Shedding cynicism at summer camp

Lessons learned from a trip to Happy Startup Summercamp.

By: Amie Knights,   2 minutes


Credit: Happy Startup School

The idea of Happy Startup Summercamp had my inner cynic wrestling with my caravan-dwelling, fireside-singing self. While I’ve always been an open-minded kind of person, there was one thing that genuinely terrified me about this trip to Sussex. Hugging.

The Happy Startup School’s Summercamp is a gathering of like-minds. All on a journey to build happier, healthier businesses. Feeling a natural kinship with this tribe and wanting to see what it was all about, we hopped on the cross-country train to deliver a storytelling workshop. All the while the prospect of hugging strangers loomed over me.

And then it happened.

I’m a pretty tactile person, not averse to a cheek kiss at first meet. But there was something about hugging at camp that had my hackles up. And then it happened. After a full-on few days of talks, workshops, group song lead by a bearded comedian running a secular church, and boundlessly inspiring conversations with people over dinner and wine, something shifted.

It could have been how Ruth Anslow from hiSbe laid her heart on the line. Or how Eiji Han Shimizu discovered the road to happiness was paved with kindness. Or maybe it was the fact that, from the struggles to the triumphs, every tale told that weekend reminded me what makes me happy. And that’s lending my ear and capturing stories from the people and spaces around me.

Why settle for balance? Why not tip the scales and give it all?

Whatever it was, after some wine, dancing, beer, more dancing, and rum shared by a fire burning in a pig-shaped wheelbarrow, someone asked for a hug. (Asking for a hug is weirder than just taking one, FYI). We hugged for over six seconds. Because apparently after six seconds of simply hugging the human body has an actual physical reaction. And it’s not to get the hell out of there, as it turns out.

So the worst had happened. And it wasn’t awful. In fact it got me thinking. People say life is about balance. But why settle for balance? Why not tip the scales and give it all, let loose and fling yourself into new and terrifying and uncertain places?

So on the final day I faced death at Eiji’s deathbed meditation. And survived. Only to dive into the most uncomfortable, yet rewarding exercise I’ve ever done, where I was repeatedly bombarded by the question ‘who are you?’. My natural inclination was to joke. To get the hell out of there. But the weekend had taught me to soldier on, tip the scales and dive in head first.

And so I might not have a hilarious cynicism-tinged anecdote to tell, but instead I actually learned a lot. About me. My purpose. And where I’m heading. Cringe away.

Thanks for having me The Happy Startup School.


*All photos from The Happy Startup School

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