Humans of Harker: The octopi within

Cameron Zell embraces a multifaceted lifestyle


Julia Amick

“I want everyone to have their own memory of me. I feel that I can’t even characterize myself in one way. But because there are so many things that I participate in, I want everyone to have their own idea and reflection on what I meant to them,” Cameron Zell (12) said.

Cameron Zell’s hand reaches up towards her ear and fidgets with her earring. The light catches the stud as she spins it around. A timid smile forms on her face, and she lets out a small laugh.

Despite her many talents as an athlete, journalist and all-around student, Cameron once questioned whether she was the right fit for Harker after transferring to Harker in the 7th grade. However, through participating in such a wide range of activities, including softball, soccer, yearbook and the dance show, Cameron has come to accept small failures as an integral part of her larger journey towards success, using them as stepping stones to reach even greater heights.

“There have been times where I have failed and I have been like I don’t belong here, but then it’s easy to just think about it and be like, I failed this one time, but you also have to think about the times you really succeeded and you were really good and you did something great, and you think back on it and think ‘Wow that was a cool experience,’” Cameron said.

Mahi Gurram (12), one of Cameron’s close friends from softball, has watched Cameron come to terms with her perfectionism, particularly as an athlete.

“Mostly with softball, when she messes up or does anything slightly wrong she used to be really hard on herself,” Mahi said. “When it came to academics, softball or socially she was always like that. Over time she learned that you can learn from your mistakes and she has definitely grown in that aspect.”

Cameron traces much of her influence to her mother, Karen Zell, who has also seen Cameron’s point of view shift from focusing on the small things that happen in a day, to looking more at the bigger picture.

“I have seen her become much more forward thinking and looking to the future and her goals,” Karen said. “She worries less about what is happening on a day to day basis and more on where she sees herself in five or 10 years. She has started to let some of the smaller things slide off while keeping the bigger picture in mind.”

Looking back on her time at Harker, Cameron isolates the 2018 dance show as the pivotal moment that made her realize the importance of doing things not just for perfectionism but also for pure enjoyment.

“I had never thought that I could be a dancer,” she said. “I never thought that I could do anything performing arts related. There was a very prominent thought in my mind that was saying I could just go home if I didn’t think I could do it.”

The only thing that motivated Cameron to push past these thoughts were a text from a friend, which was just the push she needed to attend the auditions.

“If they hadn’t texted me, I don’t know if I would have gone through with it,” Cameron said. “All I know is I had an amazing time last year, I’m doing it again this year, and I wish I would have started earlier. I actually realized that as good or as bad as I was at dancing, I had a lot of fun and that’s when it kind of clicked for me. You don’t have to do things because you’re good at them. If they’re fun, do it.”

This open-minded approach has provided Cameron with the opportunity to participate in such a wide variety of activities that have in turn formed how she wants to be remembered by her peers.

“I want everyone to have their own memory of me,” Cameron said. “I feel that I can’t even characterize myself in one way. But because there are so many things that I participate in, I want everyone to have their own idea and reflection on what I meant to them.”

Elise Mayer (12) will remember Cameron as a genuine and close friend whose goal-oriented mindset shines through her actions.

“She’s honestly one of the most genuine people I have ever met,” Elise said. “She has such a big heart she does everything with the best intentions.”

At the end of the day, from designing spreads for TALON to scoring goals on the field, Cameron has learned to embrace every aspect of herself, drawing inspiration from an unlikely parallel.

“I’ve always really liked octopus. because they kind of just float around but are completely all over the place,” she said. “The many different species of octopi are how I feel that my different activities and the different sides of my personality make me. Like the blue ring octopus will sting and kill you but then there’s all the more gentle sides that maybe won’t kill you but flop around if they want.”