I went to bed last night with my ears ringing, my eyes stinging and my voice going.
And I was completely at peace.
The preceding 3 days were spent away at Foster, at a camp site for kids. Situated in the middle of the Foster North Hills in South Gippsland, this adventure camp was our school level’s once a year getaway.
By ‘getaway’, I’m talking about the students. For us as staff, it’s anything but! Non-stop noise, questions, activities and organisational issues abound. But it’s a work and reward kind of thing. You put in a lot over the 3 days, but the payoff in terms of your closer relationships with the kids continues to pay dividends throughout the year. They see you in a different light, you see them in a new light; everyone’s a winner…
The other golden aspect of the camp is that for my phone, from about an hour away from Foster, I have zero coverage.
So, the phone gets turned off, put away and not thought of again until the (wonderful!) trip home.
I won’t be the first person, or the last, to profess the advantages of ‘getting away from it all, where no one can reach you’… Yet in the midst of the year without sport and in the early days of going without surfing the net until Easter Sunday, it was immaculate timing.
The peace of being present
It was the peace of being present. Believe me, there are countless opportunities to genuinely care over the course of 3 days & 141 students. Kids get hurt, unwell, homesick and need myriad questions answered, from, ‘What time is XYZ?’ to ‘Why are we ABC’ing?’
There are also ample justifications to minimise or ignore the kids’ bleatings – it’s a stupid question (often), you’ve got more important things to do at that moment (normally) and they’ll get over it (always!).
Before camp began, however, I made a conscious decision to be more compassionate. Ignore the justifications of the previous paragraph and genuinely give a damn. Every time.
It stemmed from a rather confronting conversation I recently had about my family origins. For a moment, I subconsciously thought that I was ‘locked in’ to certain behaviours that previous generations had demonstrated. Not so. We all have choices. I just made one little one.
It helped me be present in every aspect of the camp and the kids. And it provided an extraordinary sense of peace.
I was amazed how easy it was to be compassionate. I thought I would be ‘acting’, being fake; superficial. Yet the first kid that tripped and went slamming into the brick wall of a well, I was over there within moments, not waiting to see whether she got up ok. She hit hard. I saw it. I cared.
‘Focus on the 5 minutes in front of you’
‘Focus on the 5 minutes in front of you’ was something that Mrs YWS came up with over the summer break. During the holidays, it was possible to stay true to that.
But then work kicked back in, and kicked back in hard. With the relentless workload, expectations and hours spent earning your living, your mind can switch back to its default mode, technically termed, ‘Go go go’.
It is reassuring to experience within this framework a period of time when, despite the pace of the days and nights, headspace, peace, silence and joy could be found.
I don’t know how I can replicate the circumstances of camp – I mean, I have a job where I need to be contactable, and a wife who is now 30+ weeks pregnant, so I need to be available. I don’t begrudge any of that.
I amencouraged, however, to not be so drawn to the iPhone. Go for trips, sessions, hours without it. Take something else to tell me the time when I walk the dog. Don’t have it near me when I plonk at the end of the day. Have it out of reach as I drive to and from work. It can all add up.
Switching the default
A lot of this is about switching my default mechanism from checking the phone for emails and texts when I have a moment and allowing myself just a moment to … well, be. No stimuli. No noise…
Bigger picture, it will be the same aim when May 24 ticks over. No longer will sport be the instant default when a space of time opens up.
That has been the one victory of this journey.
I am looking forward to the option of watching sport should the opportunity arise, no doubt. But I am not hanging out for the date when everything can go back to being what it once was. Change has occurred. Peace has been found. Sometimes, in the most unlikely of circumstances.