Summer 2018

It was when we had to cross the rocks I realized my hatred of Mother Nature. Zion National Park had been an adventure from hell. The trail was steeper and longer than Bryce National Park or the Grand Canyon, the two parks we hiked the two days before.

I never thought of myself as the athletic type, despite being in a sport and a dance crew. I had a brief affair with running. But nothing prepared me for the brutal sport of hiking. The terrain of the trail was constantly changing, but the sun remained cruel, taking away all the energy from my body and leaving me only with sweat. I was astounded that despite all of the challenges, my comrades advanced far ahead of me without complaining.

I, however, remained sitting on the rocks, a mere five minutes away from the end of the trail. My tongue thirsted for water, and my brain wished the energy to complete the trail to join my friends. But there was only regret, spelled by my aching joints. I wished for a teleportation device, or even a time turner to never have gone on this trip in the first place.

An open hand appeared in front of me. I looked up to see my counselor. He couldn’t leave me alone, as per teen tour rules. As much as I wanted to turn away, I could not cheat him in not seeing the beautiful river that made up the end of the trail. Fatigue and despair would have to wait. I was being led by hope and companionship.

I’ve never thought I would find joy in making my head spin. I also never thought I would ever be able to roll underwater. But eventually my throbbing head demanded my full attention, so I stopped. The appeal of California was too strong to deny, even when my heart only beated for New York City.  I decided to come here again with my family when I’m older and have more time. They deserve to see the beautiful palm trees and wonderful blue sky that made up this Instagram worthy scene.

My eyes wandered over to my friends, who once again demonstrated their strength by floating in the middle of the nine feet section of the pool. I abandoned the three feet section and made my way towards them. As I got closer, my grip to the ledge got ever so tighter. Unlike the 3 feet section, there would be no rolling underwater or playing of any kind. The nine feet section was danger zone.

Conversation came easily. I was surprised at how well I controlled my ambition to learn how to traverse the deep side of the pool. I was also surprised when I realized that I could learn from a true master, also known as, my friends. My request to learn was easily accepted. I guess friendship can sometimes mean taking someone 9 feet under to touch the bottom of the pool. Or getting help to beat your fear of drowning. I took my friend’s hand, let of the ledge and plunged into the darkness.

I realized when I was leaving California that I truly don’t hate Mother Nature. In fact, I still miss the palm trees from California, and the mountains from Arizona. All the attractions made New York City, the place I yearned for all throughout the trip, pale in comparison. It turned out that home was not so sweet at all. But my mother’s Bengali cooking was just as spicy and flavorful as I remembered it.

I was glad to have received the wonderful companionship of students I never thought I would befriend, all in spite of the big barriers of race and class. Being one of two only students of color, and the only transgender person was not as difficult as I thought it would be.