following my bliss.

So, I wanted to share a little more about my first day at camp. This post may be on the longer side, but days later I’m still reeling from everything I experienced and felt, and I’m hoping it will serve as some encouragement to so many of my friends who are seeking direction in their lives. More words, less pictures!

I was lucky enough to have a lunch meeting with the Director of Camp Operations, Matt. We left the hallowed grounds of Camp and drove into Ashford, CT to an adorable sandwich shop and country store called Coriander. (Side note: the turkey feta burger was amazing.) Matt started the conversation simply, “So, what do you want to know?” My obvious response was, “Everything!” He told me a little about his history and involvement with Camp, and once again I was amazed by how long he’d been around. Camp is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year, and he had been there for more than 20 of those years, starting as a counselor and then working his way up through the ranks.

He then prefaced his next question by saying, “So you’re the only year-round staff member Camp has ever hired who has never actually worked at Camp before being hired. That’s incredible! So what brings you to camp?” Wait, what? I had assumed the application and interview process had been competitive. I mean, it’s Paul Newman. I was shocked to realize I had pioneered into completely new territory. Barely avoiding choking on my turkey burger, I took a second to once again realize how great God is. I took a few minutes to fill Matt in on the important details—my childhood spent swooning over Paul Newman, tragic deaths I experienced that helped me recognize my passion for children and families in challenging life situations, and ultimately how the legacy of Camp and Mr. Newman harnessed those passions and brought me to this place in my life.

At this point, I started to get choked up again, but not on my turkey burger. Tearfully, I explained to Matt what a powerful experience it had been thus far getting to be at Camp and meeting the very people who had dreamed big with Mr. Newman and made Camp a reality. Every person I’d met and every conversation I’d had that day served to affirm what an incredible individual Mr. Newman was. It was overwhelming for me to fit the pieces together and recognize what an impact he’d had on my life and this journey without even ever meeting him. An Acts 17:26 moment for sure—He determined the times and exact places men should live so they would seek Him and perhaps reach out and find Him. So many experiences in my life were culminating in that moment. You’ll hear me talk a lot about the magic of Camp, but this was it! Through my tears, I looked across the table at Matt and I would swear to you he was tearing up too. He looked back at me and said, “This feeling you’re having right now, the tears you’re shedding—that’s why you’re here.”

Matt then began to share with me about a Camp program called HERO’s Journey. It’s for campers 16-18 who’ve aged out of the summer program, and it’s based on the Joseph Campbell book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The book is based around Campbell’s study of the “archetypal hero”. He argues that every hero from ancient mythology to present day literature follows the same path. They set off on a journey, face trials, overcome those trials with assistance from helpers along the way, gain discovery of some kind of self-knowledge and then return to their ordinary world. Hercules, Jesus, and Dorothy, even Luke Skywalker—they all follow this pattern of Separation, Initiation, and Return. Matt said, “What you’ve just described to me is your own hero’s journey. You’ve come from a distant land, we’re your special helpers, and you are already starting to discover yourself.”

Mind blown.

I started researching more about Joseph Campbell, and I’ve got to say, this guy was onto something. One of his most well known philosophies was about “following your bliss”. I found this quote from him that pretty much sums up how I feel about my life in Connecticut:

If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” – Joseph Campbell

In reality, following my bliss has looked an awful lot like following God. Through this culmination of life experiences, God has revealed my bliss to me, and opened doors to the people and places that have made my bliss a reality. So many of my peers and friends are desperately seeking their bliss. It’s that awkward time in life spent figuring out what exactly you want to do after college that gives you purpose. I pray continually for God to move in their hearts to discover their passions and understand what makes them come alive. In the meantime, watch this video, have a good cry, come alive and follow your bliss!

Wonder Sing-a-Long with Natalie Merchant and Hole in the Wall Gang Campers

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