Monday, June 13, 2011

The New Girl

Having changed schools eight times from K-12, I was perpetually the new kid. And more times than not, I changed schools in mid-year. In the lower grades I don’t remember being traumatized by these changes but in high school it was a different story.

The last move I had to make just about did me in. And, yes, it was in the middle of the tenth grade. So everyone at the school I transferred into had been there half a year, knew each other, knew all the teachers, the principal, the rules, etc. I didn’t even know where the cafeteria was.

I remember that first day in the tenth grade in the new school. My mother and I did the necessary paper work in the principal’s office, she left, and the secretary pointed me to my first class. Of course, it was at the end of a loooong hallway. Lockers on either side of the hall were clattering open and shut as students readied for first period.

My eyes locked on the door facing me at the end of the hall; I looked neither right nor left. But as I walked by, students suspended their activity and their chattering became hushed conversations. More than once or twice I heard “who’s that?” and “new girl.”

You’d think since I had changed schools seven times before, that I’d be used to this happening.  Already the others called me the “new girl.” I’d heard the phrase before, but this was high school! I went about my quiet way and the students soon warmed up to me. By the beginning of the next year I was one of them. My family didn’t move again and I graduated from high school there.

I’m from the South and had a double first name—didn’t all Southern girls have two first names? Fortunately for me, my high school chemistry teacher introduced me to a small college sixty miles from home. The first thing I did when I arrived? I took my first step at reinventing myself. I dropped my first name and introduced myself as simply Jo. That one, simple thing set me on the path that led me out of the devastation all those school changes had put in me. No more “new girl” intimidation for me! I loved the “new me.”

From my past experiences, I tried to be compassionate to every new class of girls that came behind me. I had empathy toward them in their new surroundings.

How about you—have you ever been “who’s that?” or the “new kid”? Have you ever tried to help someone in that position? Take it from someone who knows—with a simple smile you can help alleviate trembling fear of another soul in a new situation.


Choose kindness, you’ll notice a peaceful feeling within. The best place to start is with the next person you speak to.”
—Richard Carlson, Ph.D. (1961-2006), author with his wife, Kristine, of the Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff... books

 

Till next time … keep on smiling.

2 comments:

  1. I only changed schools 5 times as a kid. I've moved 10 times as an adult. In my opinion, moving as a child was easier in some ways. I was guaranteed to plug into a place to find friends--isn't that what school is for?

    As an adult, it can be far harder. I'm a stay at home mom, so I don't have the socialization of work. As my kids grew out of playgroup age, we lost that as well. If it wasn't for church, I'd have few friends besides my husband and mom.

    But I too find myself befriending the "new kid." The summer after 10th grade as my family prepared to move again, a new family started to attend our church. Despite my being on the way out, I befriended her and got the sisters involved with my friends. Even now, I try to greet visitors at church and pull them into our activities. And, because of frequent moving, I don't hesitate to get involved, though I am a shy person. But if I sit back and wait until I'm comfortable, I'll just be on my way out again.

    Oh, I came over here because of your post this weekend on the ACFW loop about the fate of your blog. If you're passionate about something or it relates to your writing and would bring potential readers of your books to your site, then blog on that. As a YA writer, I focus on music a lot on my blog plus reviewing books that appeal to that audience and writing flash fiction. Focusing on one topic can be too narrowing, though and hard to keep up with every week unless you have a good plan--like a recipe a day.

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  2. Sarah, thanks so much for your comment--no we "can't sit back and wait until I'm comfortable." It's good for us to get out of our comfort zone at least every now and then. I appreciate your feelings about moving around like I did; I've moved not quite as many times as you as an adult.

    Also, thanks for your thoughts on my blogging fate. A common thread that runs through those comments is passion/passionate in explaining what we should blog about. Makes sense...
    Jo

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