Last night, after I did a 501st Troop in Burlington, I went up to Camp Abnaki to visit briefly. I've been up a handful of times over the past couple of years, ever since I didn't go back, to see people and the place, and while I find simply being there relaxing, I feel like I've been placed at arms length from it, and there's a separation between me and the place where I spent a lot of time over the past decade. I can't really put my finger on exactly what is - I think that it's actually a number of reasons. One, I can count the number of people that I did know really well on my hands, a far cry from when I could name every single staff member just by a silhouette at night time. That's how familiar people are with one another, or at least I was, and it's very, very weird to go back to visit, and to see a lot of very new faces. This is something to be expected, and even while I was in my last couple of years, the core group of people that I went to camp with for the first couple of years was diminishing as people found better jobs and other things to do to occupy their summer.
There also seems to be some mismanagement, if I can be totally candid. The current problems with the economy isn't helping things, and the session that I saw last night was a lot smaller than is usually was, and as a result, Abnaki has had to cut back on their budget. Even more troubling is the stories that I've heard that there are misplaced priorities, such as focusing on the camp store rather than lifeguard training, and small, inconsequential items such as patches that blow out half of the programming budget. I don't know how true or valid these things are, but the fact that I'm hearing about them is troubling. These sorts of economic downturns are troubling in general, but a number of changes over the past couple years have been even more troubling, and it's starting to drive away some of the more dedicated alumni that I know and talk to often, which is something that is not good.
Going back to camp, especially after not working there for a while, makes things painfully noticeable to me. I'm not one of the guys any more - I'm an alumni, and while people recognize my name and know who I am when I get to camp, I'm out of the loop with the goings on at camp - the funny stories, the inside jokes, even to my friends whom I'd worked with for years. I don't feel excluded at all, but it does feel very odd. There's a new measure to make the camp greener, and they've become more efficient with waste products and recycling. Other things have changed. Some of this is society, some of it not so much. There seems to be a huge emphasis on political correctness when it comes to interacting and dealing with campers and counselors, something I don't take a whole lot of stock in. I can appreciate the need for camper safety, but when things such as simple competition are eliminated, and games that can really teach character building, there's something wrong. It always seems like there is an agenda and purpose behind every activity and every game - they're not just played for fun any more, which is a real crime. George Carlin has a great quote along this train of thought:
I think what every child needs and ought to have every day is two hours of daydreaming. Plain old daydreaming. Turn off the internet, the CD-ROMs, and the computer games and let them stare at a tree for a couple of hours. It's good for them. And you know something? Every now and then they actually come up with one of their own ideas.
Electronics are pretty much banned from camp anyway, but it feels like there's always a bit too much structure and purpose with everything.
Studying the history of camp, I can appreciate that change is to be expected. Looking over the time line, it's interesting to see how the earlier directors spent far more time than any of the recent directors, and how much they built and changed things around during their tenure. But, there are elements of change that I don't want to see - the camp that I remember isn't around any more, but I don't want to see something unrecognizable when I return next time. I seriously doubt that this will be the case, but there are things that have me worried.
Leaving camp, I stumbled upon the realization that it isn't home any more. It's an old home, one that I've since left for other pursuits, and it's likely that it'll be my home again, which has caught me with mixed emotions. I'm going to miss that feeling, even though it's never going to completely vanish, but it'll never be the same, but happy for the times that I've spent there.