Quarantine has lasted several months longer than I expected. Is anyone there?
If you grew up anything like I did, most of your earliest summer memories are filled with eating pizza by the pool, chasing friends in your neighborhood through the twists and turns of the park nearby, and the best part of the summer: waving good-bye to your parents to go to sleep-away camp for a few weeks. I grew up in a home that always had a copy of Southern Living on the kitchen table. Yet, my seemingly perfect home was slowly engulfed by the smoke of lies, manipulation, abuse, and a persistent culture of “nice girl silence.”
Going to summer camp was always my favorite part of the entire summer. It was the only time during the entire year that I got to escape the darkness that loomed inside my home. It was the only time I got to be myself. I made friends at my summer camp, who, from a young age, have been my closest companions. With the backdrop of vast acres of land for the horses, and massive, embracing trees which provided enough shade for groups of us, we roamed a familiar space year after year which reminded us that it was acceptable to be human, and feel human things.
We divulged our darkest secrets to each other. Stories between children about our parents, and what they do, and if we liked them, matured each year into deeper questions about our morals and philosophies- saturated with anecdotes from our lives about times our father’s forgot our birthdays or times we worried that we would be punished by God for wanting to have sex with our first love before marriage. Moments of vulnerability were routinely met with kindness by those among us at camp. Gentle reassurances that it is shitty for your dad to forget your birthday, or that some of us, already, had sex and promised us that our desire for human connection was not a sin.
Of course, summer camp does not last forever. We all must grow-up, eventually. (Right?) Personally, I avoided growing up for as long as I could. Having just graduated college, I knew that pressures of conformity would eventually become too restrictive to evade any longer. So I chose not to conform. I allowed myself to explore both the world around me and the mind occupying my body without fear of retribution from my inner critic.
What followed were a series of formative events which would eventually become responsible for the human behind the words you read today. As we enter a new realm of uncertainty, it’s these formative moments which plague my brain while I fall asleep to the sound of fireworks and familiar cars circling the neighborhood. I remember falling asleep night after night with my heart nearly beating out of my chest, knowing that safety was never a guarantee in my home. I know how it feels to fall asleep in fear that your door will open to a shadowy, sadistic figure in the hallway. That familiar fear has begun creeping up on me, today.
Armed Federal Agents capturing fellow American civilians- who have committed no crimes- to whisk them away in minivans elicits the most sinister and petrifying of fears. Brazen lawlessness has struck down it’s iron first in Portland, OR. And, yet again, I am the singular soul among my friends and family who has posited the question- “At what point must we flee?” I am watching COVID-19 ravage my community. I am hearing the constant whirring of helicopters reminding me I am being observed. Day after day, I see no mention of the concentration camps on the border on the news. No footage of the protestors being kidnapped by the same government sworn to protect their right to a peaceful assembly.
The dangers of COVID-19 have reduced my participation in our coveted democracy. Regardless, the pursuit of human rights demands my participation. So, here I am. Venturing into the internet to carefully wade into the paradox of this historic moment, with all it’s massive potential for freedom and equality- or it’s antithesis. We, as humans, are simply creatures of the flesh. We share similar fears, anxieties, and trauma’s. We share, perhaps less so recently, in our joy, unconditional love, and community. I feel nostalgic for the days of carefree summer afternoons tucked away in the rolling hills far away from home. Slowly, I feel less like the peaceful soul within those golden moments, and more like the fearful child that watched the looming shadows take shape in the hallways.