Yesterday, I noted that I once (twice, actually) worked at a weight loss camp. It amazes me how often that experience turns out to be relevant to the topic and hand; it also had a truly remarkable impact on my life.
Before I worked at camp, I was absolutely terrified of the idea of working with children. It wasn't going to be pleasant, or something I would be too competent with. Children were something you tried to avoid getting stuck with. My surprise was that I actually had fun, and my second summer there, Ira told all the other counselors that I was a fantastic counselor. Before working at camp, I was ambivalent about the idea of having children in the future; after working at camp, I decided it would be nice to have kids of my own at some point.
Before I worked at camp, I didn't think about my weight. Nothing like working at a weight loss camp to suddenly make you conscious of your weight and give you a touch of paranoia about weight management. Most of us counselors also picked up very funny food issues during the summer, since we could eat freely so long as the campers surrounding us for most of the day didn't see it. I ate about three times what the campers did.
Before I worked at camp, I had no idea how sleazy people could be. Ira himself meant well, but had some old bad habits and a couple of associates widely criticized by the counseling staff; the people running the Patterson school, however, were the real eye-openers. Ira's buddy (partner, the first year, I think; later, Tommy became his business partner, and Tommy was a much more upright guy) may have been an eBay-flipping online poker addict with an eye for quick-get-rich schemes, but the people running the Patterson school? Complete sleazeballs, made every one of us involved look like saints even on our worst days.
And the school was just falling apart around us. Talk about a badly managed property. I learned a lot of practical lessons in maintenance and repair. Not to mention the second year, I had some nice hands-on experience in pool chemistry and how to operate a pool.
I think one of the more subtle things I got from working at camp was a self-image boost. Even the most athletic of the other counselors wouldn't be able to jump as high or run as quick a mile; it's hard to get too down on yourself when the kids look up to you, your boss thinks you can do anything, and you're rapidly finding out that you can teach things you've never taught before.