Embracing Authenticity: Finding Friendship and Self-acceptance
Before the age of ten I moved eight times, meaning that I never stayed anywhere long enough to place roots and make true friends. Once I got to fifth grade, I started to plant my roots and quickly made two new friends. But just my luck, most of my peers didn’t like them, and by association, no one wanted to be around me either.
At the time, I was okay with being hated by the rest of my peers as I thought I still had two great friends and that they would become my best friends. The school year progressed and I noticed they would hang out together outside of school and I was never invited. This hurt me deeply, but I was too passive to vocalize these feelings at the time. I continued to make the most of the time I had with them while in school.
At the start of sixth grade, my friends and I were excited. We were finally in sixth grade and at the top of the elementary school pyramid. Everything went poorly when I found out that I was not in the same class as my two friends. They were still in the same class, and partnered on every group project. The only time I would see them would be during recess, in which they began to make new friends. Soon another girl was a permanent part of the group, and I was slowly being forgotten.
One day at recess, my friends and the new girl approached me and began to sing a song they had created, a song which rhymed my name with “fell,” calling me clumsy, and “smelly.” All the emotions I had been keeping inside regarding my separation from people I thought were my friends had exploded and I ran into the bathroom crying. In more ways than one, sixth grade had been a hard year for me. My parents were fighting over the phone regularly, and my aunt, who I loved dearly, had passed away, and I had no friends to comfort me through it all.
Without really noticing when it happened, I started talking to this girl on my bus. She had purple dyed streaks in her hair and wore all black, and to be completely frank, she scared me a bit. Little did I know, she would become my best friend. We sat together every bus ride for the rest of the year. We laughed and joked, and we were probably annoying to everyone else on the bus trying to get to sleep in the morning.
When we got to middle school, our friendship only grew stronger, however, the toxic environment continued. I was taunted by many peers for my appearance, but also my personality. As an african-american woman in a school with very few students that looked like me, I felt uncomfortable and targeted in many social settings, and I was afraid to be my typical weird and goofy self. I thought the less attention on me, the better.
Although my friend couldn’t specifically relate to some of the same struggles I endured, she was there for me. As time moved along, we started hanging out at each other’s houses and having sleepovers. I was finally able to have that safety within a friendship, and have those moments I missed out on with my previous friends.
As a natural part of growing up, insecurities arose throughout middle school and high school which distorted my image of myself. My best friend never let me change who I was to fit a mold and she helped me differentiate weaknesses from insecurities. I was a weirdo, and she helped me see that there was nothing wrong with that. If I wanted to dance in public, she’d dance with me. If I decided to dress up as Dora for Halloween, she’d be Boots. She helped me realize that I should never compromise who I am for others. The right people will find their way into your life if you remain unapologetically yourself.