by Eytan Graubart | Camp Director, Harlam Day Camp
I once went four years without crying. I was young and had somehow convinced myself that crying wasn’t something that “cool” guys do. I pretended that nothing bothered me, I acted far tougher than I was, and avoided hard situations for fear of bursting into tears in front of someone. And when I finally got over the hump and allowed myself to express how I was really feeling, especially during hard times, it felt like a weight was taken off my back. I could breathe easier, I could connect with others in different ways, and I felt more human.
I remember reflecting upon that period of my life and thinking about all the experiences that I missed out on by not allowing myself to cry. There were certainly things I didn’t process, challenges I never faced, and I was not there when friends and family needed me most. I promised myself that I would no longer be that person. That was almost 10 years ago, but it wasn’t until this summer that I realized there was still part of me that had been shut down. Somehow, despite my intentional emotional growth, I had missed something phenomenally important – I was allowing myself to cry during the tough times, but had not addressed (within myself) that I never (with the exception of my wedding day) cry tears of joy. Opening Harlam Day Camp changed everything.
It was on our last night of staff training, only hours before we opened up for the first time, while I was thanking the staff and trying to give one final pep talk before we started down this crazy adventure, that I started to tear up. I was exhausted, nervous about our first ever opening day, but more than that, I was so proud of this group of 25 leaders who had given camp (and me) everything they had and were ready to change lives together. As I started to cry, I tried to compose myself, but it was too late. Staff had already come over to me, put their arms on my shoulders and smiled. Of course that really put me over the edge, and only kept the tears flowing. I, eventually, got it together, but I felt different than I ever had. Once again it was like a giant weight was lifted. That was four weeks ago.
Last night we had our first ever Harlam Day Camp Show. Over 30 families joined our staff of 25 and our 64 campers for an incredible evening. The whole night was a whirlwind for me and before I knew it, it was over and I was back at home. A little too revved up from camp, I couldn’t sleep (as is all too common for me in the summer) and I turned to FaceBook to help me turn my brain off, and what I found was awesome. Almost the entire camp show had been videoed by different parents who attended and dozens of clips had already been posted online. I watched every single one, some more than once, and I cried. I was so unbelievably happy with how far Harlam Day Camp has come in four short weeks that I couldn’t help it. I cried all night, and although some sleep might have been nice, this morning I feel like a million shekels.
As I prepare for Shabbat and reflect upon another incredible week at camp, I can’t help but remember the years when I refused to cry. While my intention may have been to avoid the hard things in life, I am realizing how many truly happy experiences I missed as a result.
In my 22nd summer at Jewish camp, and in my 7th as a camp director I am still learning more about myself, growing, and becoming a better and stronger person. To all of our HDC families, staff, campers, partners and friends, thank you for showing me how to really experience Joy and for making this summer truly incredible.