Dedicating this post to my temporary camper buddy. Blessing in disguise, I've decided that's what she was, although it's taking some time to make sense. She was my buddy for two days at this camp. I was assigned to her and my goal was to help her around and make this week fantastic.
Her name is Maya and she's 8 years old. My first indication of her existence was when I received her personal file which told me her basic information. Birthday, likes, dislikes, her condition. I was pumped. I really was. I had been so excited for this opportunity because I love working with kids. I really do. I love making them laugh, teaching them things, being a role model. I love kids. So when I got her information, my excitement grew. I remember talking to one of my new friends and we were both getting excited over our kids.
She came in kind of late with her brother because her parents got lost on the way to the camp location. So when all of the other counselors were interacting with their kids, I was sitting on the sidelines with another girl watching them. But she came in later on.
I thought we really hit it off. Her condition was not as severe as the others, as it mainly affected only academic performance. So she's a typical 8 year old girl. She was really friendly, though. She went around to almost all of the other kids to talk to them. She got especially excited about this one kid, Leo, who had been confined to a wheelchair. Her favorite color was purple. Oh my gosh, I was just so damn excited about her. It felt like a match. I remember feeling lucky that we had gotten paired up, and I knew that I would go home that day and tell my parents all about her. She left earlier because her brother had to go to a doctor's appointment.
I wrote about her. I mentioned how awesome it was to kind of have a mini-me. I spent a considerable amount of time looking up her condition to learn more about it. Fragile X. I had never heard of it before.
(Bio break: It's more prevalent in males, which apparently is what occurred in her brother, since his symptoms were more expressed. Reason? I'm just guessing because I don't know everything about it, but it's due to X-inactivation. Girls have two X chromosomes, boys only have one. The disorder is caused in an X chromosome. Only one X gets expressed in girls, as the other is inactivated, which would explain her lack of pronounced symptoms. With boys, though, that one X is getting expressed no matter what, it can't be "hidden". So maybe I only got like a 1 on that exam, but at least I've got little tidbits of knowledge, eat it, Coffey, kthanks)
I went to sleep and I looked forward to the next day. So uh. Next day. The theme was sports. Not my thing, but it was hers. So I thought this would run smoothly. We started off with yoga. I made sure she got to sit next to her new buddy, and she was happy about that. But she started to get sassy with me. You know. 8 year olds. I think I was sassy at that age, too. But only with my own parents. Not a volunteer who I had only spent a few hours with. Ok, it's getting a bit bitter on my side, but I'm trying to keep this balanced. So the sass started and she started avoiding me. I gave her some space.
Craft time. She doesn't like crafts, but I tried to make the experience enjoyable. Lunch time. We had a conversation about making a soccer team with all of her friends and she was laughing, but only to her friends. I've been sensing more negativity towards me, which... I guess is fine. That is honestly what kids do, so I ran with it. I wasn't offended, I was honestly just pleased that she was enjoying her new friends. They were laughing together and coloring and yes, it was cute.
What next, right, gym time. Cool. Here. Everyone is interacting with each other. Equipment flying around, the other teenagers are there trying to keep kids safe, the usual. I hand her a ball and she takes it, walks a bit, and says, "stop following me." I mean, it's my job to follow you, sweetheart, I signed a contract and sang the camp rule song that mentioned that we have to stick together. But I gave her space. It's going to sound really defensive and biased on my side, but I wasn't walking on her heels to begin with. I kept her in my sights, but she didn't even want me to look at her. Child, I haaave to. I stood against a wall and continued to watch her. Rules are rules are rules and they have to be followed.
But it escalated. She threw on her grumpy face and threw a tiny temper tantrum and here's where it all came out. "I don't want her to follow me." Fine, alright, I wasn't, I really was not. "She's a brown person." I'm aware, child. Brown all my life, fertilized, developed, born and raised. Long road, somewhat difficult, but child, I've enjoyed it. I mean, it looks like peanut butter, everyone loves peanut butter. "I wanted a white person." I love white people, too. Honestly, some of my favorite, most loved individuals are white, honey, I'm colorblind when it comes to people. But I'm here and I'm yours and I've tried my best to make you happy. I'm sorry I'm brown, in this case, since this was your week to enjoy and my genetics ruined that.
What really threw me, though, what was just -odd aside from the fact that this outburst came out of nowhere, was the fact that she was black, too! She was a fellow brown girl. Not to mention 50% more brown, if you want to get specific about genetics. She was a few shades darker than I was, too. So, I mean. And yes, here is where I'm starting to let out a bit of my confusion and anger.
She asked to switch counselors and spent the remaining three hours avoided my bitchin' brown self to chill with lighter people. At the end of the day, she went up to a counselor she had never interacted with before and hugged her and told her she loved her while making eye contact with me. Cute. I mean, she was a "brown person" too. So...I mean, the rationality is a bit cloudy.
Right. Because she's 8. And 8 year olds are supposed to be silly and irrational. Right. And as a mature teenager who is aware of this, I shouldn't have let her get to me. I should not have let her reduce me to tears in the camp bathroom. But I'm not going to lie and tell you guys that I didn't. Truth?
I'm still kind of angry about it. I'm still really hurt by it. I know that a lot of people have been telling me to grow up. But she hit me in my emotional crotch, the most sensitive part of me. Race has always been a big issue. Even though I've met people of other races who I would honestly die for, I still get a bit...insecure. I often find that I am the only black/brown/colored whatever person in a room. Classrooms, extracurricular activities, the outside world. I don't openly admit it, but it's often the first thing I notice. I expect it. When I walk into a new place, I always always always have it at the front of my mind to remind people that I'm not a stereotypical ghetto colored person. Before I set foot in my current high school, both of my parents reminded me that I was waling into a world that was 65% white.
Growing up, my dad would complain about being treated poorly by white people. He cannot describe people without mentioning their race. That's not an exaggeration. It's always one stereotype or the other. So. Up until high school, I have had this fear of white people. I expected them to judge me as soon as they saw me. I expected to have to work twice as hard to get them to like me. Every first meeting, every first interaction, I get reminded that I am black, at least partially, and I have to just be aware of it. I'm black. I'm black. I'm black. I am black. My biggest insecurity is my skin color and it's the most noticeable. Not my face, not my thighs (although they seriously need to go), not my stretch marks, not the way that I stutter sometimes and mix up sentences, not my lack of wealth. My skin color.
It's how I was raised. Perhaps the reason I'm so quiet. I've mentioned this before, but I'm too black for some people, just upon looking at me and I'm too white for black people upon viewing my personality. I can't put all of it into words, but this is just...agh, it's just huge.
She hit me right there. Right where it hurts the most. She's an 8-year-old, though. And 8-year-old who probably won't remember me at all. An 8-year-old who has a slight mental disability, so some would argue that *I* and the bad guy for feeling so negative towards her. But fuck you, it hurts.
I still call her my blessing in disguise because she gave me my first major race-related experience. Now that this happened, I know what feelings to expect when this happens again, because I know it'll happen again. I don't hate her. I uh...I honestly felt like punching her for a while. I still do sometimes. I'm just telling the truth, I know it's a terrible thought. I let things get to me really easily.
Anyway, uh, hm, yes, I quit the camp. She already has another counselor. They have extra counselors on hand and all of the campers are taken. I'd hate to make my mom drive me for 40 minutes to a place where a little girl will sass me out. Uh. So.