my feelings. Now that I wade through my feelings daily, I feel changes and new paths opening up for me each day.
Lesson learned…a strong tribe of like-minded, supportive women can help you find your way and get where you want to go.
Now that a few days have passed since I returned home from camp, I can truly say this year was just as magical as last year. I made new friends, reconnected with old friends, and made some awesome personal discoveries.
Next year, Stratejoy will not be hosting summer camp (but it will return in 2018!). I’m okay with that. I need a break from the bugs and the woods (and the ‘rustic’ cabins). But, I will be ready for it in 2018.
Next year, in lieu of summer camp, I want to challenge myself to go somewhere to meet up with some of my soul sisters in MY tribe! I’m not sure what that will look like, or where it will happen, but I’d like to challenge myself to plan something, somewhere to meet some of these lovely ladies in person!
While you may not have attended summer camp with me this year, I would like to encourage you to learn from what I learned: find your tribe, get messy, get uncomfortable, and get to know a new part of yourself.