CAMP 2007 - Jay Horita
Sep. 4th, 2007
03:25 pm - CAMP 2007
Every year, there is a 3-day retreat during Labor Day weekend called C.A.M.P. I've gone for the last two years, but none of them were as impactful as the one I came back from. It's a haven for gay men of all ages to interact with each other in a non-alcoholic, non-judgmental way. What I love most about it is that in 80 or so hours, everybody eventually lets go of their guard and are able to share their vulnerabilities. As an example: There's a talent show, a drag show, and a dance event that occurs at each camp as well, and people who would collapse at the first step in front of an audience are able to perform. One guy in his 60's had a beard for 30+ years of his life, but he shaved it all off just to do the drag show -- which was also a first for him.
I almost did not go this year due to financial reasons, but I'm sure glad I did. I felt I was a lot more able to connect with other CAMP'ers, but what was amazing was the level of comfortability I felt. I performed in 3 acts in the talent show, and I never felt anxiety throughout the show. This compared with last year when I was practically hyperventillating backstage before I went on.
As a gay man in Seattle, you encounter a lot of passive-aggressiveness that slowly but effectively penetrates your own soul. I learned that it is a contagious condition whose only cure is to keep yourself from being affected by the few negatives and really appreciate all the positives.. because kindness and active compassion can also be contagious.
When I came back yesterday to Seattle, it was odd, but I was still stuck in that surreal feeling that I can talk to everyone. It's an overwhelming feeling of compassion. I don't remember feeling that way in the other two CAMPs I've been to. I just hope I retain this feeling no matter what crap I will encounter back in reality.
I gained a respect for the older gay population as well (by older, I mean like 40 and 50+). Not only respect in the way that they've been through a lot harsher times for themselves, but also the feeling that many of them are very genuine, loving people. I logically knew this before CAMP, but now I genuinely FEEL it.
I also gained confidence. I always beat myself up for being shy, reserved, unwanted, uncommunicative... but there were many people at different times that told me that they did not have the impression I was any of those at all. That all meant a lot to me, because those are the core things I feel are weak in myself. There were also various guys who I never thought would be attracted to me, that were. I still have to work on being able to communicate with guys who I like better, or just generally showing my affection to people, but I'm a lot closer than before.
Lastly, I learned to look at people. I've caught myself many times throughout CAMP talking to other people, but staring away. By the end of CAMP, I was a lot more comfortable looking into their eyes.
I encourage all gay men to go to CAMP.