Serving on the Sae Jong Camp board has been a rewarding experience, but to be honest, the past four years I couldn’t help but feel more and more detached from this camp. The longer spent away from camp, the more I seemed to forget what an important and absolutely magical experience it is.
Over the years, I thought I always knew what an incredible camp this was, but I could never really express it in words. As some of you may know, SJC has always been a, “you had to be there” kind of experience that was hard to share with others. However, over time I think I’ve realized what makes camp such a special and amazing place, and it is this:
Camp is how the world should really be.
That may seem like a silly thing to say, but once you grow up and get to my age, not only does the world change around you, but you change as well… and not always for the better. Life can get hard, full of compromise and cynicism that takes away the shine the world once had.
However, coming back to this amazing place, the world regains some of that shine and helps me to remember that despite however much I’ve changed and the world has changed, there is still a part of me that will never, ever change. It doesn’t matter how rich you are, where you come from, or what kind of personality you have, you have a home here at this camp. You can take chances, sing and dance your heart out, and wear your emotions and feelings on your sleeves and be met with hugs instead of jeers.
You are accepted as you are, and accept others as they are. You can take pride in your work, find a true camaraderie in your cabin, and you never have to update your FaceBook status in order to tell someone what you are doing or how you feel. It is a place where you can find yourself and take pride in who you are and where you come from, and feel that you are the same as everyone else, yet you are unique and different.
You know you are safe here, because you know that you have a staff that cares for you, and you have cabinmates that always have your back.
It’s kind of strange, but if you let it, camp becomes a part of you. It gets in your blood, down in your DNA. You take it wherever you go, whether it be the self-confidence to face the world, a talent you never knew you had that you discovered, treasured memories and stories you keep through life, or through the everlasting friendships that you make here.
I may be the truest example of this. I came to this camp over 25 years ago as a shy, chubby, awkward kid who wasn’t really good at anything at all. Year after year, I found myself returning and finding a deeper love of this camp that I just couldn’t pull myself away from. I found my confidence, I found my voice. I looked up to the staff as the coolest, funniest people, and I knew I wanted to be on staff. Despite being rejected my first year applying to staff, I fortunately persisted and have gone on to serve for 11 amazing years on staff. As many wonderful memories I have being here as a camper, it just cannot compare to everything I have taken in over the years on staff. I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard until I cried so many times than right here at this camp. So much laughter, so much love, so much passion…
Even my livelihood today can be credited to this camp, as I would never have gotten into the restaurant business if not for serving on staff and making lifelong friends with Jeff and Brian. I can’t believe how fortunate I am to actually be working with the friends I’ve made here, and to have been able to carry on the trust, respect, and experience that we’ve built here into our everyday lives outside of camp.
I am a product of this camp, it has defined my life so much that it’s hard to analyze any part of my life and character without somehow tracing it back to here in some way. It really does become a part of you, but only if you let it.
-Victor Kim, camper, counselor and program director of Sae Jong Camp