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Your dad gives you a ride on your very first day of high school. You scuttle into the building with the rest of the teenage population, like a bundle of mice all scurrying into the same hole. You and the other newbies try to slip unnoticed between the mobs of upperclassmen, but it's hard to be inconspicuous when you're clutching your schedule and a neon-orange map like life preservers. “Fresh meat!” some obnoxious seniors wail, and you duck and hope they don't mean you.
You make it to your locker, which sticks as you try to pry it open. You glance at the emo band stickers plastered up and down the door. You internally groan and note to bring in some peace sign stickers. And a mirror, as you start to wonder if your hair looks as good here as it did this morning when you were still in your bedroom, where you wish you were now.
You follow the map up the stairs and through the senior hallway – big mistake – until you find the room circled on your map. First period, Intro to Business. You wanted Beginner Guitar, even though you taught yourself to play a year ago. But you're just a freshman, so there will be no Beginner Guitar or Fashion or Foods & You until you're at least a junior. Bottom of the totem pole means last choice of electives.
You slip into class quietly and take a seat. You feel awkward as you place your pretty new bag – a shoulder bag this year, no more backpacks – on the ground and wait. Students file in silently and take their seats, no one speaking or even looking at anyone else. You see some freshmen whom you've spoken to maybe once in your life, if that, and you don't like a single one. Or maybe they don't like you. Regardless, you sit in silence until the bell rings and class begins, and then you sit in silence again until the end of first period. You breathe a sigh of relief and think, I survived my first high school class.
Next is Gym, where you meet up with friends, and then Honors Biology, where you recognize more people from middle school, and then Honors History, where everyone is a freshman. It's a great class, but your stomach starts to rumble with hunger, and then flips over in fear.
You head to your locker at the end of fifth period and gather up your brown-bag lunch. You scurry to the cafeteria and step inside not knowing anyone. You survey the scene like a bystander, but you know you're going to have to snap back to reality and take a step forward eventually. You hesitate by the door, then walk straight down the center, scanning for any slightly familiar face. You see none.
You exit, stand helpless in the hallway for a moment, and then open the door to the next cafeteria. It's filled with juniors, certainly none of your friends. Back in the hallway again, vulnerable and scared. Should you head to a bathroom to eat your lunch alone on the first day of high school? No. You can't. You hold your head up high and go back to the first cafeteria.
Again, you see no one. You finally take a seat next to a freshman you know through a mutual friend, a girl you never hung out with, a girl you hardly know. She's sitting with her friends and a scary tall kid who doesn't eat and doesn't speak. You choke down a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich while your eyes water and you try not to think about your mom. You wish you were in a different lunch with your friends, or at home, watching TV and talking with your mom. You're scared and alone. Your Rice Krispie Treat doesn't taste good, and you stare at the clock, waiting for the bell.
It finally does ring, and you make your way to the next circled room on your map, Spanish II. Your friend is five minutes late, and you can't breathe a sigh of relief until she shows up. You sail through the class period of introductions with your very pregnant teacher, who will only be here for another month.
You go the wrong way trying to get to Honors English, but your friend is with you, so you laugh it off. English is another safe haven where everyone is a freshman and you love your teacher. You're excellent at English – it's always been your favorite – so the period goes by too quickly.
Then it's the worst class of the day, Honors Geometry. You get lost and go to the wrong room, then a teacher gives you directions to another wrong room, so you are ten minutes late.
You sneak in and sit in the last row, and your eyes scan the room. You see a boy you befriended over the summer, and he waves. Then you see the boy you've had a crush on for almost ten years, and he's laughing at you. You smile back, a little embarrassed, and try to focus on math when your mind is already wandering to the supplies you need and how insane Staples is going to be tonight, with the whole town trying to buy their notebooks and pens.
When the last bell rings, you scamper downstairs with your friends. You gather up the books from your locker and meet up with your neighbors to walk home – also all freshmen. The four of you chat about your day. Your house is the farthest away, so you walk the last block in thought.
When you reach your house, your mom is waiting in the kitchen, and she envelops you in a hug. You struggle against tears because you know high schoolers don't cry, unless they've gotten their hearts broken or failed a driver's test or been turned down by a possible prom date. Because that's you now – one of the teen romances, teen drivers, teen prom queens.
Welcome to high school. You survived your first day. Only 179 more 'til summer.