By Christina Dwivedi
I started a new school today, a week later than everyone else, and I never knew how horrible that would feel. I already know one girl in my class, but I still feel like a complete outsider.
My math teacher is complaining about how cramped the classroom is with the number of students in here. When he did the roll call, he pronounced my last name wrong. “Tuh-kee” he said, instead of “Too-chee”. But I was used to that. Not everyone knows how to say Tucci. As long as there were no Italian mafia jokes, I was happy.
I had been allowed to join the overstuffed tenth grade because of my A+ average from previous years. I was an exception that currently felt like a burden. Of course I would never tell these classmates about my high grades. I mean, you don’t want to make a bad first impression as some know-it-all. But right now, all I know is that I am intimidated, watching classmates joke as if they’ve known each other forever.
This is a small private school, and I had wanted to attend to get away from the chaos of the local public high school. We can’t actually afford it, though. Believe me, we’re a financially struggling family. I was sponsored to attend. I guess I can thank my good grades for that. But I know my social status is not going to match with some of the name brand wearers in the room.
It’s hard enough for me to find cool clothes in larger sizes, but now I have to wear skirts every day, below my knee. My mom took me all around to look for cheaper clothes that still had some style – she’s good with that stuff. I imagine some of these people never have to look for good deals.
I thought I knew who I was and usually have more confidence than this. My past accomplishments mean nothing here. My first day is breaking me down and showing me the weak person I really am. I can’t imagine forming friendships here with these feelings looming over me. I think a girl just snickered after I dropped my pencil. Or I’m being paranoid.
I’m not the type to approach others and start small talk. I’m the one who needs to be approached. I’m working on that though. The math teacher just went on a rant about how his dry cleaner gave him the wrong clothing. And we pay money for this education?
The bell rings. I shuffle through my day, from class to class. At lunch, I follow around the one person I know like I’m an annoying puppy. It’s a good thing she still likes me. We sit around people I haven’t even talked to yet that day. I try to smile, but I stay quiet.
I notice one of the guys sitting there looks like he wants to say something, but I don’t make eye contact. He asks me how I’m liking it here. I lie and say I like it. He makes a joke about the school and keeps talking to me. I’m surprised. Is this the beginning of a new friendship at my new school? Could I be so lucky already, just sitting here doing nothing, and I made a friend?
I try not to expect much from it and the rest of the day goes by. At home I cry like a baby about feeling like an outsider, even after the spots of sunshine in my gloomy day.
But the next day, I get ready for school again despite the bad feeling in my stomach. My possibly new friend is talking to me again in class. And so is another girl. I slowly climb out of my shell, releasing more smiles and more conversation. These people don’t care what brand you’re wearing or how big your house is, I can tell.
At lunch, there is the girl snickering again. Is she doing that because of me? I feel myself shrinking back into my protective shell. The others around me go on with their fun conversations but I eat quietly, pretending to feel normal. I remind myself that I wanted to go to this school.
Oh my God, the snickering girl is walking over. I avoid looking up at her.
“Hey,” she says, hopefully not to me.
“Hey,” she says again, this time leaning her face toward mine.
I gulp and look up. “Uh, hi.”
“Remember me? It’s Anne. We used to go to church together?”
“Oh, right!” I say, feeling stupid that I didn’t recognize her at first. She was a blonde little kid but now her hair is brown. She looks so different.
She sneezes and I say, “God Bless you.” She blows her nose on a dainty floral tissue.
Anne just has a cold and wasn’t actually snickering.
“Welcome to the school,” she says and walks away with the flip of her silky, perfect hair.
I’m not sure if we’ll be good friends here, but I feel so much better.
A week passes and I actually look forward to school because of my friends. Friends to bond with over the strict, and sometimes weird, rules at my new school. If it wasn’t for these new friends, who took time to talk to the new girl, I would probably still feel like an outsider.