Learning to be yourself can be scary. At teen camp, we can help.
Here’s another inspiring story. This one comes from Rachel (pictured on the left), who took part in our moving “Trance Dance” and wound up re-directing her life entirely. Here’s her story:
“Despite Odyssey Teen Camp’s promising motto, “A great place to be exactly who you are,” as a self-conscious thirteen-year-old, I still feared being myself.
Odyssey Teen Camp felt like a different world, an unplugged, accepting environment with classes and experiences to help kids learn and grow, including sweat lodges, yoga, sexuality classes, drag contests, and the Trance Dance. But even though I felt supported, when I heard about the Trance Dance, I was petrified.
Our leader, Parashakti, explained the Trance Dance to be an ancient ritual practiced by Shamans who utilized it as a healing tool; we would dance blindfolded. I felt my body tense and my mind race with anxiety. When able to see, I hardly could bring myself to sway. I couldn’t imagine being left alone in the dark in a field with people I hardly knew. Yet, I wanted to dance; I wanted to have this experience. After Parashakti finished explaining, I slowly stood up. As the counselors blindfolded me and then led me to the field, I became overwhelmed about how stupid I would look dancing and how embarrassing it would be even though my counselors were the only people who could see me. I tried to suppress my anxiety, but once the music started, I froze. My feet felt as though they were paralyzed in cement blocks, and I panicked.
I didn’t dance. I didn’t sway. I barely moved. Forty-five minutes later, when we were allowed to remove our blindfolds, some campers volunteered to share their experiences. The first girl talked about how an eating disorder had prevented her from dancing, but now she realized nothing was going to prevent her from going back to ballet. Another camper got up crying and said this was the most freeing moment of her life, how she felt so alive and open. I wanted to be one of those people who felt transformed and enlightened, but I wasn’t. I was the girl who stood there for forty-five minutes immobilized. I left camp that summer with many great memories and new friends, but also with a sense of loss about not breaking past my self-constructed barrier. For three summers, I went to Omega for a month and attended the Trance Dance every two weeks, but each time, the same problem occurred. Until my fourth year.
After being traced with a swirl of sage smoke and led to the field for the seventh time, I thought, “This is such a waste of time.” But as I stood there, it suddenly dawned on me: “What’s really the worst that could happen?” I could fall, bump into someone, step on a rock, or have the counselors notice my bad dancing, but I wouldn’t have to hear yet again how everyone else felt so amazing and cleansed afterward. People at Omega didn’t judge; they were unique and even quirky. Why hadn’t I trusted them years ago? Mid-thought, the music began. I started off with a sway, moving right to left. Next, I moved my arms up and down. Before I could even critique my dancing, I was jumping, twirling, leaping all over the field. Truthfully, I even rolled.
After the short forty-five minutes came to a close, we took off our blindfolds. I sat down on the damp grass and looked around in the twilight. Kids were sitting, standing, or lying down, their facial expressions varied. Some looked content, smiling to themselves. Others seemed sad, with damp cheeks or eyes smudged with makeup, crying softly. In that instant, all I could see were physically and emotionally un-constricted teenagers.
Now I was one of them.”
Letting go and truly becoming yourself doesn’t usually happen over night. But at teen camp? Sometimes it does.