Big Bertha and back-floating

“Are we gonna see Big Bertha today?” Her excited face peered up at me.

The other campers were quick to join in. “Ooh, yeah, can we see Big Bertha? Please?”

I paused. “Um, I guess we’ll see . . . You just never know.”

It was a safe answer. Especially considering I had no idea who Big Bertha was. It certainly wasn’t another member of staff. There was a lot of wildlife around the camp (appropriate since it was an outdoor center). A raccoon maybe? A giant one? I knew it couldn’t be some sort of reptile because there was no way the girls would be that excited. I had no clue.

But I’d gotten good at pretending I knew what was going on. Mostly because I’d had a lot of practice.

I’m not normally clueless, I promise. It was just my first week as a counselor at a camp I’d never even attended before. The day campers I was supervising had been there longer than I had, some of them entering their third or fourth summers there. They knew every trail, every shortcut, every camp game.

I was still trying to figure out how to get to the dining hall. I’d been thrown in the deep end and expected to glide across the water.

The thing is, I’m not really a swimmer.

But I’m a darn good back-floater. So I improvised. I learned how to “let” the veteran campers lead the way through the trails, how to observe the other counselors so I could learn from them, how to exude an attitude of “I’ve got this.”

Sometimes I still feel like that first-time camp counselor, improvising my way through life and trying to pretend I’ve got things sorted out.

Confession: I don’t really know what I’m doing.

And for the first time in a long while, I have no concept of what my life will look like a year from now. The career plan I used to have was derailed when I was laid off a few months ago, and my back-up options failed to solidify with every application I submitted, catapulting me into the wilderness, struggling to find Big Bertha.

The positive thing is, I’m getting pretty good at this improvising thing. I don’t think a single year of my life in the past decade has gone how I expected. Don’t get me wrong—I definitely don’t want to have every second of my life planned out for the next five years. I’d lose my mind. I like the element of surprise, of change. But I failed to predict how much change would swirl through my life over the years, wreaking havoc every time I started to feel like I had things organized.

But I’m a darn good back-floater. It’s not what I expected, but if I’ve gotta back float my way through life in order to stay above water, I’m on it.

Oh, and eventually I discovered that Big Bertha wasn’t a raccoon but a tree. A giant, unmoving tree, just waiting for me to find her. And I did.


  1. Laurie Tomlinson
    Sep 10, 2014 @ 18:47:20

    Love this. Everything about it.


    • halee
      Sep 10, 2014 @ 20:56:45

      Thank you, Lovely! I try.


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