By ZACHARY LAU
You’ve sacrificed your entire life to be who you are today. Was it worth it?
Curled up in bed, with the faint orange glow from the table lamp across the room and the dimmed down screen from my phone, I stumbled upon a line.
There it was, a line of black being enveloped by a blinding white background, a quote from Richard Bach, an American writer from the 1970s.
I would be lying if I said that the words didn’t linger for a while at the back of my mind.
What a time to have a mini existential crisis! Right there and then, in my pyjamas as I was getting ready to go to bed so I could wake up early and reach work on time – it hit me. What have I been doing up to this point to get to where I am?
A journey of a thousand steps begins with…one
It’s been almost a decade. It started when I was just a hesitant, spunky teenage boy with an attitude, attending a camp.
Then, because it was fun, and I wanted to go to camp again (for free!), I signed up for the facilitator selections.
Next, was the endless training that came along with being chosen. One thing led to another, and here I am now, working at the same company that ran the camp I wanted to avoid during my youth.
What has this whole experience been about? What led me to this point?
That was when I realised it. The thing is, it’s not what you take from the whole experience – it’s what you leave behind.
I mean, sure, you get to meet a lot of different people and collect experience to level up as if you were in a video game.
Ultimately though, what really filled my soul throughout this whole journey was that I was able to make an impression (even if it was a small one) in the lives of youths.
Youths who had faced the same dilemmas I did, youths going through the same heartbreaks, or eyes filled with hope for the future as I had. The great thing about this life of ours is that you can be someone different to everybody.
We remember moments
Being a facilitator did not mean I was like a teacher. If anything, it meant that I had to put on different façades depending on the situation.
I was a guide, a mentor, but more importantly, I was a friend. Someone to confide in, someone to offer advice or give tough love when necessary.
That is what being a facilitator meant to me, building positive relationships with youths, especially since it is an age group where most people, self included, were constantly overwhelmed with confusion.
And here’s the thing, we do not remember days, we remember moments.
Every time you see an initially shy camper speak up, or watch how all campers from different backgrounds come together, genuine tears are shed as we bid farewell after camp.
It’s those genuine, intimate moments that linger the most.
I fondly remember one of the moments from the SPARK camp in 2015, where one of the campers had to leave mid-way through camp due to some personal matters.
All the campers stopped right in their tracks, and belted out their own rendition of the song See You Again, as farewell hugs were exchanged.
They were not exactly synchronised nor were they a choreographed choir, that much was evident, but it was that moment of genuineness shared between the campers that really spoke to me.
It’s the camp high that just consumes you, that rush you get that just keeps spurring you on to a point where you want to challenge yourself to create the best possible experience for everyone.
Journey-mates along the way
This journey was not just about me, it was about the experience of the campers and other facilitators as well.
The problem with people is that they sometimes forget it’s the small things that count.
Facilitators often talk about experiences with the campers, watching them grow, feeling that sense of pride as they step out of their comfort zones.
While all that is true, it is also the laughter-filled moments I got to spend with other facilitators that linger strong in my memory.
The banter over meals, midnight mamak runs, and even the times when we had to stay up all night in preparation for the next day.
These seemingly small, insignificant moments are the ones that actually spring to mind first should a conversation about the camp be brought up. The fellowship that would lead to friendships, that hopefully, last a lifetime.
Lingering impressions that last a lifetime
I guess when I look back at all these moments, I am reminded of a word for it.Sillage. It’s a French word for when you have a lingering impression of something having passed by.
Like how a firework explodes and lights up the smoke from the ones before it. A word for remembering small moments destined to be left behind, only relived through the memories of those fortunate enough to have lived it.
It has been close to a decade now since I first started this path.
When I look back at each moment which my limited memory allows me to remember, I reminisce with a smile.
No one can tell you exactly what goes on between the person you were and the person you will become. No one precisely charts that big, grey area. There aren’t any road maps that show how the change happened.
One day, you just make it out on the other side. I dived into this journey with the same playful intention every 12-year-old would have for fun.
Now, almost a decade after my very first time as a facilitator, it has evolved into so much more than that.
So, if our paths ever cross, feel free to ask me again, was it worth it?
Zach is a Youth camp facilitator and an ex-camper. He is part of the Youth team that organises leadership programmes for youths aged 8-18. For more information on Leaderonomics’ leadership development initiatives for youth, email firstname.lastname@example.org.