A Hero’s Journey: Emily Lawrence

Emily gives us the latest entry into the collection. This is brilliant example of Crossing the Threshold by the way.


Mundane World: Dramatic as it may be, my mundane world was the world I lived in for 18 years prior to working at camp. I’ve always been a fairly bizarre person, part extrovert and part extreme introvert. Around people I know and trust well, I’m social the point of obnoxiousness. Around people I don’t know or by whom I’m intimidated in any way, I can be painfully antisocial. I went to a small, tight-knit private high school where I appeared to be one of four easygoing, well-adjusted class clowns – the girl who never took anything seriously. In reality, I was deathly afraid of other people and what they thought of me. I practically ran from anyone who wasn’t my close friend because I was so scared of being judged for one reason or another. Although I was socially “fine” (reasonably smart for Marian, athletic, moderate number of close friends), I never, ever felt truly confident or satisfied with myself. Because of my family structure and the way I was raised (long story), I knew exactly why I was this way, but that didn’t make it any easier. I carried this insecure attitude into my first year of college, where, for the first three weeks or so, I barricaded myself in my room from the onslaught of the “party scene” outside. I was a parent’s dream: I didn’t drink, smoke or even talk to boys. I kept my environment stable so that I wouldn’t risk rejection from anyone or anything. I was completely in control of my life. Because I was too concerned with what people thought of depressed or suicidal people, I simply wished that I’d never been born. I was miserable.


The Call to Adventure: I came to Copneconic for our senior retreat in high school. Being led by our campus minister, it was supposed to be a spiritual experience. For me, it was just an opportunity to play all day and ogle at the cute foreign boys that worked there (for the record, everyone at Marian was obsessed with James Renton). When the time came for us to get back on our charter buses and return to the indulgent Hills of Bloomfield, I didn’t want to leave. Here was a place where people were forced to put aside their differences. I’d been playing sports my entire life and I knew what “team” felt like, and I got that vibe from camp. I thought about how nice it would be to work with that all the time and I applied. Of course, with my complex or whatever it is that’s wrong with me, I immediately deemed myself unworthy of the job, and didn’t think anything more of it.


Crossing the Threshold: I arrived at staff training in 2006 scared to death. I spent most of camp avoiding pretty much anyone other than the handful of people I’d bonded with during staff training. I saw myself relating so much better to the kids than to the staff. It was those 18 years all over again. On the weekends, I ran home to be with my friends from school, although I was starting to discover that we had less in common than I’d thought. Not wanting to spend another weekend shopping, I let someone convince me one Friday to go to Kate’s bonfire. It was the first “social function” I attended with camp people, and I really feel like I had an epiphany that night. I didn’t completely come out of my shell and I still haven’t, but I finally saw that other people were not to be feared or worshiped. It’s hard to explain, but after I got my first taste of camp people, I was hooked. They are the craziest, most strangely philanthropic people in the entire world, and I could not stay away. Suddenly, inexplicably, I was OK with myself – not totally, but it was a start.


The Path of Trials: Obviously, a camp counselor’s job is difficult. You’re essentially expected to parent 10-12 children for a week and make sure nobody dies in the process. I had the Mean Girls, the runaway camper and the Crying Cabin. If I owe half of the person I’ve become to the camp staff, then I owe the other half to the campers I had this summer. In my opinion, nothing makes a person feel more valuable than having a child’s trust and the responsibility of caring for that child. During Midicha especially, the kids count on you so much – you’re literally carrying their livelihood on your back in the form of orange juice and glucose tabs. With the challenge of looking out for my crazy charges this summer, I didn’t have time to think about how much I sucked at life. You can’t seem unsure with kids, and the greatest trial I faced was toughening up enough to deal with them.

Master of Two Worlds: Going back to the Real World was painful. I loved the experience I’d just had, but there was part of me that had so many regrets for who I’d pushed away and what I hadn’t done. I realized that there’s nothing I’d rather do with my life than what I’d been doing at camp, and I figured the closest I’d get to that in a career was teaching. I changed my major to education and tried as best as I could to relate to my old college friends, although I’m slowly becoming closer with the camp folk. I think it’s safe to say that, since camp, I’ve developed a bit of a healthy devil-may-care attitude. I’m still insecure, but it’s getting better. I’m no longer as risk averse because my entire summer was one huge risk, one that I hope to continue repeating. Hopefully someday I’ll be the person I was meant to be.

3 Responses to A Hero’s Journey: Emily Lawrence

  1. Ranch Kid January 8, 2007 at 3:21 pm #

    Em, I don’t know how much more out of your shell you could get with me :O)

    I love you,
    Ali Bailey

  2. MLA January 8, 2007 at 4:49 pm #

    I am kicking myself now for using the expression “out of my shell.” It’s one of those trite phrases. I am not a turtle.

  3. Erik January 9, 2007 at 9:46 am #

    Emily I’m proud of you and the journey you took this summer. I didn’t really know what to think of you during our first few CDOS sessions but I am glad that I just got the full explanation. You have become a great counselor and I’m glad that you decided to let the camp family see the personallity you have because it’s wonderful and I am glad you found your place.

    Your still my favorite,