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Blinders, Walls, and a Different Reflection
The shuffling of feet, the rustling of papers, and the constant talking was all that flooded my mind. The first day of school was always an experience. Even the most popular person had their doubts. Moving from a completely different school in another state magnified my doubts, though. An entire summer, and I had not met one person that I would attend high school with. The people on my street did not want to get to know the quiet new girl, and everyone else was in their own world. I understood. Why take the time out?
At the same time, my heart cried out to me “Why not take the time out? Who will it hurt?” Of course, the answer was no one. At an average height, I did not stand out by being the shortest or tallest in the crowd. And my feature were not extreme either. I did not have striking beauty, nor did I try to enhance the image that I did put forth with makeup, hair dyes, and the latest clothing.
Yup, California was different from Tennessee. On top of my appearance, I didn’t dare open my mouth. The beach-bond California snobs would be turned off by my southern-girl twang. So, I went about my own business. No one asked me anything, nor did I say anything to them. This routine went on for nearly three months. Then November came around.
November meant rainy season in California. I was beginning to get used to California life style. It was not too different from what I was used to, aside from the whole talking issue. (My teachers did get me to try to talk, but many times it resulted in a failed attempt or a short one or two word answer. As far as they were concerned, my papers would do the talking for me. If I did not do well on those, then I was a lost cause.)
Back to November. I was walking on a cloudy day home. I had my hood up to keep the wind out of my face, and that blocked my peripheral vision. My rhythmic step-step-step was broken by a hard push and a loud thud. The thud was mixed with a splash, and when I looked up a saw a boy on a bicycle swerving back and forth on the sidewalk.
I would have yelled at him, but it would have been no use. He was off trying to keep his balance on the slippery sidewalk. Pushing myself up onto my knees, I stopped. My reflection showed in the puddle. I honestly did not recognize myself anymore. Worry and shyness had taken over me, and I really did look like a hopeless cause as the water dripped from my now-damp hair.
It was then that I realized that I had been bullied all of those months. No one had talked to me. They weren’t the bullies. They were just giving me my space. I had been bullying myself and pushing people away. No wonder no one had come up to me. I had scared them away with my silence and lack of eye contact. I wouldn’t have gone up to someone like that either. I would have assumed that they wanted their space and would reach out when they wanted to.
I shook my head. I had looked at myself in the mirror for months and not noticed a thing. Now, staring into an unclear reflection in a puddle, I saw who I really was. There was still a spark of life left in my eyes, and it wanted desperately to come out.
I was not a social outcast, and I knew it. I had created the walls and blocked anyone from coming in.
Changing came as a miniature to shock to other people. I felt bad for blocking everyone out and giving them the cold-shoulder. Many of my classmates had even tried to help me, and I had glared at them and assumed that they were simply gloating. In all honesty, they had been sincere and had been reaching out to me. My blinders hadn’t let me see it.
By the end of the school year, I ended up tearing down my walls and developing friendships. It was definitely awkward reaching out, but many people were nicer and more understanding than I initially gave then credit for. Plus, many of them liked how I looked and the way that I spoke.
I vowed to make the next year different. I had wasted almost an entire semester and had made myself completely miserable. I didn’t know what the next year would hold, but my new friends and I all held high expectations. Of course, the summer pool parties and get togethers would come first, though.