Tawonga Brain

In this post, Specialist In-Training (SIT) Julia-Rose K., who has been working closely with the Communications Team for the past two weeks, writes about her journey of self love through her ten years as a camper and how the In-Training program brought that journey full circle. A big thank you to Julia-Rose for her hard work and dedication.

Tawonga Brain by Julia-Rose K. 

With the end of Session II approaching, the fact that I will not be returning to my home away from home next summer is beginning to set in.

By the time I had turned six, I had already experienced many struggles that built a strong maturity from early on.  A lot of my childhood memories remind me of grieving the loss of my father and stressing while my mother underwent years of chemotherapy and breast cancer treatment. Given what I went through at such an early age, it is incredible that Tawonga offered a space where my only obligation was to be a kid. Tawonga taught me how to be vulnerable, allowing me to be my rawest self.

This summer, my tenth at Tawonga, I returned as a SIT with some of my lifelong friends made during my first year as a Session II camper in 2007.

One of my most vivid memories was my first year as a camper at the Women’s Campfire, a gathering of every Tawonga female-identified staff and camper ranging in shapes, sizes, beliefs, and identities. At eight-years-old, I sat at the campfire, shy and fresh-faced amongst many of these soon-to-be friends.

At the campfire, each staff participant shares advice in the form of whatever speaks to them, be it a poem, story, or song. Additionally, every year, the women at the campfire recite the poem Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou to open the campfire. Over the years I have come to memorize this poem and it has become something my friends and I comfort each other with when we are feeling down to reaffirm the beauty in one another.

Each campfire closes with every Tawonga woman on staff sharing one thing she can teach and one thing she is still learning. Much of this invaluable advice I continue to hold close to this day and I have come to understand what it means to be a phenomenal woman —  anything you want it to be. The community of Tawonga women introduced to me that night taught me life-long lessons of self-love. Subconsciously, I learned how I want to respect myself and others.

As a pre-teen, like many young girls, I dealt with the consequences of a wavering self-confidence. Seeing women share their stories and advice empowered me to share my deepest self through my writing. Tawonga encouraged the exploration of my writing skills. I began writing poetry and it was not until my last year as a camper, entering the 10th grade, when I was motivated to share my poetry. I was empowered to share a spoken word piece during the closing campfire last summer titled Tawonga Brain, edited here from its original form for length.

 Tawonga Brain

love me for my personality 

love how you got that lovely mentality

lovely like sunshine , sunny

have me laughing at things that aren’t even that funny 

smiling, sunshining, sweet like honey

sun butter and summer lovers

lilypads, lakeside, paddle boating

friendship bracelets and summer

day floatin’

Tawonga Brain,

feeling centered, feeling great

oh sweet mother, I cant wait

i’m coming home to my safe place 

where I’m not alone

lonely is boring

whats more is, you can’t be lonely 

snuggled up to twelve sleeping

beauties, even if they’re snoring

so hold me close, 

and keep me sane

I’ll be good on my 

Tawonga Brain. 

This year at Tawonga, my experience brought these lessons of self-love full circle when it became my turn to begin teaching younger Tawongans. In my time as a SIT, I am learning exactly how to enforce the Tawonga mission of positive self-identity and self-esteem. My subconscious self-love as a camper has become a responsibility to pass on to Tawongans younger than me. Even though as a human I will always be learning, being a SIT has made me realize that I now have so much to teach.

Phenomenal woman, that’s me.

Below enjoy photos of the day. Look out for more photos this evening.