Entering the Jungle

Noelle - Knoxville, Tennessee
Entered on November 26, 2013

Being thirteen, the most important thing in the eyes of your immature mind is what others view you to be. Having the most expensive mall bought jeans, coolest shoes, the latest hairstyle, and knowing the most popular songs means you have power in the pool of tiny hormone enraged sharks. When my parents informed me I would not be attending Northwest Middle School for my eighth grade year but Farragut Middle School instead, I was more than a little skeptical. Setting foot into the social jungle of a new school after being coddled by the embrace of the familiar has taught me to always be myself and do what makes me ultimately happy. Five years ago, the lesson began.

When I walked into Farragut Middle School in August of 2008, my sense of what was “cool” had been completely altered by two great, although scary, years at a school for children with slightly less promising futures other than drug dealing and rap music. The stares and whispers stalked me as I walked into the crowded auditorium for the informal orientation donning my ripped jeans, tattered Converse, and skull covered black t-shirt. In a preppy sea of pinks and light blues, I was piece of meat tossed to the lions. Being new, I had no friends, so I picked the girl who was alone and dressed in black like I was and invited her to join me at an empty lunch table. I came to find out that her name was Jennifer. She was new as well, and hated the place as much as I did so far so we instantly became each other’s partners in battle. After that, we went to the gym for a walk and the teasing and heckling began. The first person who talked to me at that fortress of despair besides my new friend was Dakota, and the first words he spoke were “Are you a lesbian?” Those words sparked an onslaught of similar remarks by the other children in the dimly lit gym and did not cease until the moment I left that accursed building. As soon as I got home, I immediately broke down into tears and begged my mom to take me to Aeropostale to buy new clothes so the other kids would leave me alone. Even with the new clothes, makeup, and total personality shift, they would not leave me alone. Then after a few weeks, it finally hit me: I was not happy trying to be someone I was not.

When I finally decided to be who I was, people still tried to make me feel like I was not good enough, but I had to keep going and decide that my happiness was more important than their petty remarks. I was only feeding the leeches instead of facing the truth and realizing that being someone else for other people to be happy is not what life is about. I put away the brand name clothes, dusted off my Converse, thickly lined my eyes, and walked back into that school with a new lease on life. They teased and poked fun at me, but it did not matter because I had something they did not: individuality. That was what made me the happiest. I made a small group of misfit friends who liked me for the skater girl I really was. By the end of September, I had totally turned around my Farragut experience and made the most of the changes that were put before me.

When it comes to being faced with adversity, I had to decide that being myself and fighting for my own happiness was more important than the opinions of the simple minded. I now have adopted my own personal motto: I do what I want. I use those words every day to remind me that what makes me happy is the most important. Whether that be choosing my future career path or deciding which cat sweater I want to wear that day, I am in control of what I enjoy and the opinions of the now much bigger sharks are just passing waves.