Saúl Berríos-Thomas | Layout Editor
I went to a different school for my second year of high school. I was new, but everyone else knew each other.
I dreaded lunch period. I had no one to sit with for weeks. I even went as far as to skip the period altogether and hide in the bathroom. Call it cliché, but it was a very real part of my life, along with the emotions that accompanied it.
Each day, I’d arrive late to the lunch line on purpose – a tactic I used to shorten the period – and observe my peers before I’d make a getaway to the stalls. I wasn’t looking for a welcome; I already knew it wasn’t there. I was looking for an empty table where I could be left alone to spur the second hand to tick faster. My palms would sweat and I felt like I was invisible.
There were several things that led to this situation. As I said I was new and everyone else knew each other. I made a group of friends who were of questionable repute. I then got into some trouble (I was a bad kid, but that’s another article) and lost that group of friends.
I know I am not alone in having felt this, but if you have never felt like an outsider at any point in your life then this article probably isn’t for you (you’re also probably lying to yourself). The solution I came up with was to become a “chameleon.” I blended in with whatever group of people I was conversing with.
It was a miserable existence because I felt like I couldn’t be accepted for whom I was. I had people to talk to, but I felt like they didn’t even know me. I felt like a shell of a human in these circumstances, not quite whole.
I don’t have some fairytale ending to offer. I didn’t come up with a better solution. I got kicked out of that school a few months into the semester (again, bad kid). What I can tell you is that I learned a lot about myself during that time.
I learned how to enjoy time with myself, which is important no matter how many people you surround yourself with. I learned that being alone was not a bad thing; it was an opportunity to be with my thoughts and enjoy it.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from this time of my life was that I would never again sacrifice my personality to fit in. I am who I am and today I am proud of that. The friends I make today have to be people who accept me for who I am. I have met people who want to change me to fit into their idea of what I should be, but those individuals are like poison to me.
Part of what got me into trouble in the first place was my desire to fit in. I wanted to be liked so badly. People reacted a certain way when I did bad things, things I wasn’t comfortable doing. I thought their laughter and goading was support so I continued down the troubled road on my bad boy motorcycle. I thought that if the brand of shoes I wore wasn’t right these people wouldn’t like me anymore. I thought if I didn’t talk like a jagoff to the teacher I wouldn’t have any friends. I was a gullible child who didn’t know how to make friends. I had been dropped into a social environment that was already established and expected to adjust. I was not given any resources to get through this tough period.
I don’t regret this period of my life though; it made me who I am today.
I am now happy to be myself and I know that the people in my life will like me no matter what I do.
Being an outsider doesn’t have to be a curse. High school was not the “be all, end all” of my life. Those people don’t remember me and I don’t remember them. I will never again sacrifice myself to become a part of a group that I probably didn’t want to be a part of to begin with.
Malcolm X said: “There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.”
If you take nothing else from this article hear his words. No matter how bad things get, no matter how bad you struggle through any situation, that is never an excuse to not learn something and improve yourself.
There is always a lesson to be learned from every mistake, my grandpa taught me that and he was the best man I have ever known. I am who I am because all of the pain I have felt.
The scared little boy trembling in a bathroom stall eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, is not so scared anymore.