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Never have I ever felt more vulnerable yet self-assured, crossing the line with guilt yet setting an example for the young girls watching. Since our camp training a number of weeks ago, “cross the line” had been talked about time and time again yet never had been fully explained. I figured it was an activity that was meant to bring the girls closer, push them out of their comfort zone, and ask some prodding questions. I assumed it would cover topics like racism, sexism, financial disparities, and the like. The activity took place two weeks into camp, which seemed a bit odd, but I realize now we all needed some time to warm up to each other before really delving into the real stuff. I spent lunch on Thursday bonding with some ninth graders, talking about our favorite LA choreographers and dancers and the best beaches in the area. I chatted with a sweet seventh grader walking to the gym and learned we have a mutual love for Hamilton the musical. Walking through the doors of the gym, a silence swept over the room. Girls cautiously bordered the wood floor as a guest facilitator explained the next hour. Some giggles were hushed since everyone still felt the freedom of lunch. I stood next to the two angst-ridden tenth grade best friends. When we all walked up to the line, I felt the weight of the next hour fall on my chest.

“Cross the line if you wear glasses.”

The first question was easy enough, I gazed at the girls who had stayed put. We walked back silently at the cue of the facilitators wave.

Some questions passed, all regarding the status of parental relationships. “Cross the line if one of your parents may be in jail right now.”

I watched with pain as probably twenty girls from all grades crossed the line. They looked at each other and gave small looks of recognition, my heart ached thinking about their pain.

“Cross the line if you’ve lost a sibling.” I started crying.

Even more girls crossed this line. Tears fell down as I thought about my brothers and how I couldn’t imagine losing one of them, how shaken my world would be. My brothers and I have only gotten closer with time, and we text about fitness and cooking and cars on a regular basis. They’re both much older than me, so we’ve just recently made a better effort to stay in touch, filling a hole I didn’t know was in my heart. I cried thinking about the agony of learning they’re gone. I cried because kids much too young have endured that agony and probably still live with the pain.

Cross the line if you’ve ever been called fat.

Cross the line if you’ve felt the effects of alcoholism.

Cross the line if you have low self-esteem.

Cross the line if you hate something about yourself.

Cross the line if you have been or are depressed.

Cross the line if you’ve ever had thoughts of suicide.

Cross the line if you could use a hug.

I crossed the line and held my sisters. I hugged girls I had never met. I hugged kids I want to protect from the world and everything bad in life, but I know they’ve already been through so much, as have I. I looked girls in the eyes and told them I am so proud of them for living and being alive today. I thanked them for being a part of my life and told them there’s always someone here to talk and cry to, hang and dream with. I felt everything for people I have known for a few short weeks, yet feel closer to than some people I’ve known for years.