I started school today. I'm changing high schools as a Sophomore from a campus with all of my friends to one where I know three people. And I learned quite a few things today about standing alone.
My mom drove me to school early in the morning, which was a drag because summer really should last until after Labor Day. I felt calm, cool, and collected. That is, I felt calm, cool, and collected until we drove into the main parking lot. My heart started hammering in my chest and an uncomfortable sensation of adrenaline ran coursing through all of my limbs. I smiled weakly, stood up straight and walked up the hill and the steps into the school building.
Upon reaching the social setting of early morning, I think I almost had a panic attack. There were eight hundred highschoolers all hugging and laughing after their summer breaks away from each other. I passed the twenty minutes before the first bell as well as I could, trying to stay either out of sight or connecting with the few people I knew. Meeting new people, though my goal, was a daunting impossibility at this point.
I stepped into Mentor (Homeroom) and immediately saw Judy, a girl I had met the day before at orientation. She's a transfer student from Taiwan and must be one of the sweetest people I've met in a long time. I smiled and talked to her for a while, and then my Mentor group began to file in. I smiled as familiar faces - far more than I expected - stepped through the door. I met four new people that period, all friendly.
Then came first period drama. Immediately, I felt more at home. Drama - my element. It ended up being a lot of laughing and a half-hour of ridiculous, hilarious improv games. I walked out of that class with three more new nearly-friends and entered the second most daunting part of my day: Morning Break. Here was the entire high school once again, but this time in nothing more than a brief respite from the day's classes. That should have frozen me solid. The social undercurrents of Morning Break are about twice the intensity of Lunch...and that's saying something.
I made it through. There were a few awkward moments (three that I can think of), but I made it through. And once again, I walked away having met four new friends, and I re-met a friend from several years back. I'd forgotten I'd lost her, and she'd forgotten all about me. And there we were, mashed together during Break by someone I hardly knew. Guess that's the first day of school for ya.
The next few periods of the day went really well. By now I felt like I'd conquered the hardest parts of the day. So I smiled and introduced myself to people. That was a relief - it was good to have people who genuinely wanted to meet me.
I looked toward lunch with a mixture of curiosity and also with the feeling of sitting and waiting for impending doom. I bought my lunch and stood frozen for thirty seconds with absolutely no idea what to do. Then I made a decision. I walked up to two strangers sitting outside, jumped up beside them and told them: "My name's Michael. I'm aggressively friendly. I think I'll eat lunch with you guys." I figured if I said it fast enough it wouldn't sound that stupid. Thank God they laughed. I mean THANK GOD.
I met a whole group of friends at lunch and spent time with a long-time friend of mine. The rest of the day? Smooth sailing.
But it was those handful of awkward, horrifying, terrible, plain evil moments of standing alone that I hated the most. It hit me, later, at the grocery store that standing alone is not what's awkward. It all involves where you're standing. Then it's how you're feeling. And then there's when you are standing there.
Where is a big deal. Standing in a grocery store your mother practically raised you in is different than standing alone, surrounded by highschoolers at morning Break.
How is also a big deal. Standing next to the deli, slightly bored and slightly annoyed at your mom for disappearing somewhere around the produce is a very laid back emotion. Frozen by social pressure? Completely different.
When? Now when is important. Lunch time? There's a when for you. It's scary to be in the wrong "whens". Waiting for Mom in the grocery store? That's not really a when.
Today was a really strong, really hot cup of coffee. I was worried it wouldn't be drinkable. But it was.
Can't wait to go back tomorrow morning.
May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
For more about the author (and Stronger Coffee!) visit: http://twitter.com/MichaelJAbraham