New York State of Mind: 6 Lessons from Camp

If anyone understands that what we learn at camp has real-world applications, it's Catalyst staff members Kamerin Churchman and Bronny Ohl. We asked them to share some lessons they learned while working at camp that have impacts in their adult lives. Ohl (a camp alumnus) and Churchman are both pursuing performance careers in New York City, and listed the following as their most notable takeaways.


1: Prepare.

BRONNY: This is one of the simplest and most important life lessons I learned at camp that helped me get through college and continues to help me at my auditions in New York City. Be responsible and do your homework, whether in school or in life. If you don’t, it’s only going to come back to haunt you later! “Fake it til you make it” is more than just a catchy saying, and in most situations, people who are looking to teach, cast, or hire you can tell if you're not trying.

2: Just because you’ve overcome an obstacle, doesn’t mean you won’t have to face it again. It just means you’ll be better at navigating it the second, third, and 88th time around.

KAMERIN: I remember being so upset the first few times I didn’t get the best results from an audition process. I would get so close to a job, only to be told “No”, and it was exhausting. At first, the idea of picking myself up and starting the process over in these situations felt wrong; "I've done all this work, why start over now?" In reality, however, there's no rule that limits our life's trials to "one try." We shouldn’t dread starting again, because in the end it's our perseverance that makes us stronger. At camp, we start over every day. Whether it's in our classes, in rehearsals, or in our interactions with each other; for a brief moment we let go of our expectations and and make the decision to grow with the people around us. And in those moments, it feels good.


3: Know what’s out of your control and don’t let it control you.

BRONNY: I think this is one of the hardest things for young people to learn, but I'm thankful I began to understand it at camp. It can be exhausting to go through life bearing the responsibility of everything around you, and it's so important to discern the things you have control over from the ones you don’t. For example, when preparing for an audition, I know I can rehearse my music and acting, wear something that suits the occasion, and practice my best professional and friendly behavior. But I can’t control what I look like, how old I am, or what the directors' vision is. When you know you have prepared to your fullest potential and realize that the ultimate decision is subjective to someone else’s opinion, you find new confidence in what it means to do your best. At camp, this idea of "doing your best" is our ultimate goal; except while you're there, you can't fail. The safety net of your camp family allows you to experience the feeling of letting your inhibitions go in order to take risks. And at the end of the day—no matter the outcome—you know that you're safe, celebrated and loved.

4: You're unique. Celebrate it!

BRONNY: So many of us are worried about fitting in, but it’s imperative that we highlight our differences; they’re what make us special! Especially in the crazy musical theatre audition world I live in, it’s so easy to feel like you’re lost in the crowd. It seems like everyone has the same audition dress as you, everyone is singing the same song, and they can all belt their faces off. My voice doesn’t sound like everyone else’s, and it took me a while to really be okay with that. But now that I accept myself, I can see so many more possibilities in my future. Living in New York City, one of the things I commonly experience is the reaction when I tell people I’m from South Dakota. “I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone from South Dakota!” they'll say, to which I respond “I get that a lot! There’s only 800,000 people in the whole state; that’s only a tenth of New York City.” That’s something that I love to point out, because the perspective is memorable—They remember it. I’m still convinced that being from South Dakota and going to camp helped me get into college, because it made realize what it means to stand out from the crowd. As it turns out, standing out a good thing! Embrace what makes you different, and use it to your advantage! 


5: Camp people are everywhere.

KAMERIN: The island of Manhattan is only 13 miles long and it has millions of residents, not including all the tourists that come and go daily. No one is ever alone here, but life can be very isolating at times. Not because you're not around people, but just not YOUR people. As an artist, I learned very quickly that other artists—people just like the ones we meet at camp—truly want to help. We've all been couch-surfing gypsies at some point, and we return the favor to our friends when they need a couch to sleep on. At home, we often discuss the concept that "camp people" are everywhere, but it's hard to understand the implications of that until you're the one getting out of a cab holding all your belongings and don’t know where to go next. That’s when the real camp people appear to take heart—they always do.

6: There will never be a perfect time to take a risk.

KAMERIN: I booked my one-way ticket to New York while sitting in a coffee shop in Nebraska. I didn’t have an apartment lined up, hadn't applied for any jobs, and only knew one person living in the city. As I thought about preparing, I began coming up with excuses to delay my move. "I need more time to feel ready." "I need to wait until I have a little more money saved." "I need to make sure I had a job solidified." The list goes on. Finally my dad told me “You're waiting for this to feel safe, but it isn’t supposed to—Risks don’t feel safe.” He told me that if I didn’t go now, I'd always find a reason not to. And he was right; there will never be a perfect time to experience change, so don’t wait for it to find you. The best thing I have ever done was throw everything in the air and trust who I was enough to know I would figure it out. And if camp has taught us anything about figuring life's challenges out, it's to keep the faith. And I think you know why.

(pssst: The best is yet to come).


Ready to join us at camp?
Registration closes June 14th at 11:59 p.m.

Catalyst Collective