I’m writing to ask why I was not hired for the summer of 2016.
Is it because I refused to make the kids do pushups, instead taking the time to patiently explain camp policies and values?
Is it because I connected with the queer kids on a level no one else could, and was able to talk with them about their coming out, dysfunctional families, fractured support systems, and questions about their gender/sexual identities?
Is it because when one of the girls was in danger of harming herself, I was the one her friends told when asking for help?
Is it because I spent two hours of one evening answering one student’s fascinated questions about the lgbtq community, saying things some of the other RAs in the room didn’t even know about?
Is it because I made food for the kids and helped them out in the kitchen?
Is it because I made coconut ice cream for the vegan student when all the other students got ice cream?
Is it because every Wednesday and Friday I made sure there was a vegetarian option for the orthodox Catholics who couldn’t eat meat on those days?
Is it because after an argument with one of the girls about race and labelling others, I told her it was okay to be angry and walked with her as she explained herself and cried?
Is it because I told the kids that as RAs we were not infallible, and that we were learning from them as well?
Is it because I made boob jokes with the high school senior who later wrote to me thanking me for being the older sister she never had?
Is it because I had fascinating, productive conversations about gender theory with the philosopher kid no one could stand?
Is it because when the large, scary-tempered middle schooler got yelled at for not doing his homework, I took him aside afterward to thank him for reaching out and apologizing that I hadn’t helped him sooner?
Is it because when one of the girls showed signs of depression, I talked to her to find out what was wrong?
Is it because I asked one of our Latina girls to teach me phrases in her language?
Is it because I listened to the annoying kid’s rants in my class and thanked him for his contributions, seeing the big grin on his face when he heard those words from me?
Is it because I sat through a Batman marathon with the two kids that wanted to because no one else would?
Is it because on my days off I continued to plan activities with my kids and tell them I would be there to do things when they asked?
Is it because when one girl forgot her money, I secretly bought the gem stone she’d been admiring to surprise her with later?
Is it because I listened to all the random thoughts of the sweet little boy the teacher ignored?
Is it because I explained to the girls no one likes what they were doing wrong, and continued to face their wrath at every step despite the fact that they showed that they hated me?
Is it because I hosted a hair dye party in my room when my queer kids initiated me into their peculiar brand of punk culture?
Is it because I listened to the boy with Asperger’s as he ranted or looked into the tiniest of things when most of the others ignored him or tried to get rid of him?
Is it because I listened to the white ghetto girl who didn’t know shit about diversity, but who still had things to say and needed someone to tell her what she missed?
Is it because I volunteered to teach my class even after being told I could not be paid for it?
Is it because I cried in front of the kids because I was beyond not showing them I was human?
I’m not dumb, I know none of these are reasons. But maybe when you read them, you’ll understand what you lost when you fired me.
I know you probably fired me because last summer I was struggling with depression, self-loathing, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. It’s probably because I needed a little extra support from my supervisors to get me through a week. It’s probably because I was honest with the kids and told them I’d been through a breakup and when my uncle died. Or maybe it’s because of my gender identity, and that’s why you can’t tell me about it.
Or it’s for other reasons I don’t know, which apparently are not worth telling me so I can grow from them.
I hope the first day of training goes well; I hope the new RAs get along with the old ones, and everyone has a chance to learn and tell their story. I hope you all have a fantastic summer–and even if it doesn’t sound like it, I mean that sincerely.
Because who could spend a summer with those kids and not chalk it up with the best days of their life?
You’re never going to read this letter, because it wouldn’t do any good if I sent it. But I hope at some point you reflect on the person you rejected and wonder what it would have been like if you’d kept them.
Because every hour of every day this summer I’m going to think of those kids. I’m going to wonder what they’re doing and ache over the conversations and experiences I’m missing.
Have a great summer. Tell the kids I said hi. If they ask, I’ll leave it up to you to explain why I couldn’t come back.