Finding a Home with Jenna Bergstraesser
Being structured around an adventure game Wayfinder naturally provides skills that lend themselves to a wide variety of creative pursuits. In the last Where Are They Now feature we looked at Marika McCoola who had taken her experience and become a writer, and spoke very eloquently about how her time at Wayfinder helped form her as an author. Our focus this week is Jenna Bergstraesser, another very successful creative type who we have been lucky enough to have as a participant, staff member, and community member. These days Jenna works for Disney at Disneyland as a Design Illustrator in their costume department. While some of the connections may seem immediately clear to anyone who has been around the Wayfinder Experience (it’s the costumes for anyone who hasn’t), Jenna highlighted some connections that were a little less so.
In addressing the obvious connection, just in describing her day to day job Jenna reached immediately for it. “I feel like Wayfinder all my life was preparing me for specifically the Disney job because every day we’re working on princesses and pirates and superheroes. It’s like Advanced Camp every day work. What other company has all those things? You switch into all these different creative worlds.” The work even seemed so reminiscent of working for Wayfinder that she went on to describe it as “the official corporate version.” We’re still a far cry from being able to field the types of productions that Disneyland is putting on, but we’re happy to know that we were able to help prepare Jenna for those aspects of her work. (Also anyone she ever costumed at camp can say they have the same costumer as Disney princesses so that’s definitely a perk).
In the realm of slightly less obvious connections she pointed to the process of getting the job itself, which involved first working an internship in their costuming department, and then pitching herself to a room of Disney Parks and Resorts executives. “It’s all theater. Communication skills are so easy because you can just drop into that persona of ‘I am in charge’ at any time.” The communication skills and persona she credits her advantages in that meeting and her fast-paced work environment to are things she points to her experience as staff as having taught her, “having to talk to large groups of people about yourself, or something that is important to you, or even conveying a message to people, that alone has really helped.” While those are definitely things that any staff member is going to have to do in the course of their daily job, they are also things that it is impossible for a participant to avoid. So much of our workshops revolve around participants as performers in front of the whole group or just for each other. Anyone who has spent time around camp would happily extol the virtues of improv as a method for public speaking and interviewing.
She also pointed to some more personal growth at camp throughout the years. Calling it one of her “two moral backbones” (the other being Harry Potter) and asking a question I’ve heard posed by any number of our community members throughout the years, myself included. “What would I even be without Wayfinder?” While she didn’t have an answer for that question she had some pretty good ideas on exactly how camp had helped her get to where she is as a person. “You have this internal knowledge that the community follows you wherever you are so that even if you’re not in it anymore, you know that you were able to be all those people, and I feel that you understand other people more.” Playing with characters in any kind of theater setting is a good way to discover things about yourself. Getting the chance to do it in that kind of special communal setting that we have at Wayfinder, where everyone else is going through those same transformative motions and is going to process it together, gives a chance for some very active reflection on what we’re doing and who we are. “I have always had this knowledge that I am who I am, and Wayfinder is definitely something that helped me manifest that.” There’s really no higher praise that we could ask for. We were lucky to have Jenna at camp for the years that we did so knowing that she still holds us in high regard and at least partially responsible for her becoming the person she has is something we are beyond thankful to hear.
Also having some distance from the community and camp itself Jenna offered some perspective on the ability to come and go as needed that’s been discussed so much at camp (and some on this blog). “Even if there were different people there or if it was a different location it felt like the same sacred space. So it was always really cool to come back because you always had that same sense of community. You knew you’d always be welcome back in.” That’s a theme echoed by our participants, staff, and community at large. Thanks for gracing us with your presence Jenna. We can’t wait to welcome you back in again next time you’re able to come by, even if it’s just for a visit.
“As much as camp is an emotional time, and I feel like a lot of people when they finish are like ‘oh no, what am I going to do without it?’ it does prepare you for real life. You kind of have this talisman, and throughout camp you’re kind of building the talisman can creating your emotional connection to it, and when you’re leaving you get a little protective and paranoid but then eventually you realize it is always going to be there, and whether you need to come back to camp to charge it, or just have it always be there with you, you realize it always is.”
Check out Jenna’s Art.
Written by Judson Easton Packard from an interview with Jenna.