Reflections on camp

Here I have collected my thoughts and reflections between the 27th and 29th of June. Read on if you can forgive some self-centered narration from a neurotic, recent college grad. I am wildly lucky to be included in the Media Institute for Social Change, learning so much from everyone around me.

Hot dogs. Sandy toes. Keanu Reeves in Point Break. Ghost stories. Stolen sand dollars. A giant red panda who acts like a person. A Golf-themed beach house. One big belly flop on the side of the street because of a big, strong puppy.

Some experiences you wear. Scrapes and cuts, clothing that smells like campfire and the ocean. Others you might start to take for granted after a few days, like I did. I had become so comfortable living in one seaside house with eleven socially conscious, intelligent peers who already make great media. These are my documentary program peers who I got to know during “camp,” a five day retreat in Gearheart, OR.

I realized what I was taking for granted on day 3. As we all huddled around a campfire at Phil Busse reminded us we only have two days left at camp. In the following pregnant pause, I gazed around at everyone and felt a wave of preemptive nostalgia. I was actually dreading the end of camp. I wanted more time! I needed to get to know so many people better! Where had the time gone!

I realized others were probably anxious to settle into their home stays, feel more grounded. But for my postgraduate life, even though I’m firmly rooted in a house I’ve occupied for almost a year, I feel anything but grounded. And it’s not just because Portland isn’t a new, exciting place ...there is so much of Portland I’ve been completely missing out on while at Reed!

(Plus it’s my first summer here, and it’s gorgeous.) I was drawn to this program to build off of my years of experience in photography, the documentary I created in high school, and my work with various community centers and nonprofits, including collaborative art installations that reflect a journey, tell a story. I’m in the perfect place, right? But throughout the last month, I’ve been wrestling my deeply rooted insecurities. I’ve been planning for this time post-graduation for years-- it’s not like I wasn’t thinking about it. And yet here I am. With fear pitted deep in my stomach each day, and a tired, burnt out ache in my shoulders.

During the days at camp, however, being in a completely new situation with complete strangers in an unknown place has felt... right. When Phil reminded us that there were only a couple days left, and we were about to dive into hours of hard work, reach out to people and hit the ground running-- it was terrifying! I honestly feel like my skills and talents are nowhere near the others in our group this summer. I also fear I’m not going to improve quickly enough. But despite these things, when we all spend time together everyone gets along so well. Folks are sincere and supportive. In that moment around the campfire, I was gripped with the fear of losing this closeness. I hadn’t realized how moving this experience has already been for me. (Of course I have to remind myself I’ll still see these folks at lectures and classes, hopefully we’ll hang out together. There’s still some time.)

I think about how camp is temporary, and how this whole program is temporary. And I realize everything is temporary. Time slows down for no one, no matter how much I want it to. And the media institute, like most media making, demands us to be presently invested in the moment in order to tell stories. So, I suppose this is the beginning of a great challenge: to attempt to become someone who not only finds stories and re-presents them, but someone who can just be present with other people, even strangers or new friends. When you seem like you don’t believe in yourself, it translates to not believing in what you’re doing, and folks are less likely to want to talk to you. There really is no room for cynicism and self-doubt.

Usually, what keeps me from being too afraid and insecure when I am doing collaborate media work is the vision of the project, and a gut feeling that goes along with that vision. It drives me. Maybe I’m currently missing clarity. One thing, however, is clear: I am so lucky to be learning things I have never learned before whether it be as simple as the elements of any given story, or more time-consuming familiarization with editing software. Even more than that, I’m lucky to have met such amazing peers who are going to challenge and push me to improve even when my self-doubt gets in the way. Right now, seeing that everyone around me is getting it together is what motivates me. We are taking this journey together. So, even in this dark place, I’m still inspired. Thank you, everyone. Truly.