Savoring the Good in Life: a camp life lesson

As we reach the mid-point of early enrollment for returning campers, it has brought the year-round team joy each and every time we see an application roll through our system to confirm that a camper is returning in 2024. I get an especially great hit of joy when first-time campers from this summer re-enroll and I know that they’ve found ‘the camp’ for them.

The feeling of excitement for a summer that is nine months away and the simultaneous sadness over a summer that is over a month past its expiration is one I’ve known well since I was seven years old. It’s funny that it doesn’t go away even as an adult, and now I feel only more excitement watching our current generation of campers experience it, too.

I recently listened to a podcast episode of NPR’s ‘Hidden Brain‘, a show in which host Shankar Vedantam ‘uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships’ according to the show’s Spotify description.

The episode titled “You 2.0: Make the Good Times Last” caught my eye with the following description: “Sorrows have a way of finding us, no matter how hard we try to avoid them. Joys, on the other hand, are often hard to notice and appreciate. This week, we continue our conversation with psychologist Fred Bryant about the science of savoring, and how to make the most of the good things in our lives.”

In the episode, Dr. Bryant of Loyola University describes his own negative life experience with a back injury and his journey of regretting not savoring the period of his life in which he had a healthy back that supported his favorite hobbies. This experience launched Dr. Bryant into the exploration of savoring the good in life – looking forward to exciting experiences, and the mindfulness to enjoy the littlest things in life as they happen. Now, Dr. Bryant researches the science of savoring and the human hard-wired tendency to notice the negative more than the positive.

It’s unsurprising that this episode had me thinking about camp and how camp life mimics what Fred Bryant observes about the human experience: sometimes we don’t notice the friendships, the moments with nature, the feeling of being safe and at peace in this community in real-time. But we always find ourselves a month or so later with the deep-rooted feeling of ‘campsickness’ and looking forward to our next chance at these experiences.

The good thing, according to Dr. Bryant, is that we can increase our sensitivity to the good – we can learn to savor positive experiences more and more, and we can practice and become better at ‘savoring‘ over time. “The key is to not miss the opportunities to savor when they arise,” shared Fred.

There is no shortage of small moments at camp that we can savor. I challenged myself to think of them and almost savor them retro-actively in gratitude for this summer – here are some moments that came to mind:

  • watching a camper finally stand up and stay up on waterskis on day 3 of a block
  • post-dinner cartwheels at golden hour
  • star-gazing in the apple tree field
  • watching captain candidates congratulate winners and celebrate with each other
  • the uncontrollable laughter of campers while tubing
  • seeing our international staff experience fireflies for the first time

Lucky for us, the tech-free nature of camp frees up our attention to these positive moments that much more. In summer 2024, I’ll be looking out for those moments more than ever.

For now, I’ll sit here like so many of our campers and staff reminiscing and savoring in the past tense.

See you in 2024 –

Love, Aionur

Posted in: Uncategorized