Sometimes You Have to Put Yourself First
By Navdeep, age 17, Canada
Elementary and middle school never posed a problem for me as a child, because what else do children think about other than playing, making friends, and doing the occasional worksheet for homework? I had plenty of friends, was never shunned by anyone, and was well known as the class jock. There was never a bad day in my book during elementary or middle school, except maybe the occasional dirty look by a girl in class, who by the next day was known as my best friend. As the years passed, high school finally came into view.
Moving into high school, I had been told by many individuals that it would be the four best years of my life, and something I would remember forever. Hearing stories of finding new best friends, meeting my favourite teacher, Prom, and perhaps even a life-altering moment ... walking into my high school as a freshman on the first day, I was certain that I would have some great stories of my own to share. But I learned very quickly that high school was this gigantic place full of people who did not have their own identity, and who were merely trying to fit in somewhere. A couple of days passed, and I realized that high school was not turning out to be the experience I was looking for, and more and more I wanted to stay home and just do my own thing.
Now let me tell you why this new experience was posing a problem for me. Well, to begin, since the first day I can remember, I've always been the biggest tomboy known to mankind. Playing sports was much more interesting for me than to sit and paint my nails all funky colours. My brother never complained about me being too annoying because I was a brother in his eyes. Well, guess what? Yep, you guessed it ... I stayed like this even in high school.
I would walk in with a t-shirt, sweatpants, and sneakers, probably thinking about the hockey score from the night before or my big basketball game the same night. For many people in high school I was almost alien-like ... and I don't blame them. I haven't met anyone like myself to this day. But being a freshman, it hurt badly knowing that none of the girls wanted to talk to me because, in their eyes, I was considered "weird." I didn't make any friends that year, even though I was kind and sweet to everyone I talked to. It was as though people were judging me for my outer appearance rather than the person I was. All because I was a tomboy, and I liked to play sports, had different interests, and was overall different than what most girls were like in my school. Stilettos ... totally not my thing :)
Well, freshman year passed, and so did sophomore and junior year, and I stuck with my high school. I was doing extremely well academically, and I kept myself occupied in school by playing on the sports team, joining clubs, and councils. When I didn't have anything to do and was by myself, I ate my lunch in the cafeteria and usually had a good book to read or a word-search puzzle book in my bag. Don't get me wrong, sitting alone in the cafeteria isn't something I would wish upon my worst enemy - people stared at me and whispered in groups. At times it got to me, but my family was my support group. Since a young age I was taught never to care about what others thought of me, so that's what I did. I had self-confidence! I was not going to let some stranger, who would much rather judge me than come over and say "hi," ruin my perfectly good day. Once I got home, I would leave the school scene behind and continue on with my happy life, and would constantly talk to my parents to vent out how I was feeling.
Well now, I am going into my senior year of high school in September, and I'm still going, and stronger than ever! I am hopefully changing into a new high school this year because I feel like I need a change. Many people discouraged me from the get go about moving schools, saying things like, "you're going to leave your friends, and you're going to have a hard time making new ones" and "it's going to be scary, you won't know anyone." I just laugh and think, friends ... if I had any, I would miss them, but I don't. And I've been through enough to know what it feels like to not be accepted, so that's another hurdle down.
See, that's reality. I can't say that I've been smiling every day in high school for the past three years because I was sad at times, but I never once let myself feel as though I wasn't worth enough. My past three years of high school experiences has almost created a second layer of skin for me, one which protects me from the world's judgemental eyes. I don't care anymore about what people think of me, because for all I care me is all that matters. Going into this new high school in my senior year actually makes me happy because it's a whole new experience I get to add on. I know it's going to be a good one, because whether anyone likes me or not, or whether people will let the inner me shine, I already know how to handle the situation, and for me it's just another hump in the camel's back, which I just jump over!
So the moral of my story: I know it's September and that means it's "Back to School!" season for many. But if you ever feel like you are not fitting in, or are not socially accepted by others, DON'T ever change yourself. The best thing about yourself is that great personality of yours, and that inner person which is far more valuable than the outer appearance. If it means you have to go to the library to not feel alone, then walk yourself to the library at lunch. Just don't settle for anything less than being respected fully by others, because the truth of the matter is, too many people in our world are ready to step into making someone else feel down, rather than giving them a smile and asking to be friends. Most importantly, have a strong support group, because you'll need it. For many, it's friends. For me, it was my family because I didn't have any friends. Sometimes you have to put yourself as the top priority and let how everyone else feels settle in at the bottom. You're special ... you know it, so why let anyone else take that away?
Have fun this school year! And make sure you respect each person and give them the chance to show themselves for who they are. :)