Rediscovering my authenticity at summer camp

Millie Ronkainen

Millie Ronkainen

I didn’t realize I needed to discover who I was without the influence of my parents until I reached my senior year of high school.

At the time, I was dating someone who told me I was not fun because I was not spontaneous, I was too serious, and I wanted to learn in my classes.

He discouraged me from being my authentic self, and this “I’m not fun” mentality followed me past the end of our relationship through two years of college.

I was finally able to come to terms with this issue over the summer as a staff member at Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp. I was one of 20 college students who led activities, prayer and teaching sessions for third-graders through high school seniors.

Many of my colleagues were more outgoing and charismatic than I am. Naturally, I’m more quiet, serious and less spontaneous than others, and I talked myself into thinking these traits made me less fun and less valuable as a staff member.

Because of this, I spent the first half of the summer trying to be more outgoing and spontaneous. It made me miserable and uncomfortable. One day it occurred to me that I felt so unfulfilled because I was not using the strengths God had given me.

My quietness is useful. I notice people on the edges of groups, lonely people with no friends. I found that one of my strengths is talking to them and getting them interacting with other people to shake their loneliness. My seriousness is also a strength because I can gain respect from people very easily with very few words. Unlike some of the other staff members, I could quiet a room full of campers in two seconds. My love for learning translates into a passion for teaching, a strength in that it kept campers focused and interacting during the lessons I led.

As I settled into the role that I realized I needed to play at camp, I became more comfortable and started enjoying camp a lot more. I also noticed that I became more easy going with the campers and even became spontaneous.

But it was only through letting myself be who God created me to be that I found that peace. I had to trust him enough to believe he gave me a set of strengths that were just as valuable as everyone else’s, and that it was okay to be different from other people. I had to trust that I could find peace through God and God alone, that his approval was enough to satisfy me.

This summer I learned I am fearfully and wonderfully made, a beautiful creation and when I am using my God-given strengths I can positively impact the people around me. This summer, I finally discovered what it is like to live authentically as God created me.