I remember the stoplight in the cafeteria. It was one of those giant ones that would go red if it got too loud. I remember Amy Lyons turning to me and telling me that Misty didn’t want me to come to her party anymore. Misty, the queen bee. Isn’t that such a queen bee name? I remember telling my mom that the party was cancelled. And being embarrassed. I remember crying.
I think it was because I won the election for class representative and queen bee wanted it. It was all very Mean Girls. Very, very mean girls. In fourth grade.
I remember sitting alone in the line outside Mrs. Breaux’s door. You sit in the line before class in the morning. With your friends. The second half of that year I sat alone. I didn’t talk to anyone. I remember feeling sad.
I felt worthless and I saw myself as they saw me—a smarty-pants, teacher’s pet, sell-out who was not worth being friends with. Lame. A loser.
I remember the backpack I had that year. It was pink, I think. I had these permed bangs. Yes, just the bangs. How can you not be a loser, with permed bangs? I blame the hairstyle.
Before fourth grade, I was a happy kid. I had friends and we played on the merry-go-round. It was the time before you had any thoughts of yourself or other people or what you all thought of each other.
But that year I learned that other people could not like you, and that what they said to your face was not necessarily how they really felt. It was scary. I lost my confidence. I didn’t want to succeed at anything because I was afraid people would hate me. I became suspicious. Even if people said they were my friend, pretended to be my friend, I didn’t really trust them.
That’s a hard way to live.
I’ve grown a lot since then. Learned to trust people and make friends. But somewhere in there is still that suspicious, untrusting girl who’s worried she’s lame and that other people are really just pretending to like her. Worried that when they find out who she really is they will shun her.
I’m trying to recover the girl who just plays on the merry-go-round and doesn’t think about these things, but it’s hard.
Maybe you can’t go back. Maybe you can only go forward. Forward to knowing that some people just won’t like you, and it doesn’t mean anything about you. It doesn’t mean that you are lame. Forward to knowing that people who dislike you for your success are not your friends. Forward to knowing that there are friends worth having. Who, when they do get to know the real you, will like you for you.