The Time I Pretended I was an Arts and Crafts Director

At the beginning of the summer after my first year of college, I received a call from a young man who was recruiting me to work at a church camp for the summer as an Arts and Crafts director.

I am not artistic. I can’t draw, paint, or invent crafts or whatever it is that artistic people do. I am not one of those people who looks up on Pinterest how to reupholster a chair and then does it. I see my friends painting with their kids and making cute holiday wreaths, and I’m just like, “Nah.”

So when this young man offered me this position, I stumbled around with my words and finally said, “I’m not really artistic.”

“It’s okay. Just come and work at the camp. You’ll be fine.”

This camp was called “Amigo Centre” in Sturgis, Michigan. My brother had worked there for a few summers during college, and I figured out that he had given this young man my name to recruit me. I didn’t really want to do it. But, I had nothing better to do. I didn’t have a summer job, and I was just getting over a break-up with a boy who I had really liked. I needed a distraction, so I said yes.

“I wonder how I’ll pretend that I’m artistic,” I thought to myself during the three hour drive from my house to camp. When I arrived, I was escorted to the little cabin where all my supplies were housed. Two live mice jumped out of a box. I screamed, but kept going, intent on not letting that freak me out. I was ravenously unpacking all these random art supplies–chalk, paint, pastels, little plaster of Paris sculptures, searching for inspiration. I was hoping these items would hold the key to me teaching myself how to do art so that I could teach others how to do it.

And all of a sudden I burst into tears.

I just knew that I was an imposter who really had no idea what the heck I was doing.

And all those little “crafty project supplies” just seemed annoying to me. Who the heck thinks it is still cool to paint plaster of Paris sculptures? And why are there so many Popsicle sticks?

I needed a different approach. I knew that I would be miserable and the kids would be miserable if I was stuck teaching art projects I disliked all summer.

So I decided to do things I loved with them–tie dye, rock painting, collages, and even some weaving. I simply remembered anything I had done that I loved doing when I was younger that was even remotely creative.

Looking back, I can see that the notion of “faking it until we make it” really can work, as long as we allow ourselves to be authentic in the process.
I can think of a million other times in my life where someone wanted me to do something that I knew I wasn’t good at. In some cases, people have tried to teach me “their way” in hopes that I would “get it,” but it seldom works that way for me. Usually I need to stumble around a bit and find my own comfortable way of doing it so that it works for me.

My summer at the camp was a great one with positive memories. I became close friends with several people on staff. I went skinny dipping for the first time. I let myself truly experience nature. I would often go out at night and stargaze. The sky and forest area simply amazed me and brought me back to the present. There’s something spectacular about looking at trees that are hundreds of years old and understanding that I am simply a small speck in time.

Fake it til you make it, while being yourself. That’s the lesson I suppose.

There were conservative Mennonite ladies that worked in the kitchen up there. They were awesome. They were especially awesome at making baked oatmeal once a week. I stole their recipe from them:

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I always eat mine mixed with a little milk, just like it were cereal.

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