Summer Camp 2023 – what it did for me, and what I can do for you because of it
Summer Camp 2023
Happy Start Up School Summer Camp. My annual jaunt to the Sussex countryside to hang out with 149 other high vibe, beautiful, soulful business people, every September.
It’s a place where I always connect with my kind of people, the people who get what it’s like to be in what can sometimes feel like a lonely place – running a business. And who want to have a ridiculous amount of fun, and a ridiculous amount of depth and connection.
The worst thing about Summer Camp is the comedown. The best thing about Summer Camp is the comedown. The comedown is both a luxurious experience and a bit of a painful one. BDSM at its best.
To try and download it, and deal with the comedown, the feeling of love and the lack, the lust and the longing from what is one of the best weekends of my year, and the gorgeous learning that came from it, I decided to write a series of love letters.
Love letters to people who were present at Summer Camp. They had enriched my life in some way over the past year since the last camp, or new people who had quickly become special people, during that weekend.
I found that when I wrote from a place of love and gratitude for all that these special people brought, I was better placed to really understand the shifts that had taken place within me over the weekend. Summer Camp is always a good benchmark for me. I often look back at things I’ve done or ways of being and ask myself was it “before Summer Camp?” or “after Summer Camp?”. The journey travelled every year is a new one. And a great point of celebration for how I’ve shifted.
I decided that it was selfish to write these love letters about these special humans, and not share them, with them. So five people received a random heart bomb from me out of the blue. Sorry not sorry! Love is something that comes easy to me (the Greek “Philia” type love, not the Disney Princess mushy stuff!), and it fills me with so much joy to express it, so it was a selfish act in some ways. I needed that love fix on an intravenous drip post Summer Camp, and I gave it out in lots of little parcels.
I learned through writing these little love missiles, and the incredible conversations that have ensued since them, that the weekend had enabled me to do so much, become so much and have so much, that I did not realise until I started the love letters. Here’s what I learned…
— On Letting Go —
I had let go of a sense of grief and abandonment I had recently felt in some big changes happening in my business, and the departure of my business bestie who provided me with so much joy, collaboration and inspiration. I realised I had let go of the final little traces of discomfort, that I could fully let her go, celebrate her, take care of her and create all this for myself without anyone else by my side.
— On the Map —
I stopped waiting for other people to show me the way when I already knew the way. I’ve got the bloody map already, and I need to stop waiting for people to tell me when it’s time for the trip. I know when… it’s now. I’m packed, ready to go, with the car keys in my hand.
— On Self Love —
I gained a higher love for myself. I’ve been loosely abundant in self-esteem since I quit the corporate world 6 years ago. This is the next level. An acceptance of who I truly am and loving her, rather than just giving her a little conditional love every so often.
— On Being Cared For —
I learned there was someone there, taking care of me from a far, keeping an eye out and ready to swoop in if I dropped emotionally. That was special. He was also there secretly being my champion, watching my spark he knows I have at my core, playing out for everyone to benefit from. He whom had helped me access it in the first place. I learned that even if I don’t know it in the moment, people care a lot about me. In moments of a vulnerability hangover or uncertainty, I won’t doubt that anymore.
— On “the Spark“–
I saw and felt my spark in real time. To feel it, to own it, and see what so many people had been telling me for years, was liberating, and felt like an internal party in my body. A friend said “knowing I’m out there burning my fire” was part of their joy that weekend. They saw it, and I know they weren’t the only one. I’ve come to a true acceptance of it, and I love it.
— On Sexy Soulfulness —
I noticed how unconsciously competent I am at flitting between the mischievous, sexy, flirty, funny party girl, to the deep, soulful, space holding, curious, compassionate human, that I am. One of my friends told me after Summer Camp how “it’s lovely to be with you in all your energies”. Yep. All my god damn energies – there’s lots of them and I’m feeling so free in accessing and using them all now. I don’t have to compromise on them, it’s not an “either/ or”, it’s them both, whenever I need to be in them.
— On Safe Spaces —
I appreciated the safe spaces I can hold for people to really step into their vulnerability and by doing so, I feel so loved by the way they have entrusted me with their precious pain. It hurts me to see them in pain, but I feel fortunate to feel into it with them and loved in that they chose me to help access their pain and work through it.
— On New Friendships —
I made a great friend who I did not know before camp. I’ve shared sadness, confusion and liberation, felt regretful and reassured, and laughed uncontrollably with her. She 100% showed up for me in all the ways I needed, without me asking. I love bombed the shit out her.
— On New Identities —
I better understood how people see me. I received a new understanding of my identity. A perspective shared from someone who I did not connect whilst at with at camp, yet they felt safe to give me their view on how they see me, how they felt me – the way others see me but no-one had had the courage to tell me. It was possibly one the nicest and truest surmising of my energy. I did not love bomb him… think I had better go do that now.
— On Goodbye’s Becoming Hello’s —
I didn’t realise that by stepping into love that I would also attract an unexpected connection out of the blue, with someone who I hadn’t spent any time with over the weekend. A fleeting moment of laughter and mischief during the closing ritual seemed to have set these wheels in motion. A truly honest and vulnerable friendship that seems to have covered many years, in a matter of hours. All thanks to a simple “goodbye.” Only at Summer Camp can a “goodbye” with a stranger become an “hello” to a special friend.
The Shifts & Journey from 2022 to 2023
I wish I had written this account the day after Summer Camp, when I was still high on the fumes of fresh countryside air, spilt wine and happy beating hearts. Today (2 days post camp) my heart is heavy, but yesterday it was light and joyful. That made it so easy to step into love. Today I feel in lack. See, the god damn comedown, it plays with your head!
You think you have clarity and then a little emotion creeps up on you and it wants to be understood. Here’s what it wanted me to express. The emotion made me sad, and then liberated and excited that I had become something completely different this year in comparison to last year.
At Summer Camp last year, it became very clear that I was suffering with a disorder that had haunted me since I was a child. Through the beauty of things that happened that year at Summer Camp, and the sadness of admitting this, 8 weeks later, I was formally diagnosed with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).
Summer Camp 2022 was the catalyst for a lot of friendships, intimacies, and understandings about myself, and opening my heart up fully and bravely to confront this poison. The words for this punishment I caused myself, I have not yet found, but I will speak about when I find the right narrative. But for now, I’ve spent the past year searching for the solace I sought in accepting my whole self, including my facial and body image. This held me back in my business… BIG TIME!
At Summer Camp this year I was on fire. In my full element. An honest and real understanding of what it means to be in this body, owning my body and having a human experience. Salsa dancing the hell out of my “Stick It on DJ Set” and watching all the happy faces following me and feeling into what I was feeling. It reminded me again of what my spark looks and feels like.
I had moments when the lack of mirrors to check, modify, change outfit several times (yes, I said outfit not clothes!) or lack of freshly washed, neatly curled hair fucked with my head a little. The routine that would keep me safer was not accessible to me. But instead of fading into the background to hide what used to be my ugliness, I donned that bikini and pushed my boundaries. I owned my sexuality and my body and didn’t really give shit what people felt about that. That’s a real first for me.
Funny how when people see a (sexually) alive woman, the misconceptions they make about her. And I know they have; some have told me. It would have been easy for me to sink back into the old, grossed out and boxed me after that feedback. Yet unless they know me, they’ll never understand the courage I’ve created and pain I’ve endured to show up like that. Others came and told me how me showing up like that has encouraged them to get more into who they are and upon hearing my full story exploring this, has given them the opportunity to explore their own sexualness.
That’s a really interesting take away for me to reflect on as part of this come down. I know when I’m in that energy, I feel alive, my best self. I need to some-how put this feeling into a capsule, a pill I can pop every day, so that I’m constantly reminded of this aliveness.
My journey with BDD is so far from over. It’s a constant, every day, to be conscious about my narrative, check in on myself, look for evidence and be validated. It takes up so much of my time, but I’m getting good at letting it go now. I didn’t realise just how much better I am getting, and how far the journey of my recovery has taken me. And it no longer holds me back in my business as much as it did. I’m gradually getting braver.
What Has This Got to Do With Workplace Culture?
Well… maybe I should conclude this with how we should love bomb each other at work (and yes we should definitely do that!), how we can find friendships at work in the most unlikely of places, or how when we look in the mirror we don’t always see the truth, and it takes a closer inspection to really see the beauty of what you have. I can try and link all this back in a metaphorical sense, but in all honesty, I don’t want to do that.
I like being true about me, so that you get the essence of who you are working with, when you deploy me and the Culture Crew to get stuck into helping you find your new cultural rhythm. Being true to yourself and doing the self-work is critical in how I run my business, and the support and shifts I help happen in organisations. None of this work would be possible if I didn’t do this reflective and soul-searching work. I can’t help create soulful organisations if I don’t get down and dirty with my own soul!
Organisations need to do the same thing. The reflective and soul-searching work.
Let’s get deep and messy about what the beating heart of the organisation really means and feels like to everyone who experiences it. Just like us humans, it’s difficult to fully understand it unless you embrace all the complexity that it’s built on. And it’s hard to shift and get better if you don’t know what you don’t know.
That’s why I take so much joy in Culture Coaching and running my Culture Camp Programmes, so that you too can have a Summer Camp experience for how you show up in your culture, the part you play in curating it and understand the soul of it. I’ll be there to work through the clunkiness of the truth, to hold the space for the elation and celebration once you’ve realised the full potential you have in your organisation, and for when you need to wade through the culture comedown. If you want me to help you on that journey, you can let me know here.