I didn’t let on to any of my friends that I was SO nervous about going on camp. Noone else seemed to be nervous, so I didn’t want to be picked on for being a baby. It’s not the actual camping bit that worries me, you know, the sleeping in a tent with bugs and lots of dirt and not showering for 3 days, because I’ve done that heaps of times with mum and dad. It was more the fact that mum and dad wouldn’t be there. Because it was school camp.
It was so weird when we talked about camp in class, because my first reaction was to be really excited like everyone else. And I WAS excited about doing the high ropes course, going on the giant swing, doing orienteering and eating as much dessert as possible. Each year I’ve watched as the big kids come back from camp saying how awesome it is, and I’ve been desperately waiting for my turn. The thing is that after a few minutes of being excited, I always got a sick feeling in my tummy as I remembered that I would have to sleep with just two other kids in a tent, without any grown ups. And it kind of put a downer on the whole lead up to camp if I’m honest.
There’s no way I would have told my friends how I felt though. I was really embarrassed. I’m 9! I’m supposed to be cool with this stuff. What wold they think? I mean, I’ve been doing sleepovers at friends’ house for ages and I’m always fine, so why did I feel like this about camp? What if they thought I wasn’t cool anymore and started picking on me?? Worse, what if no one wanted to share a tent with me?
I didn’t even want to tell Mum and Dad about how I felt, because I knew it would worry Mum sick and she’d probably try and make me stay home with her instead of going to camp. And then how would I explain THAT to everyone? That would be almost more embarrassing than going to camp and being scared! And Dad, well, he’d just try to convince me there was nothing to worry about and pat me on the head and tell me to get on with it.
So it was a pretty lonely few weeks for me, saying one thing and meaning another, trying to get my head around feeling brave. I just couldn’t find a positive thing to say to myself about it all. But I had to go. I just had to do what all grade 3’s have to do. I had to get on that bus to camp and look like nothing was wrong.
And you know what? I did. I sucked it up and I did it. Ok, I might have bitten my bottom lip a little hard so that it bled, but I got on the silly bus and went to camp. I even cheered up enough to play Eye Spy and sing some daft songs we learnt in music class. The sick feeling was still with me but I remembered what mum had always taught me about situations like this – that I should put my shoulders back and close my eyes for a minute and think about the worst and silliest thing that could happen and then the absolute best thing that could happen – apparently the truth was somewhere in the middle. She told me to gather up courage from the dirt through the bottoms of my feet and suck it up right through my intestines to the top of my head in a big muddy smeary mess. (The image of my Mum looking like this always made me smile).
So I did all that in a split second (I didn’t want to look like too much of a weirdo!) and you know what? It helped. It really did.
When I got to camp two of the most popular kids were really keen to share a tent with me because they knew I’d been camping heaps before. And guess what? We had THE BEST time! I had the most powerful torch of anyone, the best compass, and I knew the most stars. Turns out people were really impressed by my camping know-how! And if we’d been allowed to light a fire they would have been even MORE impressed!
Then when it was time to go to sleep, I was so tired and so happy that I didn’t even have time to worry about not having a grown-up in my tent. I slept so well and dreamed about climbing Mt Everest and sticking the Aussie flag in the snow right at the top.
I woke up the next morning and realised that something had changed. I no longer had the sick feeling in my tummy. In fact, nothing worried me at all. I felt really calm, really liked by everyone, and really happy.
(Feelings affect your body, p. 30-31, Fear, p.28, – A for Attitude)