the new girl


Write about your strongest memory of heart-pounding belly-twisting nervousness: what caused the adrenaline? Was it justified? How did you respond?

my strongest memory of heart-pounding belly-twisting nervousness always had to do with wanting to be liked, standing in front of a classroom of strangers hoping they could understand in some telepathic way that I wanted to be friends.  I remember myself as awkward girl, always the tallest in the class, with thin arms, knobby knees and thin, spidery legs that the secondhand dresses my mother would give me because we were always so poor would never quite cover.  This one was a mint green color, my favorite dress.  And here I was for the third time in front of a classroom of kids I did not know, in pigtails casting self-conscious glances at the floor which I hoped would miraculously open up and swallow me. 

Twenty eight pairs of eyes stared at me; some of the looks were appraising, some suspicious, some open and friendly.   I hated being the center of attention; my way was to creep in unnoticed and then find my way after I’d trod water for a while, testing out the environment around me.  
The teacher spoke in her soft voice: “This is Diane. Say hello to Diane [class unevenly responds with “hi Diane.”] She’s new here, and perhaps someone could show her around and acquaint her with new friends.”   Silence.   I wanted to cry, that silence stretched for so long. My belly was doing flip flops and I was afraid that if this dragged out any longer I would be in the terribly awkward position of throwing up in front of the entire class.  I was nervous because I knew what would happen. No one would step forward. I was as alone at the front of that room as I’d ever been.  I’d be made fun of for being too skinny, for my secondhand dress, for anything that kids find to make fun of in others.  

Then a voice came from the back of the room.  Her name was Amy but everyone called her Punkin, for what reason I do not fathom to this day.  She shyly tripped forward in her knee length dress and patent leather shoes, took my hand, and led me to my seat. Everything was all right. The world stopped spinning so fast, and I smiled gratefully at Punkin.  And there, in the 4th grade, began a lifelong friendship, and perhaps, things are never as bad as they appear. 

I learned about hope in moments like these, small moments.  Even at 43, when it comes to relating closely to someone, I always find myself self-conscious, nervous, afraid I will trip, or do something wrong, say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing.  My intense feelings of self-consciousness are invariably wrapped up in a confident demeanor and expressed in humor, when inside I feel so shy and really don’t want to be around groups of strangers for very long. Today at this long age of mine I am more comfortable in social situations; yet the self-consciousness is something I never quite can overcome.  

Everyone just wants to feel safe, cocooned in acceptance, just the way they are.  Loved for who they are.  

I am blessed, for I am loved.  When you are loved, the most extraordinary miracles occur; you see yourself the way the other sees you, differently, in a better light, and I suspect with a good deal more of the truth. 

 

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