Archive for the ‘Work Stories’ Category

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A (ridiculously long) Ode to Camp

May 27, 2008

MOVED!

I’m finally figuring out why I might be having some small breakdown about the three month stretch of summer ahead of me: It’s the first time since I came to college that I won’t be working at camp. This may not seem like a big deal to readers who have never been to or worked at camp, especially my camp, but this is an extremely difficult transition for me. Camp has basically been my summer for the past two years. It matured me. It changed the way I see and work with kids. It changed the way I see Judaism. It basically led to me going to Israel. It led to my current debate about my future career. It gave me incredible friends from around the world. It’s weird to think about how the whole kind of started on a whim. (I smell a flashback brewing….)

One day freshman year I was sitting around contemplating my summer. Sitting at home in Ohio working retail didn’t seem to much fun, and I wasn’t going to be able to return to the job I’d had the previous summer working at a children’s theater downtown. I think I was watching (as sad as it seems) MTV’s documentary special “Fat Camp” when I started thinking that working at a camp would be kind of fun. (It’s a shameful source of inspiration, I know.) I’d never gotten to go to “Jew Camp” as a kid, which is slightly bizarre for a young Jewish kid. Going to camp in the Jewish community is a pretty accepted right of passage. It’s so ubiquitous (yeah, I just pulled out some college level vocab) that during my sorority recruitment, the Jewish house on campus had a camp-themed night, assuming anyone serious about joining their sorority had that shared experience. I came close once, but a botched attempt at attending a YMCA camp in 5th grade put me off the idea for a while.

But I digress, after running the idea by my mom, I started to apply to JCC (that’s Jewish Community Center for you gentiles out there) run camps within driving distance of my house. I had a few interviews, but finally landed on the JCC in Cleveland’s camp as my first choice. Not only was it the closest camp to me, but they way the directors described it during my interview gave me chills. When I asked what made each camp special during my interviews, most directors explained about their killer facilities or their complex activities system, but what Meredith and Jodi (my soon to be bosses) described was the energy their camp had. They explained that when all the kids stood up cheering at lunch or sang together in their sprit circle (which sounds waaay more corny that is it, because what it is is just awesome) there was this intense, contagious spirit that everyone possessed, that made even the most difficult of kids want to stand up and cheer, that made you forget about how you looked or the fact that it was raining and made you just want to have the best time possible. They could not have been more right:

(An attempt to show spirit circle in all its glory)

So I excitedly accepted a position as a general counselor for the summer of ’06. When I got to camp for the first time, my excitement deflated a bit. Basically everyone who worked there had been attending slash working at camp for most of their lives. People who were new like me were generally foreign staff. I got asked about 10 times a day “So, why are you here?” It was weird and awkward and a bit like moving. I felt very out of place and grew worried that I had made a terrible decision. How could I fit into a group that had been forming without me for most of my life?

Then the campers arrived and slowly, everything changed. Things became much more about the kids than about the counselors. I suddenly had things to discuss with everyone I couldn’t make conversation with before through the shared experience of shaping these kids’ summer. I was placed in a cabin with two other staff members and 12 13-year-old girls. I could not have asked for a better cabin for my first session. The girls LIVED for camp, and quickly taught me everything I needed to know to get by. They taught me village cheers, they prepared me for Macabia (our 28 hour color war, aka the biggest day of camp), and helped me get through my first spirit circle. As things fell into place with the kids, everyone with the staff got easier. I made friends with the staff in my village and soon, I felt like I’d been there forever, standing on my chair at lunch singing about prunes (loonnnggg weird explanation for that one) and toasted cheese. It slowly became the perfect job. I got to play all day, getting free tennis and rock climbing lessons in the process. I got to spend my Saturdays tanning by the pool with my best friend Sharon, and I got paid to do it! I got paid to act like a kid, while having actual responsibility. I had to take a kid to the hospital and break up fights. That doesn’t sound like fun, but I felt useful and important and helpful. Kids never look more grateful than when you kill a spider for them or give them a snack. By the end of the summer, I knew I had to come back.

I applied to be the drama instructor for the summer of ’07, just to change it up and get a new experience. I was a little nervous about the new job and the fact that some of my best friends weren’t returning to camp, but Sharon would be there, so I figured I’d get by. (Sharon is a bit of a social butterfly, and by a bit, I mean she is literally friends with everyone at camp despite that fact that she started when I did…) I got to camp for staff week and immediately bonded with the lovely Sarah Mac. (who I inspired to blog. Score!) Instantly I knew the summer would not only be as great as the last summer, it may just cross over into legen- wait for it-dary territory.

I could not have been more right. Sarah, Sharon and I formed another instant bond with Lillian, a staffer from England, and I became great friends with Lindsey, a camp lifer who took off summer ’06, so who was new to me:

Sharon attempting to stuff fries up my nose

(Sharon attempting to stuff fries up my nose on a night out. Clearly, we have a bond.)

(Things turn ugly)

(But I clearly gain the upper hand.)

(Lillian, Sarah, Sharon, and I saying our favorite phrase: Hazzah!)

(Lindsey and I in NYC after camp)

Basically, camp was the same (aka fabulously fun), but I had even better friends, taking everything to a whole other level. Plus, I loved my new job. I got to direct two productions (High School Musical first session – you know you are jealous that my extensive knowledge of the HSM dance moves actually helped my job – and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown second), and I recently found out that my drama cabin activities were voted one of the top 10 cabin activities in camp. Everyone loves some improv games.

It is so hard to explain what makes camp so special. Yes, I loved my job teaching drama, but that was only one aspect of what made my summer special. I’ll try to explain with some specific stories:

1) One night after stopping by the pool for a staff swimming event, Sarah, Lillian, and I walked out onto the large rec field in the middle of camp, and after doing some cartwheels and impromptu dancing, we all laid down with our heads together and just stared up at the ridiculously clear sky and talked about how cool it was that three girls from three different countries could be sitting in the middle of nowhere Ohio together forming this amazing friendship. Where else does this happen? I’ll probably remember that forever.

2) First session, I was chosen to be a captain of one of the five Macabia teams. This is a HUGE honor. Really. It shows that the directors of camp and the judges of that particular Macabia (other staff members chosen by the directors) think you can take on the task of being responsible for a fifth of the camp for a day, inspiring them to have tons spirit, to give this day all they have, and to make it the best day of camp for them. After being violently awoken by Sarah in the middle of the night and made to walk to the center of camp blindfolded, I was so excited to learn I had been picked. The next 28 hours were some of the most tiring of my life. I screamed. I ran miles around camp. I jumped and yelled and waved our Shrek flag high (yeah, we were the Green Shrek team of the animated movie themed Macabia). I wasn’t so focused on winning as I was on making sure my kids had a great time. My co-captain was pretty focused on winning. (He had one of the best win records in camp, apparently). Well, the afternoon of Macabia is capped off by a giant relay race called The Great Race. The race ends with the captains building a fire to burn through a rope, and when the rope burns, the entire team runs to the flagpole and freaks out. Well, my co-captain and I completely owned at fire building and built basically the fastest fire in the history of camp.

(Suck it rope. You’re going down.)

When our fire burned through the rope, I took off as fast as I could toward the flag pole where my entire team screamed and cheered for a good 20 minutes. I didn’t think the day could get much better until I stood in front of the stage in front of the entire camp, holding my co-captain’s hand, thinking we couldn’t win since we had won the Great Race – it’s a camp myth you can’t win the Great Race AND win all of Macabia – when the judges turned their pitchers upside down and poured water all over me. (See, the judges each stand behind each pair of captains with two pitchers. One pitcher contains something different then the others, and that is the one of the winning team. In our case, all the pitchers were empty except for the ones above us, which, as I said before, had water in them) At first I thought I was being hit with water from the team beside me, but then it hit me as my entire team flipped the hell out. I then took off running again toward the pool, completely high on excitement. As per camp tradition, the judges and captains always run into the pool fully clothed at the end of Macabia. I broke my not-water-proof watch in the process of pool jumping, but was totally worth it. It was one of the best moments of my summer.

3) Second session, my fellow cabin staffers and I wanted to do something special for our girls, so we bought each of them a charm to make into a special cabin bracelet. The thing was, they each had to give their charm to someone else who had inspired or influenced them in the cabin. We figured the girls would do well with the activity, but even I was surprised by some of the things they said about each other. When a camper who I had in my cabin both sessions got to give away her charm, she gave it to me, saying I had helped her have one of the best summers of her life. How can you not have a good night after that? I still have that charm on a necklace I wear all the time.

I have so many more of these stories, but I fear for anyone who has read this far into the post already. Basically, I’m having a tough time this summer, because I know, even if I was going back, it wouldn’t be the same. My campers are in their last year, and I probably wouldn’t get to be with them again. My best friends aren’t going back, and a lot of the younger staff are taking over the camp. I can’t go back. I know that, but I can’t seem to get over the fact that I won’t get more stories this summer. I won’t get to run outside throwing ketchup all over a crazy group of kids or see an alpaca jump over a bench. (Yeah, this really happened.)

(This woman became our idol. Everything she wore was made out of alpaca hair, and she named this alpaca Intrepid. Plus she rolled up in a minivan with him in the back.)

I won’t get to help someone have the best summer of their life. I’ll get to sit in class, and run errands for adults – adults who will not appreciate what I’m doing nearly as much as those kids. It’s so hard to realize that people may look at my resume some day and think I wasted my summers not getting internships or “real jobs,” not knowing that I gained more real world experience, more leadership training, and more maturity at camp then I EVER could have gotten at an internship – something I learned quickly this past semester.

All that is getting me through the summer is thinking about how I’ll see Lindsey in NYC in a few weeks, and that I’m flying to freakin’ AUSTRALIA in December to see Sharon and Sarah. Camp continues to enhance and enrich my life in amazing ways, and how can I really be sad about that?

I commend anyone who has read this entire thing. Kudos. You have a lot of free time. (But really, I appreciate your interest…) To anyone who has kids, think about sending them to camp. It’s amazing and crazy, and like I said, truly life-changing. And to anyone looking for a summer job, I think I’ve made my case.

So…anyone else got any good camp stories?

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Lesson: I Have No Idea What I Want

May 5, 2008

MOVED!

I’m not sure if I’ve had enough time to gain the proper perspective on this past semester. I’ve been home less than 24 hours, but it has been almost two weeks since I finished working (at least at one of my internships), so I figured now is as good a time as any to start debriefing on that particular aspect of my time in LA. Here goes on what I’m sure will turn into a thesis: 

When I started thinking about going to LA, I thought of it as more of a chance to gain experience that would help me get to where I knew I wanted to go. I thought of it as a test run, but not really in a work-related way. I knew I wanted to work in television. I just wanted to make sure I liked LA. I had no doubt I would like my jobs. Sure, I knew there would be a lot of getting coffee, covering scripts, and basic grunt work, but I had absolutely not doubt in my mind that working in development or casting was exactly where I wanted to go.

In the beginning, it all seemed to be going fantastically. I had four offers for internships (2 production companies, one soap opera, and one casting office), leaving me with the ability to pick exactly what I wanted to do. I ended up choosing the production company that worked in both film and television (where my interests were) and the casting company, because they focused on theater (which I also love). It seemed to be a perfect balance.

In the beginning, the internships were exactly what I thought they would be in terms of getting coffee and answering phones, but perhaps with a little more grocery shopping and imdb-ing than I thought. I loved everyone was I working with. I felt very inside the entertainment industry. I was reading production binders from well-known pilots. Lunch consisted of sitting in the conference watching TV with all the assistants.  I was doing exactly what I thought I wanted to do. 

Soon, however, I started to question things. I sat at my desk for hours reading terrible TERRIBLE scripts. I went to pick up a blackberry for a junior executive who had “broken his in Mexico,” then found out a month later he had sent another intern to get him another blackberry because he had spilled soy sauce on the one I got him. I spent 6 (!!!) hours on the phone calling out auditions for understudies in a two week run of an experimental play. I found myself counting down the hours until I could get the hell out of the office and into the sunshine. I sat shaking at assistants’ desks while I covered for them for the afternoon, fearing the ringing of the phone because it would mean trying to figure out how to conference in the executive on location in New Orleans without losing the original caller. I found myself realizing I in no way wanted to ever have to do what the assistant’s did or maybe even what the executives did. They had meetings. They talked on the phone a lot. They wheeled and dealed. It was all very business like. I never wanted to work in a business or in an office. That is why I didn’t go to business school. I always thought that working in development, I would feel like I was helping to make and shape what was on television. What I ended up feeling like was that the executives were like middlemen. They found projects and brought them to someone else to make. I wanted to make the TV. I wanted to be in the excitement. The office was definitely not where the excitement was. The casting office felt the same. I wanted to be more a part of the process, but the casting director is so much more a facilitator than an actual decision maker. It was all sorting through submissions and scheduling auditions so that someone else could make the decisions. These jobs weren’t what I wanted for myself. 

Every day became a constant debate in my mind. Today wasn’t too bad, but could I do this for a year? For two years? Is this what every job is like or is it just this office? I started to wonder whether there was a better job for me. Maybe I should reconsider writing. I always liked that in class. Perhaps I would be happier working in production, outside or on set, running around, actually seeing things getting made. Maybe I should just find a job in theater. Or maybe I just didn’t like the realities of working, and the jobs I didn’t have just seem great because I wasn’t off doing them. Maybe once I got there, I would hate them too. 

I think that was the hardest part of this whole experience for me: realizing that I can never realy know what something will be like or if I’ll actually like doing something until I’m actually doing it. I feel like I can’t trust myself anymore to make any kind of decision based on what I think I might like, because, well, I’ve been wrong before. Why couldn’t I be wrong again?

So here I am, entering my last few months of school with absolutely NO idea where I should go or what I should do once I’m done. My classes in the fall kind of revisit things I thought I didn’t want to do (writing, production), but am now reconsidering. Hopefully, I’ll get an even better idea of my strengths in them to see if I could pursue them once I graduate. I’m also going back to work at the Huntington Theatre, where I’m hopefully going to try to work in some different departments to see if I like that as well. I’m hoping that as the summer and fall semester go by, I can add to my experiences this past semester to have some semblance of an idea of where I am going. My mom keeps assuring me I don’t need to have a plan, and I’m not delusional enough to think I need a five or ten year plan to be able to do anything after graduation. I’ve just always had a very clear goal in my head for where I was going. Ever since I was in 7th grade, I’ve known exactly what I wanted to do. It’s changed many MANY times, but I’ve never been where I am now. I’ve never not had any idea. I feel so aimless and lost. It sucks. I thrive on direction, on having a goal and reaching it. If I have no goal, how can I figure out my next move. I just don’t want to suffer through some crappy entry level position not knowing what I am working towards. 

I guess the point of this post is that I learned this semester that I don’t know anything. I didn’t absolutely  hate where I worked, but I would think twice before accepting an entry level position in similar organizations after I graduate. Thank god I have 7 months until the end of college. Hopefully, I’ll have some sort of breakthrough from now until then that will at least give me some insight as to what to do next. If not, at least I have 7 months before I have to decide anything definitive. 

Up next: A wrap-up of  my life experience in LA outside of work – think bars, cars, and movies! Horay!

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Winding Down

April 27, 2008

MOVED!

I feel like I haven’t been posting a lot, but nothing too exciting has been happening. Everything is winding down here. My casting internship ended on Friday with a three hour casting session in the valley. I had the morning off, which would have allowed me to sleep in had I not had to move my car at 7:30AM due to street resurfacing outside my garage. Grace and I made the most of it by heading to IHOP for a surprisingly delicious breakfast. I then had a ton of time to do all the shopping I couldn’t do on Thursday, being stuck in my apartment due to said street resurfacing. I FINALLY bought gladiator sandals, fulfilling my three week obsession with finding some. Thanks DSW! They were inexpensive and are actually quasi comfortable. Very exciting. The only downside to the morning was having three cups of coffee before 10AM, which led to my crashing later in the day. Oops. 

Leaving my internships was weird. I’m terrible at saying good-bye, because I’m one of those people who doesn’t really feel something has ended until I’m sitting alone in my room thinking about how awesome something was a month later, leading me to cry alone in my room like a crazy person. When I’m still standing there with the people I’m saying good-bye to, it just doesn’t feel over. I’m still there! Even now, I feel like I’m going back to see all these people next week. It won’t sink in until I’m walking around Target in Wilmington with my mom two weeks from now, bored out of my mind, friendless and alone. Dramatic enough for you? I kid you not, this will happen. When I moved from Alabama, I didn’t cry when I said good-bye to my best friends, but had a nervous break-down two weeks later when I toured my new school and realized I wouldn’t be with them anymore. It’s never a good situation. Anyway, everyone was amazingly supportive when I left, telling me to stay in touch and offering any help they can in the future. It’s nice to know I’ve made such a positive impression on everyone I’ve worked with. Hopefully, I’ll actually stay in touch and be able to use all these people as resources in the future.

The people from my production company internship gave me a $50 gift card to Barnes and Noble (aka my favorite store of all time), which I got on Thursday night, making it an extremely positive night. Later when I was still reeling from the gift receiving, I found out that I get to be co-executive producer of the Bay State (America’s longest running college soap opera, in case you didn’t know.) next semester! My goal in starting to work on the show the first month of my freshman year was to eventually run the show, and now I get to, so horay for accomplishing goals! 

I apologize for the lack of coherent blogging. I try to come up with fun topics to discuss, and then nothing interesting happens to me. When I get home, I’m sure my boredom will cause me to become more philosophical in my blogging, so look forward to that.

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Popping In

April 22, 2008

MOVED!

First, I’m jumping on the band wagon with the 50 Bloggers in 50 States link-fest. (Sign up here.) I’m going with Massachusetts, since that is where I will be soon and indefinitely living. 

Second, today was my last day at my production company internship. I managed to get through the day without leaving the office, which is a feat unto itself, and I wrote thank-you notes to all the assistants, because I am brown-nosing loser. Whatever. It’s all about networking.

No one really knew it was my last day, which made it slightly awkward when I went to say good-bye. Everyone could not have been nicer though, genuinely thanking me for everything I have done. (Coolest: Reading scripts slash meeting celebrities. Uncoolest: Taking used yogurt containers out of the kitchen sink, half filled with water, because people think they are dishes.) They offered me any help they could give should I come back to LA, which is definitely nice and comforting should I choose to come back. (Still very much undecided.)

I’m going to be doing a huge semester wrap-up soon about what I’ve learned and where I think I’m headed form here, but now is not the time. American Idol is on soon.

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The TV Set

March 15, 2008

MOVED!

I just watched The TV Set, and while it was an extremely good movie, it was like seeing all my worst fears about working in the television business come to life on screen. The executives were unfeeling and uncreative. Their families were falling apart. The writer comprised and comprised until he didn’t even recognize his extremely personal show anymore, and his manager, while being his friend, encouraged him at every turn to give in just to get the show on the air. Perhaps that wasn’t the best of rental choices.

In other news, my sickness has turned into debilitating tiredness. I almost fell alseep at my desk yesterday. When I got home, I fell onto my bed and had to roll myself off to get up and make dinner – and by make dinner I mean microwave leftovers from my free work lunches. My life right now is amazing, isn’t it?

Tuesday I head down to San Diego for some beach and family time. As long as at least 50% of my time is devoted to lying down, I’m sure it’ll be a wonderful vacation.

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Boo

March 10, 2008

MOVED!

I suck at blogging. I try to get over this fact again and again, imagining how I am going to commit to keeping everyone updated about my life in this fast and simple way. Then I move somewhere new, get a thousand and one things to do, and just completely forget to write anything. Not that I don’t have anything to write about. Things have been just crazy…however, after going to work at 9, driving home for an hour at 6, running to class for three hours, and then getting home at 10:30, I never feel like sharing all that craziness with anyone else. Maybe when all I have to do is work at one job I will feel like writing more. Hrm…

Anyway, let’s update quickly. I’ve been in LA for almost two months now. In that time I have been to a number of fun bars slash clubs – El Carmen, St. Nicks, Boulevard 3, 86 being stand-outs. I’ve seen a number of mildly famous celebrities – Sophia Bush in BCBG, Mr. J of Top Model fame outside The Ivy, that guy who plays Beverly Leslie on Will and Grace at the movies, and most excitingly, Alexis Bledel in a doctor’s waiting room. I’ve been on some fun weekend excursions to Santa Monica Pier and to Las Vegas for Jillian’s birthday, where we got to act like VIP’s at Tao – another crazy bar/club – because Jillian’s cousin works there.

On the work front, I’ve had to do some crazy things. At the production company, I’ve been sent to Ben Affleck’s house…twice. I’ve had to go grocery shopping, pick up prescriptions and new blackberries, buy twelve copies of the same book, and read some truly heinous scripts. I have, however, also made friends with some cool assistants, read some truly amazing scripts (J.J. Abram’s new pilot, anyone?), and learned my way around West LA and Santa Monica through my many errand runs. At the casting office, I have spent several hours on the phone calling out auditions, gotten chatty with some washed up talent agents, made possible cast lists that producer’s have praised, helped run auditions and chatted it up with some fun actors.

Overall, the experience has been positive, but also a little scary. Let me explain: being here has made my future life seem all the more real. I mean, when you are in college, you have this vague notion of what your life will be like, and it seems fantastic because it is vague and mysterious. Once you are out here in the place you plan to move to working in the places you plan to work in, it is much less vague. It is concrete and very, very real. You see what your life will actually be like, rather than what you imagine it to be like. Not that this real life is a bad life – it’s just like any life: There are good parts and bad parts and lots of errand running and making copies. You (and by you, I clearly just mean me) start to question if this is really what you want your whole life to be. Not that any other option is worlds better, but anything else you think of is that vague idea of a life, as opposed to this real one sitting in front of you.

I guess this is what scares people about graduating from college. I always looked forward to leaving college in a way, as it meant getting away from drunken idiots, 12-page papers written in a weekend, and dealing with a diminished, immature dating pool. I usually fail to realize the good parts of college – the four day weekends, the ability to nap daily, the general lack of responsibility, and the wonderfulness of all of your time being your own. Not that I want to stay in college indefinitely – I just always glorify what is yet to come rather than enjoying where I am, and now that I see what is ahead of me, I’m a little scared and a lot happy that I still have 6 more months left of college.

Or maybe this is all just the fever talking. Did I mention that is why I am finally writing? Because I have a fever of 101 and can’t get out of my bed? This probably isn’t the best state in which to contemplate the future. Oh well…