For one assignment in English, we were instructed to write a personal essay which could be used for college applications, if needed. I wrote mine about my experiences the first few months of attending Freestyle and how I found my first friend here.
I knew from the start that the trip wasn’t going to be amazing. After weeks at Freestyle Academy, the art and technology program I joined at my school, I still hadn’t found my niche and I felt isolated from the rest of the class. Despite this, I chose to go on the class trip to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I regretted it as soon as we were set loose to roam the museum. I tried to join up with friendly acquaintances, but they all went off on their own, leaving me by myself. It didn’t help that I never really “got” modern art – as I saw the exhibits of basketballs floating in water and videos of trash bags, I was left more confused than anything else. While everyone else talked with their friends and laughed about the TV playing static, I drifted along with no real connection to the art or the people.
After seeing all the exhibits, I went to spend the rest of the field trip at the park across the street. I sat under the dappled shade of a tree with my Chromebook, feeling even lonelier than before we left. Remembering how we needed to write a poem for class about a piece of art in the museum, and inspired by a realistic statue of a policeman inside, I began to type.
In class a few days later, after sharing our poems in small groups, our teacher invited us to read them to the whole class. I decided to volunteer and stood up – not only had I written about the statue, I also wrote about my feelings about modern art and my lonely experience that day. Hoping someone would hear my plea, I read my poem “Policeman” to the class, laying myself and my feelings bare to each of them. Many of my classmates complimented my poem afterwards, talking about how real the emotions felt, but nobody reached out to me afterwards. Despite the small community, I was still a loner.
Except that one girl did come up to me after class and told me about how much she loved my poem. Elated, I sent her a link to the collection of other poems I had written, opening up the lines of communication. From then on whenever we had to pick partners, we always paired up, leaving me grateful that I didn’t have to be the odd person out for once. I finally felt like I belonged at Freestyle with Anna – and the positive feedback I received from my teacher only supported my belief that I made the correct choice in staying.
My natural instinct is to take the easy way out and remain isolated, but I also know I need socialization. So I took the risk in the hopes of reaching out to someone, anyone who could relate. Once I had found someone who truly understood me, I realized that people saw me as actually enjoyable to be around. My unique views and blunt, straightforward comments kept discussions interesting and were genuinely helpful. I continue to appreciate my value every day as I keep reaching out to others and taking risks.
It’s still hard to speak up first, walk into a new environment, or meet new people. My introverted personality defaults to staying in my comfort zone by running away. But I know I won’t be happy if I don’t keep a community where I can be myself. I recall the times I’ve taken risks and reaped the benefits, and use these to find my confidence when auditioning for the school play or spending time with a special needs student at lunch. I’m proud to be vulnerable and use this to connect with new people. And by keeping my mind open, I can reap the benefits of these interactions. And maybe someday I can be someone else’s Anna. Who knows?