In the summers of 1993 and 1994, I was a camper at Camp Chateaugay. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures or any written accounts of the experience that in essence truly changed my life profoundly. The two summers I spent in the Wilderness group, and quite ironically, the only surviving photograph was that of the wilderness sign set at the center circle. The sign read, “Wilderness is a group of people living and working together, sharing good times and bad times. Wilderness is what you make it to be.”
Those were perhaps the best times of my young life, and so I tried to hold on to the feelings and memories by working as a paid staff member at the camp for a few summers. I thought that every summer for the rest of my life I would find a way to return, in any capacity, and in doing so, I would always be happy, I thought that the memories and the good feelings would never fade, and at the time I was naive enough to tell myself that no matter what, camp would always be my second home and no matter what, I need not worry because things would never change.
The greatest life lesson summer camp taught me is that in life, everything changes. As the years went by, fewer and fewer of the people I went to camp with returned. My last year on camp staff, I was suddenly all alone; an outcast and a stranger in a place I knew so well.
Often in life, we take for granted what we have have and we use our plans for the future to create picture-perfect maps of what ourselves and our lives will be. But nobody really knows for sure how things will turn out as all of ones plans and decisions are all half-chance and always subject to change at anytime, often without warning or notice.
George Bernard Shaw once said, “A life making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”
Some of the decisions I’ve made in my life seemed to be mistakes at the time or shortly thereafter, but looking back, they were perhaps the key events that led me to where I am today. The drive to document and photograph those key events, such as my summer camp experience, as well as life events, both good times and bad, still remains vitally important.