Summer Camp Speculations

Summer Camp Speculations

I just love kids so much. Honestly, sometimes just looking at a small child makes me want to cry, and I really don’t know why that is. I think part of it is because I so intensely want to believe in the amazing spirit of every single child I come across. I want to tell them how awesome they are, how super cool it is that they’re wearing a blue t-shirt, that they are holding their sibling’s hand, that they stop and take a picture of the sunset or a bug with their phone. I want to tell them how much of life they have to look forward to. I want to tell them to keep the positive attitude that they start off with, that conviction that they are perfect and cool and capable and life is just an adventure to live and learn from.

At what point does our society tell our kids that they’re not worth it? What eventually convinces kids that life is a drag, a trial to be tolerated until something better comes along? When do they lose their free spirit, their unshakable sense of self? Who comes up to them and tells them that all the cool things they like are dumb? When are they compelled to stop, look around, see what “everyone else” is doing, and drop what they really want to do just so they can be like “everyone else”?” When do they become convinced that it’s better to fit in with an unrealistic mold than it is to stay yourself?

Recently I’ve started to take a look back at my own life, and I wonder the same things about myself. I know I complain a lot about my family, but my experiences with them don’t begin to explain the intense feelings of self-hatred I experience. And I know from talking to my friends that I’m not the only one. There’s something fucked up about the younger generation, and it’s not our fault, and I’d give anything for this next generation of kids to not have to suffer through it.

I wonder every day what happens to 12-year-olds to make them want to kill themselves. I wonder what kind of hurt kids must have suffered through to become bullies. I wonder how many times it takes for a kid to be hurt before they shut down and are labeled with some kind of mental disorder. I wonder about all the creative minds we’re suppressing because they way they work doesn’t fit “the norm.” I wonder when it was decided that asking for help was a bad thing, so kids are forced to look stupid and adults don’t take the time to ask “Why?”, rather focusing on the “what”–what haven’t you done, what do you need to do to make up for it? I wonder what happened to make parents think that taking care of their kids is no longer a humane necessity but a duty that they perform out of free will and tolerance, and then hang this over their kids’ heads as some kind of threat. “We take care of you, but we don’t really have to, and you should be grateful we give you anything at all.” What is going on here?
All I wanted as a kid was for someone to tell me or show me that I was worth it. That I was worth believing in. It took me years to even realize that’s what I wanted, what I’ve been missing. And now that I’m in a new environment, surrounded by people who love me, support me, and believe in me, I can’t handle it. I don’t know what to do about it. I’m convinced that they must be wrong, that they must be lying to me. I’m so convinced I’m not worth anything that when someone tries to show me the contrary, I shut down, and sometimes start to avoid my closest friends just to get away from that confusing feeling. And the worst part of it is that I know I’m not the only one experiencing this. So many of the people I know are feeling these same feelings and harboring these same thoughts.

And they keep getting younger. One of my precollege girls–she could have only been 10 or 11–wrote a message on the white board at least four times during our 2-week class. “Life is not meaningful.” And she signed it with her name.