It was the first day of my camp and I couldn’t believe how nervous I was

on

‘Is it
really that bad?’ I thought. ‘Don’t worry and don’t think about getting
home early.’

At that
moment, my Nana handed me a booklet that outlined the basic steps my camp would
go through, while I looked at the timetable to make sure I’d be able to
participate. The whole thing was so confusing and I could feel my eyes getting
bigger with every page that I turned. In fact I felt like I was going to pass
out. As I turned the page after the ‘preparation’ section, I began to panic,
I’d be spending the whole next day with all these other people, and everytime I
tried talking to my classmates I quickly realized that they either couldn’t
understand or just didn’t care.

‘This is so
stupid’, I thought, my whole body was shaking, I wanted to run out of the
compound and forget all the horrible things I had to endure, but the more I
thought about it the more I knew I couldn’t, and I remembered how my best friend
had cried about it when I couldn’t come to her camp. Even now, I didn’t know
how to explain it – I had wanted to go to her but I knew it would be easier for
me to hide my panic from her. It wouldn’t do any good to scream with my eyes
wide open.

“Mum, come on,”
I could hear my mum say, “Let’s get this out of the way. You can’t come
home at three o’clock”.

I nodded
and looked at my mum with pleading eyes, “Can I come home at three then?”

My
eagerness was getting the better of me, and I knew that she would say yes.

“OK… go and
do your stuff mum, I’ll get the car and we’ll take a spin there, OK?”
I said nervously.

“Alright…”
she replied with a little smile, but as she turned to face me, I saw that she
was crying – one of her eyes was nearly swollen shut. “I’m sorry mummah,” she
said. “I don’t know what to do,” she said and suddenly I realized the reason why
all these years I had struggled to sit still. I was so used to this I hadn’t
realised the full effect.

“I’m not used
to this” I said and I couldn’t hold it in anymore.

“You and me
are different, I’ve always had to work hard for everything I get,” she said. “But
since I got you, it gets the better of you.”

I
looked helplessly at her. “What do I do?”

She
was silent for a while.

“I wish you
could stop this,” she said.

I thought
that I was going to start crying, she put her hand on my head and took the
back of it in her other hand. This had never happened to me before.

“You’ll be
fine, you’re strong.”

That
nervousness was gone and I felt the biggest rush I had ever felt. She was right
– all my problems were really small compared with what my mum and dad were
going through. So, I decided to make the best of my situation and told her what
I had prepared for my first ever school camp.

And
that’s how the day unfolded.

I left
school in a state of pure panic, feeling like a completely different person, I
had never before been so terrified of something happening to my family. I knew
that I should try to calm myself down, but my legs felt like they were made of
rubber and I kept wanting to get out of the car. I knew that I should try to be
rational but what was the point? The only thing I wanted to do was run away
from it all, but I couldn’t.

I
found myself in the parking lot of the camp, and the panic had gone, I felt so
free and unstructured. There was no one else around and the whole place seemed
empty but for the kids that had arrived earlier. For a while, I just sat down
against the fence and breathed deeply – it was so peaceful that I could have
forgotten what was happening. I took a few deep breaths and wondered about what
I was doing – there was a car coming from the opposite direction, maybe it had
the wrong keys because there were no cars parked up here. I quickly opened the
door, just in case but I didn’t have time to lock it, it was already getting
worse.

I
walked in and found myself in what seemed to be the biggest tent I had ever seen
– it was like a huge white plastic box, with plastic floors and walls and just
a door for the bathroom. It was full to the brim with kids, and the noise was
so intense that I wondered if my earplugs were doing me any good. They were
sitting along the sides, all with their back to me. I knew, instantly, that I
was going to have to go in that I was going to get lost, and it didn’t help
that I couldn’t hear what the kids around were saying.

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