In this series each post focuses on a specific aspect of camp. It is our attempt to share some of the knowledge we have accumulated in more than a decade of LARPing.
The Benefits of Friendship
The Benefits of Friendship
Community is a funny thing. We talk about the Wayfinder community as if it was a living entity when really it’s a web of interpersonal relationships and a kind of commitment you make to people you have not met yet, but who have occupied space in that same circle that you do. We talk a lot about how that circle functions. How it welcomes new people with arms open. How it manages to hold the same type of space though never being made up of the exact same group of people. How your spot in it is always there for you, no matter how long you step away from it. Something else we talk about a little less often, is how our circle stretches out into the world past camp. The friendship that we form at camp, those individual strands of the community, are some of the strongest you will ever find in life.
Marika touched on something important about those relationships in her interview. She talked about how for people from camp out in the world “our lives still have relevance to each other.” This is not an easy type of relationship to find. With most of the people you meet in the world, once your shared experience or location is over with it goes the closer portions of your friendship. Obviously this isn’t always the case, and I’m not trying to say you can’t form lasting friendships outside of camp. I’m looking to highlight the amazing ability Wayfinder has built over the years to create generation of generation of real lasting friendships. We so often refer to ourselves as a tribe, and this is exactly what that has always meant to me. So many of the people who I grew up loving and trusting from camp are out in the world now, without time or ability to come back to Wayfinder. That doesn’t change the fact that tomorrow I could drop in on just about any of them and pick up our friendship right where we left off.
While it’s not the only thing we work on, or even the focus of much of what we do, the relationships built between Wayfinder’s participants are a crucial part of every single workshop we go through at camp. (Maybe the point is the friends we made along the way?) Game is a huge piece of this. After a game where you spend a lot of time playing with someone you don’t know that well, there is going to be a kind of closeness between you that wasn’t there before. That special kind of closeness that comes from shared experience. (If you can face down literal demons with someone friendship can’t be much harder, right?) The only feeling I have found similar to it is in people I have worked with, but those relationships are usually missing the other pieces we do at camp. The active work on trust and mindfulness in relationships.
Sitting in trust workshops together goes further than we realize in doing this interpersonal work for us. It establishes a baseline of trust that you just don’t get to have with people in very many situations. Often in trust we share some of our most personal discomforts, whether those be in the form of forging physical trust through touch or emotional trust by sharing a hardship we have been through. Being able to look at someone you intend to build a friendship with and see someone who already knows these things about you, who already seen some of the bits of yourself you try to keep from the world, and knowing that they want to become better friends with you regardless of (sometimes even because of) these pieces is a kind of relationship it is almost impossible to find, and certainly rare to find such a safe space to do it in.
With these rare elements added into our friendships from the start it seems only natural that the friendships we build hold relevance. The work we do at camp is to define ourselves as people. Playing in adventure games gives you the chance to explore different sides of yourself, to try on different personalities and ways of being and decide which you like best. Doing trust workshops gives you a chance to find that you can share the things that you have been through and find people who love you and hold no judgment of those things. Improv gives you a chance to have fun and embrace that ridiculous joyful kind of funny that comes when you just go for it. These are the things that people search desperately for in relationships throughout their lives. They are also things that people at Wayfinder give themselves over to with ease. Treasure the friendships you have been given, nurture that relevance, and keep as many of those people in your life as long as you can.
Written by Judson Easton Packard
There are a lot of words that get thrown around (both at camp and outside of it) until they become so called buzzwords and lose any semblance of meaning. Some of them particularly pertain to Wayfinder. Community. Trust. Fairy Realm. OK, that last one still means a whole lot, but the other two can be a little hazy. In the weeks where we’re not looking at what members of our community are up to nowadays, and how they’ve taken the lessons of camp and put some of those to work for them in their daily lives, this space will be used (among other things) to talk about some of the deeper ideals that might not always get the in depth attention they deserve. I’m going to start with trust. It’s going to take me more than one entry to fully unpack trust, what it is, and what it means to camp, particularly because the word can be used in so many ways to mean so many things, but for the purposes of this post, I’m going to be talking about communal trust, the kind of trust that stretches past any one relationship in a group and is given over to the everyone who occupies that space. It’s a kind of trust that we’re always building, even when we may not be aware of it.
Communal trust is a little different than the trust we are used to talking about. Usually we talk about trust as it exists on a person to person basis. Communal trust is something much bigger, something we’re much less likely to deal with in our everyday lives, primarily because you need to be rooted in a community in order to build is. Wayfinder is exactly that. To be clear I have a pretty exact idea of what my community looks like. When I imagine Wayfinder community I think of the faces of people I started meeting when I was 13 years old. The people who taught me how to live in that space, who I put so much work into forming myself after. It also includes the faces of 7 year olds whose parents snuck them into one of our day camps, changing a birthday on their form to make sure they can get into “that cool camp with the swords.” And every single face that I picture is someone that I trust. Not necessarily here are the keys to my car trust, but definitely I am comfortable being me in front of you and going to a fantastical world with you trust. It’s not that common of a thing to have an amorphous group of people (it’s hard to say who will be at any event seeing as that is reliant upon both hiring and the schedule of our dear participants) who you trust completely with yourself. Given that amorphous nature the collection of faces around the circle at any two camps is never going to be the same.
Even so we have groups of people who come sit in these circles, with people they might have just met, people they may never see again, and share their realest selves with no hesitation. Even if we don’t talk about it as much, or dedicate workshops to it, that kind of trust is still carefully crafted. It’s the basis on which we build pretty much everything else. A lot of different pieces of what we do go into building that but the frame of each day is a good place to start examining it. We open every day (whether at day camps or overnights) with a circle. Everyone sits down together and gets a chance to share about how they are feeling, to ask questions, to bring up concerns. People own up to mistakes and make apologies. They hand out appreciations. At the beginning and end of every week we have a circle where people get the chance to talk about what the experience means to them, to take a second to appreciate exactly what we do together at camp. It also comes in the form of the adventure game. Every time you play a game you end up playing roles with people you don’t expect to, having intensely emotional experiences in character with people you may have never had those with in real life. The fact is that no matter who you end up playing with you know that everyone will be playing their hardest. Everyone will go to those places with you. Wayfinder brings a place where you can show up and know that no matter who is at camp that particular week, you’re going to get people who are there bringing openness and acceptance. You’re going to get people there who come prepared to play, who are ready to match your intensity at every turn. If nothing else, you’re going to find people there who you can trust. Every. Last. One of them.
Written by Judson Easton Packard
Paying Attention to the Women Behind the Curtain
Paying Attention to the Women Behind the Curtain
When you think Wayfinder a specific image probably comes to mind. Something involving a group of children dressed in tunics carrying foam weapons and sporting names like “Shadow” or “Everheart.” (Everheart being the name of my next character.) If you’ve been to our camp, or if you’ve talked to (or more likely raised) one of our participants you probably also associate a certain look for joy with the whole atmosphere. Sit in on any circle and you’re guaranteed to find that look. Easy smile. Shining eyes. Relaxed posture. Those moments are a big part of what keeps everyone coming back to the camp, regardless of their role in it. The kids come because they love it, because there’s nowhere else that offers the mix of fantasy adventures and friendship that Wayfinder has brought to the Hudson Valley. The staff come because they’ve been doing it forever, because the people there are their community, and they want to give back that experience to the next generation of participants. What keeps our overlords (Read the company’s Directors Corinne McDonald and Trine Boode-Petersen) in that place of joy?
They’re very clear on why they took things over from the original owners of the company, a group of 30 odd friends who started it back in 2001. There was a call for someone to step up and run things, Corrie and Trine rose to the occasion, if they had not the camp would have stopped running in 2012. The two of them offered similar sentiments on what drove their decision. “Trine and I have been working camp consistently for so many years the idea of not going to Woodstock Day School and running camp with the kids, and seeing eight year olds get in the first time when they’ve been waiting for years to play, and not having overnight, where our participants have a chance to be unashamed in their power and be completely themselves and really seen, was just heartbreaking.” The work of building both a space for that kind of play and that kind of empowerment are central to the joy that permeates the community. While Corrie had provided a view on why they did what they initially did, Trine was able to voice what pushed them moving forward. “We knew campers who needed that safe space, and we didn’t know where else they’d find it. It was a responsibility to our community to keep that available to them.” The calling was clear, and they have risen to that task.
Moving forward the challenges they have been presented with are some that often plague the small business owner, but with a particularly poignant twist. The balance of business and personal in a passionate workplace can be a hard one to maintain. For a company like Wayfinder, where the business is strictly personal, it is nigh on impossible to avoid those kinds of struggles. In Trine’s words: “This is fifty percent business and fifty percent community, and we’re always trying to balance what’s good for the community and what’s good for the business.” Both were certain on what ends up winning that struggle. When I asked, the resounding answer was community. While the struggle continues on in everyday business decisions, Trine shed some light on how they have found a way to mitigate some of the difficulty. “The more we envision what our end goal is, the easier it is to make business and community decisions line up. The more we work to one common end goal of good, the easier that is.” And Wayfinder has that end goal. While looking to maintain the communal air and quality of programming, Wayfinder is searching for a permanent home in the form of land. Land where we can build permanent installations and both house our equipment and run our programming.
Another challenge they have faced is the shifting of roles. Going from being someone on site, particularly in the camp director role which both Trine and Corrie often found themselves in, to someone in more of an administrative role comes with some hardships. For one you are removed from that kind of hands on time with the kids and staff, and two, moved to a drier (often literally), more bland environment. The work itself also loses some of the sense of urgency. On site work at camp is a lot of putting out fires and dealing with concerns within time constraints. The work in front of our overlords now is stretched over a significantly longer span. Moving into that kind of role can make someone feel out of place when they return to camp time. While they both say they’ve found comfort in the role, Corrie said it was difficult in the first year or so. “I found myself looking around for an adult, and you realize that you are that adult, so you look around for a more adult adult, somebody who is adulting better, and that just didn’t exist.” Personally there is no one other than Corrie and Trine I would rather have as the most adult adults around.
Running Wayfinder has never been just about this community, and making sure this community maintains itself, or making a successful business. It has been about a change that will transform the world. It’s not just a summer camp, and it’s not just this community, the goal is to make incredibly empowered and conscientious people who will go out and change the world in a positive way, and that I think is why we’re doing it. It’s that that keeps me sane in the current climate, knowing that I am creating generations of passionate people who are working for a better world makes it worth it for me.
Having [Wayfinder] be a thing that transforms people into better people who are more compassionate, better community members, and people who advocate for what’s right. That’s what’s in my heart. I think the whole world will just be better if people take more time to play. Playing doesn’t mean you aren’t a serious person that takes things seriously, it means you are able to relax, enjoy the moment, enjoy the world you’re in, have fun with what you’re doing, and approach things in a creative and playful manner while still doing something new. I think a lot of the things people create in the world would be improved if they had a playful outlook on it.
Post written by Judson Easton Packard