If You Can’t Join Them, Beat Them

Almost any child who has moved around knows what it is like. Wherever you move to, you are the new outcast. It is even worse if you are from a different country.
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For me, nothing was the same.  Even the language was different! It was a challenge going from rarely ever using English to using it for a large majority of the day.  The people at my new school were nothing like my old classmates.  Where I came from, people were warm and friendly.  Here, they kept to themselves.  Not to mention I had none of my old friends around. I felt utterly alone.
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It was arduous making such a big change.  Even the faculty posed a hindrance for me.  They did not know if I was “good enough” for their school or if I could make it.  There were times when it seemed like they did not want me to make it.  I was the only person who had to take the entrance exam twice for no good reason because they did not think that I was “ready”– even though my scores were perfect.
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On my first day, the teacher told me to introduce myself.  “Hi, my name is Ana. I just moved here from Brazil. It is very nice to meet you all. ”  Most students scrutinized me as if I were some foreign specimen.  I did not speak like other people, I did not know any of their “slang.”  Because I did not talk like they did, they thought I was very odd.  They felt threatened by my uniqueness.  I do not know why.  I was just a kid.  I meant no harm to anyone.  I even considered myself nice and respectful.  But still, I was treated differently.  Just as in any other school, there was the nice classmate who made sure to tell me that if I ever needed anything, I could just ask.  That was very sweet, but that offer stood only until the entire eighth grade was set on shunning me. Peer pressure gets to the best of them sometimes.
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Of course I had a different way of looking at things.  My upbringing was nothing like theirs.  My opinions and mannerisms were nothing like theirs.  They tried convincing me that theirs were better.  Why was it so difficult to accept that we were equal, that we could be different?  Why did they want me to be like them?
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It took me a while to make friends.  Three girls gathered enough courage to talk to the eccentric outcast.  They ignored the social pressure to keep me left out and actually got to know me.  Those three friends I made in eighth grade are the same ones I have right now.  They may not have been many, but they were and are the best friends anyone could hope for.
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I am not going to lie and say this transition was easy.  I will say that I would do it all over again.
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Want to know why?
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Because I grew as a person.  Because on graduation day, I was the valedictorian.  I was the student who all the teachers enjoyed having in class.  I was the friendly classmate who everyone thought was nice.  And I could remember every person who said I would not make it.  They were the people who said that I was too different, that I was not enough like them.  The ones who tried putting me down and changing me.  And I could genuinely smile at them without feeling the need to say anything back because, by my actions, I had already proven them wrong.
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And all I had to do was be myself.
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© Kiara Rodriguez, 16 December 2012
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