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.