Camille discusses coming to terms with the effects of her parents' divorce and learning to embracing her identity through of experiences while living in China.
ON THE EFFECTS OF HER PARENTS' DIVORCE
I think that for me there have been two defining moments. The first one is my parents' divorce and then my last travel to China. When I look at myself in the mirror, I see a completely different person. As a kid, I wasn't really affected by my parent' divorce. As I've gotten older and noticed more about the way that I think and process things, I've realized that I actually have been affected.
My dad was in the military and so he was never really there as a kid. I didn't really notice a difference. Now that I'm older - birthdays, holidays, and whenever I get married, it will almost feel like I have to choose between them. For so many years I pushed back the feelings. I would tell myself that it didn't affect me and had nothing to do with me. By 16, I went to college early and felt like I was on my own. I now wish that I had two parents. Whenever something happens to me, I call my dad and then I have to hang up with him and call my mom. The experience is helping me grow, but it's also showing me my weaknesses. A part of growing up is discovering your weaknesses and so my weakness is commitment. I can't commit to anything. I mean I try to keep in touch with friends, but I guess the fear is that I could lose it. I think that is the reason why I've moved around so much. I'm finally reaching a place where I'm comfortable with myself and with being still. It's a challenge, but I'm adjusting to it.
When I was growing up, my mom would work. I was by myself a lot. Now that I'm getting older, I'm having to depend on other people. It's challenging, but I'm dating and having lasting friendships which is good. I'd say that this is the first time that I've actually talked about the effects that divorce had on me. I usually push it all aside and then have conversations with people about their families and realize that I'm a bit different. I hate holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas are really difficult for me. Most of the time, I'd rather just be by myself because I don't want either to be hurt if I'm not spending the holiday with them. Now that I'm dating, I just spend time with his family.
I would say that all of that has defined who I am.
ON MOVING TO CHINA
Moving to China felt like a new slate. I left people and their issues behind. Dealing with the racism there definitely made me appreciate and open up to who I really was. Growing up in a military family, I accustomed to diversity. I would say, "Oh, I'm African-American," but did I know what that really was? No. I remember about a year before moving to China, telling someone that I was just "American". I didn't really identify with the "African" part because to me, I didn't know that part of my culture. When I went to China, that's all they saw though. I would get so angry and offended at first. Growing up alone and never really having the opportunity to define who I am and then being an adult and being pushed into a situation where I'm having to do that was kind of crazy. I was always having to define my identity and fight stereotypes that they believed about Black people.
That experience gave me a new perspective and it was probably the lowest point of my life. I felt like I couldn't be appreciated in China or anywhere and then I had to come back to the United States and deal with the racism here. It was kind of weird because I'd have conversations with other Americans about moving back to the U.S. and they couldn't understand why I'd want to move back to a place where Trump is president. To me, I'd rather deal with the racism here than in another country. At least when I'm at home, I can walk into a store without being bothered and I can go outside without being touched. In China, strangers were always staring, taking pictures, or touching my skin and hair. If I was ever having a bad day, I couldn't keep to myself because I stuck out in the midst of thousands of people.
Not being thought of highly, really pushed me to think highly of myself. I guess you could say that it was a self-esteem booster. I was eventually able to identify with the Africans that I met along with their cultures even though I had never been there before. So this who I am. This is how I identify. I realized that we all have the same fight. Interpreting that, coming back here, carving out my own place, and all of my past experiences, has been interesting and continues to play a part in how I define and redefine who I am.
Photo Credit: Holly Ravazzolo