September 09, 2013
Camp this Year
This past summer, I went on my annual trip to teach at an arts and music camp in southern NJ.
To be completely truthful, it was a bit of a hard decision whether or not to go back. First of all, because the nature of my life as an artist, songwriter, and teacher is so fluid. This type of life does not forecast a certain schedule the way that say, an accountant's does. I don't know if I'll have work, or if I will be free. Or if some wild opportunity will come up, like going on tour. I just don't know!
The other reason is that, as I've documented in the past, going to camp is an overwhelming experience. It's a wonderful experience, but it requires a great deal of commitment and energy.
Still, when the time came do decide whether or not I wanted to take this journey again, I decided that yes, it was worth it.
And I'm so glad I did...
Appel Farm is unlike any other place. It's the kind of place where everyone is truly accepted for who they are. It is a safe space for self-expression. It is supportive. It's a place where introverts can become class clowns, and outspoken people can look inward and discover themselves. It is the kind of environment where everyone is seen as having special qualities. Everyone is encouraged to find their niche, or dabble if they wish. And anyone can be a superstar.
I can't possibly describe a summer's worth of happenings. An entire two months worth of growing, changing, meeting people, fighting, making up, drama, forging new best friendships, and playing music and making art with some of the most extremely talented individuals I've ever met.
But I'll try to explain how I feel about it...
Every day- every single day- held infinite potential to be the most marvelous and/ or traumatic day you've ever had. Which sounds scary and awful, but is actually amazing. It pushes your boundaries like I never knew my boundaries could be pushed. It constantly forces you out of your comfort zone.
Think you're tired? Ha! You're gonna teach for another 5 hours, then hang out with your bunk area all night long, then have consecutive staff meetings until you pass out.
Think you'll never learn a song in 5 minutes? Well guess what? You're going to! And then you're gonna play it for EVERYONE.
Do you have some opinion, or preconceived notion about that jerk who gets under your skin because of XYZ reason? Well it's wrong. All wrong. That person is actually awesome, and you'll be best friends by the end of the summer.
Think you're out of ideas? Too bad, cause we need ideas. And we need them in an hour. So get crackin'.
Think you can't? You're wrong. You can.
And the amazing part is you DO it! You actually do. Just when you think you've run out of whatever it is that is needed at the moment, you find it in yourself to give more.
As much as I love my life in Brooklyn, there's something about being at camp that makes me feel young. And artistic. And successful. And like I'm appreciated as a great performer, and can do no wrong.
I don't feel that when i'm in the city.
Before i came to appel farm, i felt like 95% of what came out of my mouth was bullshit. You're constantly selling yourself, and trying to make yourself look as good as possible. To get the job. To get the gig. To impress.
But there is something so magical and healing about this place, that no matter what the possible negatives are, I feel authentic again now. I've never been through an experience that has the ability to change a person inside and out the way this experience has.
The counselors and kids who are drawn to Appel Farm are AWESOME, positive bringers of light and love. And I think it works because we're all there to better ourselves and the people around us.
Doing this is essentially my life's work, no matter what the medium- writing, singing, teaching, blogging, whatever. And I'm so glad I get the opportunity every summer to do it in such a BIG way that affects so many people.
A friend of mine from camp, Jason, held a workshop called "How to live like you're at Appel Farm year round." I'm going to try - really try - and accomplish this more in my day-to-day life.
So starting this fall, I want to set out to do the things I've been saying I want to do for years. I will feel successful and bright, rather than held back (it is a choice.) And I will delight in all the little everyday miracles that make life worth living (there are so, so many.) That's just the tip of the iceberg.
Thank you for reading. YOLO SWAG. :P
photos 1, 6, & 12 by graham zinger
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