First impressions are deceiving. I got my own taste of this lesson during the summer of my freshman year in high school. I was young and impressionable, even more so than I am now at 16. At that time, it was harder for me to decide who to be friends with and who to shut out based on anything besides who my friends were and were not hanging out with. But that summer, I had some sort of personal revolution that changed my entire life, and how I perceived people from then on.
I was starting a new summer camp show at a local community theater in my home town. I didn’t know any of the directors, or the students, and I was quite intimidated by the array of people surrounding me. Most of them were older and more experienced than myself, so naturally I felt a bit inhibited. There were two specific girls, who happened to be best friends, that caught my attention. They were amazing singers and seemed very confident there. They were 16 at the time, two years old than me. It felt like there was a world of difference in between us. Still, something about them made me want to get to know them better. They never talked to me, didn’t seem to like me, and I began to feel like they wanted nothing to do with me.
A week or so later, I found out I was right. I innocently searched one of these girls’ MySpace pages, hoping to add her to my friend list, talk to her outside of class and get to know her better. Instead, I found her profile graffitied with insults, slurs and down right mean things, both from herself and her best friend– all about me. I confronted them about it, and they casually apologized, leaving things awkward and kind of empty for the remaining weeks of summer camp.
Before I knew it, camp was over. Not long after it ended, both girls began to talk to me online. They were gentle and kind. I was perplexed. I couldn’t tell if they were sorry and trying to make up for their cyber bullying act, or if they were a couple of truly “mean girls” trying to soften me up just to backstab me later. I complied to their offerings and had casual conversations with both of them on a regular basis. Before long, and to my sincere surprise, I began cultivating real friendships with both girls. I started to like them, to want to spend time with them, and even understand them.
After a solid three to four months of getting to know each other, we were friends, and we still are to this day. Trust, love, and laughs began to build between the three of us. Somehow, things fell into place, and it was at that time that I realized that just because someone looks or acts a certain way when you first meet them doesn’t mean that’s who they are or how they really feel. I learned that these girls were unkind to me when we first met primarily because of our age difference. I was two years younger, so they saw me as nothing. A useless, stupid little baby. They felt superior and more important than I, and thought that that gave them the right to actually treat me like a useless, stupid little baby.
Although it was hurtful at times, I am grateful for this experience. It taught me, and both girls, something very valuable. I truly believe that both girls learned that maturity has more to do with the experiences you’ve had and what you’ve learned from them, than just how many birthdays you’ve celebrated. Because although I was rambunctiously annoying and immature around them when we first met, they soon realized that I was just trying to fit in and have a good time, and that deep inside I admired them to no end. They realized that just because I was only fourteen didn’t mean I didn’t have feelings and emotions. Even more importantly, I myself learned some significant lessons from this experience, too. I learned that both girls have very complex lives, with family, school, and relationship problems around every corner. I didn’t think about that when I first met them. I just saw two pretty snobs that hated me. I now know that things going on in your life can deeply affect how you treat others and how you see the world, and I was their victim in this particular case.
This experience has changed me, in big and small ways. It has changed the way I treat people younger than myself. If a ten year old wishes to tell me something, be it the silliest most unimportant thing, I look them in the eyes and listen. When I see younger kids, now I remember how I felt when I was around a sixteen year old at their age. Now, I realize that every human being is worthy of equal respect, regardless of age or appearance. Most importantly, I learned that first impressions, no matter how convincing they may seem, are always far from the deep, inner truth. And it’s all thanks to those two dear girls who ruined my day at camp that one summer; It made me a better person. Thank you.
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