After the briefing session last Friday, camp became somewhat confrontational and to put it bluntly, difficult. I was overwhelmed by the background of the campers that we’d be working with and the effort my friends had put in to make the event a success. The early morning starts, 4-5 hours of sleep each night, and the fact that they had completely raised the bar to create an environment where these girls could feel comfortable enough to just be themselves. Even though I was present, observant, and assisting where required, it was both physically and emotionally draining. So much so that by the time Sunday afternoon came around, in between bump-out, lunch, and watching these girls leave to go back to their foster homes and reality, for the next hour and two, I just couldn't quite contain the tears.
Before this, I’d had one experience with DOCS when they had called to see if my sister was safe. It had been after the ‘beer bottle incident’ and I had been studying at the UNSW.
My father who opens all my mail, had had a few drinks with one of his mates, and after he’d left, I'd gotten into trouble and things quickly escalated.
I had been working in the payroll office for a non government organisation and decided that I was going to take on some extra shifts and study part time so when the student administration fee bill arrived for a full time study load naturally I was waiting for the correct bill to come along. By not paying the bill however and cutting back on my studies my father saw this as being disrespectful. I was clearly disinterested in my studies and after all that my migrant parents had done for my life and to put me through private school the least that I could have done was take my studies seriously.
In the midst of my father yelling and cursing, he had also thrown his beer across my room – and his aim was on point! The VB bottle had grazed the left side of my head and cut it open and for a brief moment, I wasn't quite sure what had actually happened. Fear had left me desensitised, and I don't recall feeling blood rushing down the side of my head before my mum started screaming. My sister had gone into the room next door to call the ambulance. They came with the police and off to Liverpool Hospital I went. I had no idea that the ride to hospital would cost me an absolute fortune, and it was only after I started working in health insurance did I put two and two together! Note to self: Take out health insurance or ambulance coverage!
Back in those days, having been extremely sheltered, I had an emotional cloud over my head and to even consider taking out a restraining order on my own father was unheard of or even a thought I could fathom. Whether it was cultural or generational, most people I knew seemed to treat it like it was nothing and no one ever wanted to get involved in anyone else’s business. But perhaps that only happened in my world because even the cute doctor in ED was baffled as to why a 20-year-old grown woman was still living at home.
I still remember that moment and the days following clear as day. I can count all the things I did wrong, how I could've better handled the situation, how I could have lied, all the stories I could have made up, how I could have been smarter in my approach and not so stupid to let that incident happen. I’m sure from my parent’s perspective and as a 20-year-old, it was my fault for getting myself into that situation knowing full well what I was dealing with. Even my mum was frustrated with me for not standing up for myself.
As a 34-year-old woman looking back I was scared shitless to breathe when in the same room as my father. And whilst I now understand the concept of not being responsible for someone else’s actions, it’s challenging not to feel responsible. After all I was always the one that instigated arguments and fights between my parents because of something I’d done, intentionally or unintentionally, for getting my sister into trouble, for consistently creating unpleasant situations by just being plain clumsy and opening my mouth but most of all for just being me.
I'm returning to camp this month as the Atmosphere (Creative) Director. Ironically the theme is ‘be you’. I have no idea as to how broken these teen girls are, where they’ve been, what they’ve gone through, or where their life’s journey will take them. All I know is that every person who ever set foot into this world deserves to at the very least be loved and accepted for who they are. And in doing so, I hope that I can use my creativity to inspire confidence and freedom in these girls to be exactly who they are, so that they may come to know that that is enough in and of itself.