When I was fourteen years old, my family moved from a state where I had a lot of friends to a state where I had none, from a school program that was challenging but also stimulating to a school that didn't want to just take it on my parents' word that I could handle a challenge and so afforded me an education where all homework was easily and efficiently completed during the lunch hour. I went from a school where I had learned to navigate among the cliques and gangs to a school where I didn't know who to avoid and who to befriend. Rather than trust my instincts and just befriend people who reached out those first few days at school, I pushed everyone away lest I fall in with the wrong 'type'. My ninth grade year of school, right on the heels of one of my most fulfilled and happy years of school, was one of my least fulfilled and happy. By choice.
It's funny looking back years down the road and realizing what a vulnerable little girl I was and how big all of it felt. It's funny to realize too that the school I was moving into was much less hard to socially navigate than my previous school which was not only larger but also encountered countless gang problems on a daily basis. At my old school, I was bullied and pushed around, painted on, spit on and verbally abused. I had learned there to avoid attracting attention. In comparison, my new school and my new peers were all incredibly welcoming and kind. But the previous school had taught me my lesson - I kept my head down. (Cue: Keep Your Head Down by TXVQ ??)
Well, in all honesty, I didn't really keep my head down. During my first semester at the new school, I observed people. I watched them all, silently without words and without comments. Little by little, I started to understand the dynamics of the school and its social structure. I started to figure out which students were the clever ones who put down others in order to get a laugh from the ones who were genuinely clever. I started to figure out which ones were kind to your face from those who were kind all the time. I started to figure out which ones cared about popularity and appearances. Which ones cared about grades. Which ones cared about dating. Which ones cared about sports.
I also started to see how much people care about what other people think. I realized how much I cared about what other people think. I cared - I cared a lot - I cared so much that I would often give in and change my actions to match the actions of those around me. And all too often, the company I kept was not uplifting or inspiring.
So, perhaps for the first time ever, I learned to stand on my own even if meant standing completely alone.
I still care about what people think - I probably always will. I still don't really know how to navigate the social world - I probably never really will. But if I become a good person, an educated person, a helpful person, it is because I choose to do so.
(Although having my wonderful, good, educated and helpful friends help make all the difference.) (^_^)