The Dumpster Filling Crew

It’s sometimes surprising in retrospect which things were important for success and which weren’t. For six years in middle school and high school I worked towards the goal of winning a wrestling State Championship. My senior year it was almost too easy. The guy I beat in the finals was someone I had previously defeated several times that season. I know I earned that victory through every drop of sweat and blood and every day of lean eating and every time I mentally prepared myself days in advance for a match. Without the insanely skilled coaching of Gregg Quilty, none of us would have succeeded. But beyond that x-factor, there were also important reasons for my success.

Through the years I still think of two particular things that made it so that I would win. In the summer of 2004, before my senior year, the summer camp I worked at flooded. Like Noah’s Ark kind of flooded. The staff stuck around and lived through the disaster even though the camp got shut down. If we hadn’t worked our tails off for 5 weeks literally filling dumpster after dumpster with the buildings and program supplies of camp, and bleaching and re-bleaching everything, camp wouldn’t have opened again in 2005. That choice to work through a disaster gave me immeasurable pride and immeasurable belief in the power of teamwork and the resiliency of people.

The second thing that I think contributed to winning states that I have come to understand at a different level in the last few years was that we had access to a weight room. Several of us spent every free moment in high school hanging around the weight room. Being a gym rat meant working out a lot, it meant camaraderie with other wrasslers, and it meant that we were physically stronger every day. Five years of spending time at the gym every day meant a lot. When the high school closed the gym except to students in an official “lifting” PE class, it was no surprise to me that the wrestling team got much worse.

It’s often not the things we think that lead to our success. If we’d had a successful, emergency-free summer in 2004, I’m sure I would have loved it, and I’m sure I would have had memories of all the fun times. But instead, I have a core of resiliency and strength to rely on that was forged through painful, muddy, disgusting days of heartbreaking labor. Last fall as an old friend was getting ready to move down to Dallas, TX, he had a bunch of us over for a goodbye party. The ten or so people who showed up all happened to be from the summer of 2004, and there was a tangible sense of family there. Catching up with people, some of whom I hadn’t seen in five or more years, I realized how strong the bonds from that summer are. I have worked at a summer camp for 12 different summers, and that is by far the one where the staff were molded into a family the most.

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