I was seven years old the first time I went away to summer camp. Other than the constant praying and the kid who ate toothpaste on the bunk above me, I don’t remember a whole lot about that week of my life.
Rather, what sticks out in my mind is a day two months before I left for that dreaded Circle Square Ranch. My mom and I were sitting in the Harbour View Café, a tiny little family restaurant attached to the local convenience store. It’s the kind of place you see in the movies: waitresses wearing rubber shoes and aprons with pockets to hold their notepads. The curtains were outdated (even back then) and the menu hasn’t changed in the last 15 years at best.
Mom was filling out the application for me to attend the summer camp, and was going through a checklist describing my personality. She appropriately ticked off the boxes for “shy” and “soft-spoken,” but hesitated when she came to the final trait.
“Are you sensitive?” she asked tentatively. I asked her what that meant. She said it meant I got upset easily, bringing up some recent examples in which I ended up crying and storming to my room after my big sister said something silly.
Ironically enough, I got mad. Furious even. I refused to talk to her while we finished up our fries and hot dogs, and I remember starting to cry halfway through the meal, insisting that I was not the least bit sensitive – that my sister was just a bully.
In middle school, I came home from school bawling at least once a week because of something some kid in my class said or did that for whatever reason undermined my own sense of self, replacing it with thoughts of the pimples on my chin or the weird colour of my hair.
I thought it would get better as I grew up, that somehow self confidence was something that developed with age. If anything, it got worse. The slightest criticism from a high school teacher left me silenced and shaken, while anything less than an A in university was a surefire sign that I was a complete failure.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told I’m too sensitive, that I should develop the elusive “thick skin.” At first I brushed it off, again assuming it would come with age. Then I started refuting it, insisting that my sensitivity was what made me who I am, that I shouldn’t try and stifle an integral part of my personality.
Well, I’m on my own now. My parents aren’t going to call someone and make it better, and I can’t just grin and bear it through a semester like I did in school. This is my life, and my sensitivity is beginning to eat away at me.
It’s not okay to come home everyday in knots, and it’s not a normal part of my personality to take to heart every little throw-away comment.
I wish I could brush off the insults. I wish I didn’t care so much about the bad things people say to me. I wish I believed in myself enough to not let anyone undermine my confidence. I wish I wasn’t so sensitive.
I’m trying really, really hard to overcome this. I’m getting better at standing up for myself in all aspects of my life. I’m beginning to see myself as not a victim, but as someone who’s perfectly capable of existing on my own, without the compliments and encouragement of others.
I’m working on it because I have to. Because I know that if I continue like this, I’m going to wear myself down now that I have no one else to stick up for me. I hate it, absolutely hate it, that I have to change, because it’s hard, and it’s a lot easier to fall back into the old habit of beating myself down.
I chose this recipe because it carries a lot of meaning for me. It was the first thing I ever baked, and it’s one of few recipes I’m able to make without having to haul out my hand-scribbled cookbook. It’s part of who I am, but it took a long time for it to get that way. These muffins were originally a disaster when I first made them more than 10 years ago; they were green, blobbish, and emerged from their cups like ghouls retreating from some kind of swamp, hence the name Monster Muffins. But I worked on them, and I kept making them, no matter how weird they tasted for those initial trial runs. Eventually, they got better, and I’m now able to say without hesitation that I’m better for them. Sometimes change is good.
1/3 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup milk
2 cups flour
2 cups frozen blueberries
Soften butter in microwave, or leave it out at room temperature until softened. Combine butter and brown sugar until smooth, gradually mixing in eggs.
Add vanilla, baking powder and baking soda and mix well. Pour in milk, then slowly stir in flour. Once combined, add blueberries and pour into muffin cups.
Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the centre of a muffin.