Looking back on my middle school experience, the incident seems so minuscule compared to some of the trauma and suffering that other people face in their lives. But It damaged me to the core. The one thing that got me through was a knowledge that God loved me. I had this internal knowing that I was a unique spirit, that before I came to this earth I was someone important. While it was difficult to feel so alone, I knew that I had a purpose on this earth and that I could not leave it. No matter how difficult it was to endure at the present moment.
I had a mental exercise that I would do anytime the stress or anxiety overwhelmed me. I’d imagine myself as an adult in the future, looking back at my current situation. I’d ask myself, “in ten years, will this moment even matter? Will I remember this test? Will I remember this person?” It helped me keep perspective that the trials I was facing were only temporary. I just had to make it through high school.
Those years were mostly a blur. My freshman and sophomore year I hung out with juniors and seniors. We had the largest freshman class to date with over 1200 students. It made it easier to blend into the crowd. I didn’t try out for the volleyball or the basketball team even though I really wanted to. I secretly hoped the coach would seek me out and invite me. The damage to my self confidence affected me in all areas. Something that used to be fun was now full of self doubt. “What if I miss a shot? My team will hate me.” I let fear of failure and criticism run my life. I was just a shell of myself, barely hanging on. To the people outside of school, I tried to act like my usual self even though I was deeply hurting inside.
By the end of my sophomore year, I was encouraged to try out for the track team. Well actually there was no “try out,” everyone made the team. This was something I could handle. It was more of an individual sport so If I made a mistake I wouldn’t have a team of people upset with me, that was my reasoning anyway. During the season, I finally made a few friendships with people my own age. They also ran x country in the spring of my junior year and so I decided to join them. It was a breath of fresh air to be surrounded by people that were fun, high energy, smart and talented. I only let a few close friends see the real me that was hiding inside. To everyone else, I must have appeared to be stuck-up, not talking to anyone. When in reality I was too afraid to talk to people. I honestly thought if I had said “Hello” to someone in the hall that they would be annoyed by me or I’d scare them away.
I also learned that people had negative feelings toward the overly smart kids or pretty girls. I did my best to not be too noticeable or “shiny.” I didn’t study for tests, I procrastinated on my homework and I wore big baggy clothes and hardly any makeup. I just wanted to slide under the radar. I was pretty good at not drawing any attention to myself. I still managed to get mostly A’s even though I never fully applied myself. Unfortunately, that bad habit continued through my college years too.
Overall, my high school experience wasn’t too terrible but I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I always felt much older than I actually was. Graduation day was one of the happiest days of my life. I remember my cheeks hurting by the end of the day because I had a perma-grin on my face. I had SURVIVED!!
I couldn’t wait to leave home and be on my own. I worked for the last two years of high school and saved up to pay my way through college by myself. This was my time to be me again. I figured there would only be a handful of people that came from my school and for the most party nobody would know me. I could reinvent myself. I could be the person that I wished someone had been for me. Instead of waiting to be introduced, I could introduce myself to people. Whenever I met people, they rarely remembered my name, I would remember people’s names. I could smile and talk to strangers. I could seek out the people sitting by themselves and invite them to sit with me. I was a collector of friends. I had FUN again. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was terrifying. But I absolutely loved it! My time there flew by and before I knew it, we were graduating.
To Be Continued….