A lot of youngsters across Louisiana have been heading off to boarding camps this summer, an experience that can bring worries for campers and parents alike.
Those concerns apparently haven’t changed very much since 1933, when F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a letter to his daughter Scottie while she was away at camp. Fitzgerald, best known for writing “The Great Gatsby,” attempted to sort out for his daughter the things that she should worry about at camp and the things that she shouldn’t.
His note to Scottie resurfaced recently in “Letters of Note,” a beautiful new book that collects some of history’s liveliest correspondence.
We share some of Fitzgerald’s observations for the benefit of any family that’s had a child at camp this season. Here’s his list of things that campers should be concerned about:
Worry about courage.
Worry about cleanliness.
Worry about efficiency.
Worry about horsemanship.
Here’s Fitzgerald’s list of things campers shouldn’t worry about away from home:
Don’t worry about popular opinion.
Don’t worry about dolls.
Don’t worry about the past.
Don’t worry about the future.
Don’t worry about growing up.
Don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you.
Don’t worry about triumph.
Don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault.
Don’t worry about flies.
Don’t worry about insects in general.
Don’t worry about parents.
Don’t worry about boys.
Don’t worry about disappointments.
Don’t worry about pleasures.
Don’t worry about satisfactions.
That’s a pretty good guide to navigating summer camp — and life in general. Fitzgerald’s own life was a troubled one, and his experience reminds us that it’s easier to give advice for mental serenity than to follow it.
But summer is about stretching ourselves a little, even if we don’t meet our expectations or those of others. Fitzgerald’s list of worries and nonworries seems at least as good as all those self-help books on the market — a promising how-to manual for this summer, and all the seasons of the year.