How I Beat My Nerves At Summer Camp for Adults ( . . . or Did I?)

Yes, I did make it to camp, and here's proof. All photos in this post not credited were taken by me.

I recently returned from a summer camp for adults–for entrepreneurs, to be exact. If you’re anything like me, you want to believe summer-camp nervousness is limited to the kiddos in our lives. Adults, on the other hand, are evolved enough not to experience such trifles. Sigh. I really want to tell you my newest camp adventure came without any nerves, that my grown-up poise shone through at every moment. Darn it all, though, I never have been good at telling lies.

Campers arriving--yes--in a real school bus and everything. Photo by Gregory Berg, Enso Photography.
Entrepreneurial campers arriving, in a school bus and all. Photo by Gregory Berg, Enso Photography.

Here’s what actually happened. For weeks beforehand, palpable unease overtook my body. Two afternoons prior to camp, my hesitation grew so strong I contemplated skipping the whole thing and staying home. It wasn’t that I was concerned about meeting new people, though the weekend would be nearly 2,000 miles from home and I didn’t know a soul. No, what worried me was this: I’m not an entrepreneur.

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This is Jane. We met while making bookmarks together at the crafts table. After camp, she and I became accontabilibuddies. Every two weeks, we call each other to discuss three-month goals we’ve set for ourselves professionally and personally. Photo by Gregory Berg, Enso Photography.

For 20 years I’ve worked as an educator, mostly in the nonprofit sector, at jobs that galvanize employees but tend to bleed them dry. As it happened I’d been dreaming about entrepreneurship for the better part of a year. Deeply in awe of people who build their own opportunities, I secretly wanted to join their ranks.

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A highlight of the weekend was hearing from Jonathan Fields himself. This quote came from a talk about his 10 Commandments of Epic Business. I took notes like a madwoman! It relates to Essential #3, “Thou shalt train your mind in the alchemy of fear.”

Dreaming was one thing, however. Openly admitting it, surrounding myself with actual business owners, would be quite another. I was pretty sure my arrival at camp would be accompanied by sirens blaring, “Imposter alert! Watch out, all you REAL ENTREPRENEURS, there’s a phony in your midst!”

My entrepreneurial dreams started to sink in about a year ago. I didn’t know what I expected this to mean (spoiler alert, I still don’t), but I sensed some internal shifts. My creative side starting acting braver, weirdly, almost without my knowledge or permission. Something inside had grown tired of feeling invisible and decided it needed more light.

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As a (lucky) member of the camp crew, my days were full of activity. I recharged with quick walks to the lake.  Unless otherwise credited, all photos in this post were taken by me.

Last fall, a girlfriend and I started a journaling project. For the next 52 weeks, we’d follow prompts in Cheryl Richardson’s Life Makeovers. The book promised “practical and inspiring ways to improve your life one week at a time,” and we figured our lives were good candidates for some renovation.

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My response to our Week 2 prompt: Choose the quality you most want to cultivate, then write a positive statement that affirms it. Must use present tense.

And so, I began. I started calling myself an artistic, entrepreneurial spirit. At least in my journal, my head, and weekly talks with my girlfriend. A few months later I started this blog. This act alone emboldened my creative confidence, immediately and with force.

My first day as a Camp GLP crew member. Did I really look this angry, Gregory? Photo by Gregory Berg, Enso Photography,
My first day as a Camp GLP crew member. Did I really look this angry, Gregory? Photo by Gregory Berg, Enso Photography.

I enjoyed expressing my voice, unencumbered by the hierarchy that sometimes dogs my day-to-day. Unexpectedly, I found joy in community of bloggers I discovered. What a gutsy group they turned out to be!

Fast forward half a year. One summer night I found myself awake and grumpy in the middle of the night. To combat my negativity, I chose to fill my mind with something better. Browsing one of my favorite podcasts, Jonathan Fields’ Good Life Project, I spotted the promo for Camp GLP. I noticed the call for volunteers and filled out the application, right then and there.

Before I knew it, I found myself at camp in New York, surrounded by 370 kind, innovative souls known as fellow campers and crew. Over the next 4 days, I received the kick-start I’d been seeking.

I attended workshops on things like finishing projects and understanding revenue models. All of them energized me and sparked new ideas. Arts and crafts projects–LOVE THESE–were a key part of my camp experience. When I got the chance I enjoyed solo moments, on a patch of grass under a sunny sky.

Most importantly, though, I met people who inspired me. People who make podcasts and write ebooks and travel the world and create documentaries and make a living through art. They believe it all can be done, not only in ways that serve communities with compassion, but also that energize the creators themselves.

Now that I’m home, I’ve discovered a whole new set of nerves. These particular butterflies flit in a new pattern, carrying uncertainties on their tiny backs. “What does being an entrepreneur really mean,” they want to know. “What makes you think you’ve got the energy to start something new?” Oh, how I wish I could jump on their collective wings and take flight!

For now, though, I’m content with my role. My current job is to befriend them first, or at least get used to their presence. I want to let them take their time, while I take mine as well. As the journey unfolds, I’ll figure out where we’ll be traveling together months, a year, whenever from now.

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I’ll leave you with this quote from a productivity workshop led by Charlie Gilkey. You, too, can benefit from his wisdom by checking out his podcast, The Creative Giant Show.

So, what about you? Are you feeling any butterflies? What kick-starts are you seeking? Feel free to share in the comments!

My Very Own (Life-Sized) Upcycling Project

If you’ve been following along, then you’ve read about some things I’ve made and why they mattered to me. And if you’ve seen my About page, you also know this blog is about more than crafts. Sure, upcycling is a hot word in the handmade marketplace, and why shouldn’t it be? Buying an old item that’s been transformed by hand is just plain cool. For me, though, upcycling is personal. I’m endlessly fascinated by the process of finding tired things, seeing what they could become, and making them better.

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Photography has become one of my favorite ways to take care of myself, a huge part of my upcycled life. I find it relaxing and empowering at the same time. Like all shots in this post, I took this while on a stroll around my neighborhood.

And guess what, you guys? There’s no getting around the fact that I, too, could benefit from some upcycling. If you wanted to (and if you were on your A game), you just might be able to make the case that the past several years of my life have been one giant upcycling project.

I discovered what it’s like to live with a husband whose sobriety becomes alcohol abuse. I learned to forgive addiction and the man who has this disease. I found ways to accept the world–and especially myself–for not being perfect, either. But I also got divorced and did my part to make damn sure we did it with mutual respect. (He did his part, too, by the way.)

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I’m taking an online photography class, which prompted us to play with scale. Here, I took something small and made it big, the most important player in the scene.

Along with some tenacious colleagues, I completed a high-profile, multi-year work assignment with too few resources. It’s been awhile since I’ve thought about the night the divorce lawyer met me at my office at 8:30–yes, p.m.–after which I kept working. Finally, I wore myself down to the point where anxiety kicked in. Yes, the diagnosable kind.

There was the chaos phase, then the transition. Next came the rebuilding. Slowly, bit by bit, I managed to construct a solid foundation under my feet. At some point I knew it was there, but I didn’t trust it for awhile. In time, I found my peace again.

I picked up new ways to take care of myself. I figured out how to thrive in my job without letting it consume me. (Okay, some days I’m better than others.) I shifted my priorities and learned the value of taking things slowly. After even more time, I found a sweet new love. Yeah, I still get impatient and tired and restless sometimes. Every single day, though, a moment of gratefulness comes for the phase where I’m living now: growth.

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I tromped through some shin-length weeds to get this shot. Balancing the pink with the grass and sky was great fun. Bonus: The bee in flight!

Things are germinating now, no question. And that’s where this blog comes in. It’s my primary way of capturing the seeds. Some are tiny, happy ones. They grow quickly and show their beauty right away. Others are so big they scare me a little, as I don’t know what they’ll become.

I can tell they’ll take longer to establish roots, but I can feel their presence. They’re here, all right. As I encounter these burgeoning things, I hope to do right by them. I hope to notice them, determine what they are, and make sure they get the light and water and kindness they need.

I Stopped The Monkey Brain (at Least for an Afternoon)

takeawalkI wonder what you call it when you’re doing too much and your frenetic mind takes over. My mom uses the term over-functioning. I once heard a therapist name it the monkey brain. Me? I like to describe as it as kicking into machine mode. Whatever your words, I hope the experience happens once in a while and hasn’t become your lifestyle.

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Seeeeee the pretty flowers. They want you to come visit. But first you must venture outside. Get ouuuuut. See them. Go.

Sure, we’re all busy, but I’m referring to a specific phenomenon here. It’s the one where your task list becomes so important you positively cannot stop. Not even for a meal, or god forbid, a bathroom break. When you work so steadily, guilt creeps in whenever you happen to pause.

Five years ago, I lived thoroughly entrenched in this state. I’d been there so long I thought fixing everything was up to me. At home, at work. Wherever I went. (Doesn’t everyone show up as a first-timer to a group activity, then walk out having agreed to run the next meeting? Ummm, no.) I had my reasons, of course. My circumstances asked a lot of me, and I had to step up.

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Seeeee the path. You can do it. You know you want to. Goooo outside.

Guess what I learned, though? Keep at the frenzied state long enough, and it’ll turn on you. You’ll be reminded you’re still human when your body or mind opts for some downtime. (In my case it turned out to be a little of both.) And when this happens, you’ll need to learn a new way.

You’ll have no choice but to find a new sense of timing, a new set of habits, a new way to look at your world, and–most importantly–a new way to care for yourself. Now, I’m grateful to say I’m better at all this. The monkey still plays in my head sometimes, but when it starts talking, I’ve learned how to dampen its sound.

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Stay inside and work incessantly, or come out and see this?

There’s no single cure for over-functioners like me. But last weekend I used a favorite trick: getting out of my head and onto a walk. I’d been working on a project for hours, maximizing productivity time. It’d gone well, but I sensed a shift into machine mode. Effectiveness was growing surly. It was time for a break. “I know,” I thought. “I’ll take a walk. Perfect chance to catch up on my podcasts.” I’m slowly building a side gig, and my Stitcher feed’s filled with entrepreneurship ones (like the well-executed Fuel to Launch).

I wish I could say my yard had a scene like this, all magazine-y and cute. But, hey, it is in my neighborhood, so I get to enjoy it all the same. What treasures can be found in your hood?
I wish I could say my yard had a scene like this, all magazine-like and cute. But, hey, it is in my neighborhood, so I get to enjoy it all the same. What treasures can be found in your hood?

Still, as I prepped for this walk, my grumpiness grew. I’d suited up, but my podcast wouldn’t download. Not the one I wanted, anyway. Not fast enough. Dangit, I wanted to hear that one, not this one. Why couldn’t I get it to work? Why was it being so SLOW? I needed that podcast, and I needed it NOW. Rhar! What’s wrong with this thing, anyway?

I felt the monkey brain taking over. I’d gone from seeking a break to forcing a project. To jamming more learning into an already-full head. Not wanting to waste another minute, I capitulated. I settled on a podcast I wasn’t in the mood for, but that was already downloaded on my device. I sulked a little, then hit the local trail. Fifteen minutes later, I was still tense. The second-choice podcast had annoyed me at every step.

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See the lovely, all bright and orangey.

And that’s when it happened. Somehow I wised up. A tiny voice said, “Turn off the iPod.” “But it’s attached to my arm,” I countered.” “How can I possibly be outside with this thing, and not even listen to it?” “Turn it off,” repeated the voice. And so I did. Pressing pause felt blasphemous somehow, but I did it anyway.

I resumed my walk. After a few quiet minutes, I began to look around. Leaves rustled, and I started hearing songbirds. I noticed the scent of earth, awakened by recent rain. Before long, my body relaxed. No longer consumed by the need to strategize every second, I spotted beauty all around me.

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I took this one just for fun. At an un-spectacular spot, I challenged myself to compose an attractive shot.

Artistry was everywhere, and I wanted to stop and capture it. And that’s just it. I had to STOP to capture it. Stop the rushing. Stop the sound. Stop the planning. Even stop the learning, beneficial as it may be. Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop and let the world come in.

Capturing these droplets gave me unexpected joy.
Capturing these droplets gave me unexpected joy.

Soon I lost myself in the experience. All that mattered was each scene in front of me. That, and capturing the light. A droplet of water, perched just so, took on new importance. For the first time all day, moments replaced minutes. Enjoying the scenery, without any agenda or goal, brought peace.

In the end, I don’t know how long I spent taking photos. And you want to know what? I’m proud to say I don’t care.

Are you an over-functioner, too? In what ways do you take care of yourself?

Today’s Handcrafted Quote

time_to_plantWhat “trees” are you planting these days? I’d love to hear about your hopes and projects.

Five New Blogs That Inspire Me to Create

5_new_blogs_3If you’re anything like me, you want to create stuff. You’ve experienced the jolt of comfort that comes from making something that wasn’t there before.

Blogging has helped me see that creators are all around us. Countless numbers of crafty people can’t help but share their stories with the world. This phenomenon inspires me, and my sewing wouldn’t be the same without it.

Now, I want to help encourage other new bloggers to continue their work. Hear how creation is done by a novelist, a DIY-loving mom, a bag-sewist, a list-maker, and a mixed-media artist. I hope their stories help you find some inspiration of your own. Enjoy!

Torn Apart

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I’m captivated by Torn ApartIt chronicles the process of a historical novelist as she fleshes out a story based on events of a WWII couple whose survival depended on separation.

Her research has brought her to Eastern Europe, led her to discover new books, and caused her to ponder the weather’s effect on her characters.

I look forward to seeing where her muse takes her next.

Stoney Sews 

stoneysews_quoteWhen I read my first post on Stoney Sews, I knew I’d found a kindred (bag-making) spirit. I’d just spent two months sewing a single bag, wondering repeatedly what compelled me to spend hours on each step.

I called my man into the sewing room so I could read him part of the post “Becoming a Bag Maker, Inside and Out.”

Sewing’s not his thing, but he appreciates that it’s mine. He laughed along with me and said something about me having found “my people.”

MissSarahAnne

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MissSarahAnne has an innocent-sounding name and makes her own barbie dresses. If you were to get the “dressmaking bug,” her warm tone would encourage you that making your own patterns is worth the effort.

But don’t let all the sweetness fool you. This mother of two introduces herself with stories of childhood abuse, a heroin overdose, and the severe depression that has sometimes haunted her since.

“It’s difficult to talk about, but we need to,” she says, and she’s right. Her blog reminds me that strength can come in unexpected forms. Whether she’s making doll clothes or a better life for herself and her family, I say, “Keep on making, MissSarahAnne!”

60 While 60

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Everybody loves a good list, so I was happy to discover 60 While 60. If you ask me, creating a lineup of adventures sounds sounds like fine way to celebrate a birthday. (Especially when the list involves starting a blog!)

I appreciate the blog’s playful spirit, as evidenced by this recent foray into geocaching. When she gets to it, I’m ready to ready to hear this adventurer’s take on ziplining.

Hometown Memories

hometown_memories_quoteI hope Carol of Hometown Memories keeps feeling deviant. Her mixed-media art tells stories, including those of people who “just do not want to fit into the molds created by society.”

Her piece shown in Deviant Blogging is just one of many tales her work tells of a small coastal town in Maine.

I enjoy the undulating flow of art and words that come together throughout this blog.

Well, I hope you, like me, got some new ideas from these creators. Now, let’s go out there and keep making new things of our own.