A Landing Place
The Perfect Job for a Transition
by Lauren Hardebeck
The last four years I have stuck to a routine. With the exception of summer camp being canceled in 2020, my life has been pretty much the same. College. Summer camp. College. Summer camp. Etcetera. What happens after you have flipped the tassel on your cap and you no longer have the college part to go back to?
Enter the “transitionary period.”
This is a weird time where you are trying to figure out what your next move is, while everyone in your life is telling you that you will “figure it out” and “whatever happens, happens.” You see it in movies about twenty-somethings or listen to how others have grown from it in podcasts, and I always thought I was above this period because I knew what I wanted to do next. I was going to move to a big city and be a teacher.
As it turns out, I realized that the plan that I had for post graduation was not super realistic for me at the moment. This is a tough reality to face. I have spent my entire adult life thus far preparing for a specific career. So when I was faced with the hard decision of what to do next, I turned to one of my favorite places. I found a soft spot to land among Camp Tecumseh’s Outdoor Education department. The position of Outdoor Education Instructor gave me the best of both worlds. Not only was I getting to teach and interact with school communities, but I got to work outside at a beautiful place with the most incredible people. It is exactly what I wanted, and what I would soon discover, I needed.
I would like to think of myself as someone who is cautiously eager, meaning I am so excited about trying and learning, but can be hesitant about all of the trying and learning. What if I fail? What if I disappoint the people around me? I had worked the last three summers at Camp in several different roles and felt really comfortable with what that day-to-day looked like. I was entering a new challenge and a new role. Little did I know the growth that was going to come from this position and the support that I would have along the way.
Starting OE gave me confidence about things that I had feared in the past. I have always known that I was a hard worker, but was afraid that I lacked the knowledge of basic skills on how to get the job done. For instance, I had never used an electric drill, vacuumed taxidermy, held snakes, or drove (let alone backed up) a pickup truck. All of which I can say I have learned about (and successfully completed!) during my time this fall. These may seem silly and small to some, but it made me feel so accomplished and proud of myself.
The best part about all of this is that I wasn’t alone. Not only was there an outstanding full-time team that was patient, skilled, and never hesitated to answer any questions (and I ask a LOT of questions), but I was working with a group of 10 fantastic souls out in the field. People like Spring, who always packed an extra Golden Oreo for me in her lunch because she knew that I liked them. Or Rock, who decorated my doorway for my birthday.
One of the special things about OE is that not only are you working, but you are living among the people that make your job so great. The memories I hold of laughing and adventures warm my soul everyday. It was bowling nights to celebrate a staff member before he headed back to Brazil, and exploring local state parks and museums (something I really had never done as a local). Or my favorite: Lunchtime Kombucha in which I made the girls who lived with me taste different flavors of Kombucha on our lunch break and rate it on a thumb-up, thumb-down, or thumb-in-the-middle spectrum. I would then post the reviews on my food Instagram for other Camp people and seasonal staff to interact with.
There were movie nights and pumpkin carving parties and nightly walks with beautiful sunsets. These are friends and memories that are so meaningful and full of joy that it is hard to transcribe their impact in words.
The fall 2022 season of Outdoor Education served around 50 schools and hundreds of students, teachers, and parents. A team of 14 spectacular, kind, and hard-working people banded together through late nights, schedule changes, and lifting pine logs in order to give students and chaperones a chance to be outside and learn from the three unique programs that Camp offers. (Though the pine logs are just my personal nemesis.)
There is a wood sign in the Outdoor Education office situated right above the door. Every time you leave, the sign is the last thing you see. It says: “It is a real job.” If I could add to the sign above the office door, I would change it to say “It is a real job. It is the best job. A job where you will make an impact and work with the most extraordinary people. A job where you will grow in teaching skills, life skills, and (most important of all) people skills. A real job that like any other will be hard sometimes, but where you will feel so much joy and guidance and friendship and love.”
But, I don’t know if we have a piece of wood long enough for that.