When the opportunity to volunteer for Girls Rock Denver's 2013 camp came around, I was hesitant. My adult mind began running through all of the reasons I couldn't possibly be involved again this year. What if I couldn't contribute the seventy hours of volunteer time necessary? What if I encountered some fellow counselors wh0 weren't the nicest people, like last year? What if I couldn't allow myself to have fun because I want to control everything, like I do in my normal adult life?
Instead of focusing on those inane grownup problems, however, I decided to imagine the best case scenario, the one where I meet new people, hang out and hopefully mentor some cool kids and, most of all, have a really good time for seven straight days.
Having been a counselor last year, I felt like I kind of knew the ropes this time around. As a "band manager" at camp, I'd spend a lot of my time corralling my band to workshops, instrument instruction, snack time and other social activities.
Being a band manager is probably one of the easier jobs: you don't have to have any musical instrument experience and the time you spend with your band is mostly about overseeing their creative process. You make sure every girl in your band gets an adequate space to speak her ideas, but other than that, you get to sit back and observe the magic happening. They pick their own band name and stage names, write their own music and lyrics. They empower themselves to rule at whatever they choose to do in their band, and you get to enjoy the resulting performance at the end of the week when they take the stage.
Since my own band dissolved earlier this year, I've been wandering aimlessly through my social life. I lost a huge part of my identity when we broke up. I'll always be a part of the community that my band contributed to, but now, I'm just a person at a show. I'm no longer Bree from Night of Joy. I'm just me.
Not being in my own band during this year's camp, I somehow felt a little less legitimate. As other counselors were showing off music videos and Bandcamps of their work in the break room, I sat staring at my computer. I had no shows coming up and none of my own band-related activities to brag about. And then I remembered that camp isn't about me.
I also came to understand that some of these girls weren't necessarily aiming to be in a band, either. They just came to camp to have fun. At Girls Rock, we teach a lot of awesome workshops on getting along with your band, preparing for a show and stage presence. These lessons are ultimately supposed to be helpful for the girls as they work throughout the week with a group of strangers on a project that takes a lot of courage. But they don't care if you were or are in a band -- you're just an adult.
The kids don't care who you are. They don't care how many bands you've been in, how many places you've played, how many tours you've been on. You're there to guide them through the week, helping facilitate fun and learning. They don't care about your ego.
At the end of the week, on Saturday, I got to enjoy the end result of that by watching the Black Fireworks, the band that I -- and my fellow Westword contributor Robin Edwards -- mentored, kill it on stage at the Oriental Theater in front of a packed house.
The show, as always, made me weepy with pride, but it also gave me perspective. It meant camp was over and I would have to go back to my regular adult life where I don't get to be around awesome younger people who don't play by adult social rules.
I totally get why people become teachers (though I know there are many more reasons and it is much more complicated than I think): you get to see other humans achieve great things on a daily basis, and your job is to help them, in any way possible.
After camp one evening, as the counselors met to decide on the line-up for the final showcase, I had no doubt that the Black Fireworks could handle the opening slot. Our girls had their song down, their own stage names and every move planned.
When we told the Black Fireworks that they would, in fact, be the first ones to perform in front of the audience at the end of the week, they seemed frightened for a minute. But just like in their five days of practices, our little quartet of rockers pulled off a killer show. And watching the Black Fireworks play for those three minutes out of dozens of hours of volunteer time was worth it.
There is nothing like working with rad individuals who were born after NSYNC's heyday to make you realize how little the daily grind of adult life matters sometimes.
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