“Every day I am pushed by my teachers, coach, and peers to work better and dive deeper into things.”
A dedicated equestrian, Haven Low knew one of the key factors in her decision about boarding school would be the equestrian program. Loomis’ coach and the promise of the program, combined with the immediate connection she made with LC students and faculty when she visited the school, made her decision an easy one.
Once at Loomis, the accomplishments of her classmates, faculty, and LC alumni added to Haven’s own motivation to be her best self and explore other interests, including photography and writing.
Inspired by her experiences in her Photo 1 and Photo 2 classes, Haven embarked on an independent study in photography in her junior year. “All the art faculty at Loomis are so great. They are really there to support you as an artist and guide you, but they let you take your own path without imposing their vision as artists,” says Haven.
Haven also accepted a challenge from her sophomore English teacher: to build her skills as a writer. One year later Haven’s essay “They” — which draws from her experience working with gender non-conforming children — was named one of eight runners-up in a New York Times personal narrative essay contest that drew 8,000 entries from around the world.
The following essay by Haven was selected as a runner-up in a New York Times personal narrative essay contest for teenagers, which drew 8,000 entries from around the world. Basing their criteria on the kinds of powerful personal narratives that appear regularly in the New York Times columns “Modern Love,” “Lives,” and “Rites of Passage,” the contest judges chose 35 finalists, from which they selected eight winners, eight runners-up, and 19 honorable mentions.
by Haven Low
The dewy grass and decomposing concrete crunch under my feet as I trudge to the first morning of my job as a camp counselor. I sport an official t-shirt, an unflattering, eye-catching garment, reluctantly thrown atop of a bathing suit. All I want to do is hide. I am extremely self-conscious about my physical shape. At 16, I have grown out of my girlhood but not yet into my womanhood. I exist somewhere in between? I feel like an imposter in this brightly colored cloak of responsibility. It takes all of my will to stop from turning around and retreating to the comfort of my bedroom.
Suddenly, I think of the campers set to arrive for their first day together, all of whom identify as transgender or gender non-conforming. If I am this uncomfortable in my gender-conforming body, how must they feel? Surely these second graders won’t care how I look in a bathing suit, I think. This realization gives me courage and a renewed sense of purpose. In the midst of their own struggles to reconcile gender with anatomy, they won’t think to judge my appearance. Or will they notice my own insecurities?
As I turn the corner, with clammy hands and a knot in my stomach, the director greets me with a warm smile that calms my fears and leaves me mostly forgetful of my earlier doubts. In the final moments before campers arrive, we promptly cover the driveway with colorful chalk streaks and the words “Welcome to camp!” I chew my nails as I wait for the chaos to begin. Despite the nerves churning in my stomach, the world seems so peaceful and the birds chirp through the early morning wind. Will these kids accept me? Will they like me? Again the concrete crumbles as cheerful parents in minivans pull up, smudging our colorful chalk designs. One by one, I observe and greet each camper. Each child brings a story, an identity, of their own. There is the gentle boy who feels most comfortable in skirts striped with pinks and purples. There is the rowdy boy, born female, who runs circles throughout the crowd. There are the identical twins standing shyly together — identical, yet one is a boy and one is a girl. They keep coming.
I suddenly understand I have the responsibility of creating an environment where the kids all feel accepted and comfortable. They walk a complicated path and deserve all of the love and support I can give them. Placing my preconceptions and self-doubt in my backpack, I approach a shy kid with a rock and-roll haircut and rainbow leggings. I have absolutely no idea how they identify. Luckily, their suburban mom with frizzy curls and a cup of pungent coffee in hand reads my mind and answers my question.
“This is Quinn,” she says. “They are gender non-conforming.”
I am barely prepared for this. They are a singular person, I think, knowing it will take effort to remember the correct pronoun. Quinn looks me in the eye, and an impish grin spreads across their face. I smile in return. I am astonished that at the age of seven, Quinn understands their identity and is not afraid to show it to the world. They, without a doubt, embody self-acceptance, despite living in a world where far too many people equate them with being foreign and freakish. I realize how much I can learn from these kids as I walk my own path of self-discovery. Taking a breath, I settle into myself and my excitement. Without hesitation, Quinn grabs my hand and drags me towards a week full of self-exploration, expansion, and discovery.
Exploring Life on Film
During the spring term Haven pursued an independent study in photography. With an old film camera in hand, she spent the semester exploring life on film with guidance from Christian Ryan, one of our Visual Arts faculty members. View some of Haven's photography which was featured in our Spring 2020 Online Art Exhibit.