Who Raised Me

Mac FabensDecember 6, 2021LoveAwesome Moments

Six of us had crammed into a tent meant for three, partly because there was only enough room for one tent on the site, but also because if we all went in one tent, maybe our combined body heat would dry out our sleeping bags.

Gideon tried to convince everyone that hippophobia was indeed real, that he had not made it up (he had), that it meant he was afraid of corners and should therefore be given one of the middle spots in the tent. Out of the four others in the tent, I was the only one who seemed to not be outraged by his claim that he had hippophobia, possibly because I had already been subjected to a corner spot and had nothing to lose from his quest for a better position.

Most six-person tents I’d been in were fun, like one big slumber party — but this one was just full of 11-year-old boys arguing over whether or not this new word was made up. This pointless debate, coupled with the cold, rainy weather we had been having on our seven-day trip, meant nobody was in the mood to negotiate.

Suddenly, help appeared in the form of one of the staff bringing us a big bucket of food. The argument was quelled as we all devoured our panickans of mac and cheese, but soon a new problem would arise — someone would have to spend an obnoxious amount of time outside in the freezing rain cleaning the big bucket. As everyone listed off reasons why they shouldn’t be the one to do it and subsequently picked someone else to wash it, I thought of my staff the year prior telling me that we were all a team and had to do things ourselves, without letting selfishness get the best of us. I realized that if I simply volunteered to do the bucket, the atmosphere in the tent would grow much less fierce. Sitting in the rain alone cleaning the bucket sounds sad, and maybe it was, but it also marked an internalization of that lesson I had been taught the year prior. Volunteering to clean the bucket marked a new value being formed for me.

Once I became staff and observed the shenanigans that staff get up to, I realized that having teenage boys teaching me my core values each summer was probably a dangerous gamble, but I think it worked out. I was taught to do my part in a group, not to complain, and to do a job thoroughly. Not only did I learn valuable lessons at camp, but I also picked up the good parts from the people around me, and strove to be as unique and kind as each person at camp was. I still think about my role models from camp, like my friend Archie, a counselor on one of my trips who was always smiling and only ever got mad once.

This year at camp I was a counselor for the first time. After nine years of looking up to my staff, I was finally a staff member. The biggest change is that instead of looking up to someone, you have to always keep in mind that there are several children looking up to you. Having people looking up to you is tricky to navigate — there were countless times when I wanted to put off my responsibility and just have time to myself but realized that had a younger me seen my staff ignore me, I would have felt like a task to watch over (which honestly, I’m sure I was). Having the responsibility of teaching others placed on me made me appreciate those who taught me and realize that it was my job to pass on the lessons they had taught me.

The people at camp taught me important lessons, but that was only two months out of the year; I have my role models at home — in other words, my friends. Friends are, in essence, role models. Each friend of mine is someone with a quality I admire and wish I had. At camp, I was taught lessons by my friends and staff and noticed the lack of that teaching in my peers when I came home each year. I slowly realized that when I thought to myself “that person wouldn’t survive one day at camp,” I was really just observing that they weren’t surrounded by the same people that I was growing up.

In ninth grade, Ali, my friend and classmate since seventh grade, grew tired of our other friend Manny not having a computer to play games with our circle of friends, so he organized us all to buy each part and build a computer for Manny. Ali’s unwarranted kindness is something I always think about and replicate when given the option of doing something kind.

My first ever friend at a new school, Danny, never gets angry at people, he never makes anyone feel bad for something they did. Even when he’s in a bad mood, or has been treated unjustly, he doesn’t yell at people. Because of him, I avoid blaming or acting petty in arguments.

When I need motivation to continue studying for a test or edit an essay that I’ve been putting off, I think of the friends or acquaintances I have that I’ve seen work hard, and how I want to work hard like they do. That inspiration powers me through to the end.

The people around us are the ones that shape us into who we become, be it camp counselors, friends, or parents. It’s important to pay attention to what makes each person unique because everyone has a quality worth adopting. And the idea of people looking up to you too goes farther than just being a camp counselor. In the same way, I’ve been raised and influenced by my friends, they are being influenced by me. Each person holds more influence than they realize, more power to change someone for the better. Realizing this is just another driver to keep me on my best behavior — because, in the end, my goal is to influence people with the best qualities I have and leave out the bad ones.

Mac Fabens lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is in the eighth grade. He enjoys canoeing, playing with dogs, and not having very much homework.