Just before ninth grade, my family moved from Maryland to Texas. As far as I was concerned, it was two years too late. All my life, I’ve had a Five Year Move Clock in my head, and I always felt like we stayed places too long.
So while some kids might have found this to be a horrible time to move, I was ready. Sure, I was going to miss the friends I’d grown up with. But I was more than ready for new sights and sounds and people.
Texas provided plenty of all of those. For a girl from the outskirts of D.C., it took some getting used to. Fortunately, I had some help.
First, there was the library. I didn’t know many people for the first semester, so I went to the school library a lot. And by “a lot,” I mean three times a day. I’d go before school and check out a book to read between classes. I’d return it at lunch and get another book, which I’d read between classes. And I’d go back at the end of the day to return that book.
(I am a very fast reader.)
Second, and more importantly, there were Beth and Kelly. Those are not their real names, because on this blog, no one has a real name. Unless I tell a story about a celebrity. I’m not sure if I’ve done that. But if I do, I’ll probably use the celebrity’s name.
Beth and Kelly were friends from middle school. They, like me, had decided to join Pep Squad. I don’t know their rationales, but I joined Pep Squad because my mother thought it would be a great way for me to know people on the first day of school, and I thought it would be a great way to get out of P.E.
Pep Squad had a week of summer training for new members, and when I arrived, I knew no one. But Beth and Kelly took me under their wing (wings?) and made me part of their group. While we didn’t do all of the drills together, we did meet for lunch every day and exchange stories. Kelly invited me to her birthday party (where I discovered MTV). They welcomed me into their existing circle of friends. We had classes together. They gave me people to stand with at the bus stop at the end of the day.
And while each of them later moved and changed schools, and we lost touch, I know that they made my freshman year of school bearable. They made it possible for me to decipher a new community and find my way.
Later, I found out why all of this happened. It turned out that, before camp started, they decided that they were going to find someone who looked like she had no friends, and be her friend.
They picked me.
They were 13 years old, and they decided to make someone an insider instead of an outsider. They chose to be inclusive instead of exclusive.
We hear a lot about bullying. Maybe there would be less of it–and maybe it would be easier to endure–if we tried to get our children to think more like Beth and Kelly.
It’s not that I had no problems in high school. Of course I did. We all did. But those problems were made easier because I had a place in that school. And Beth and Kelly helped me find it, by making a conscious choice. At age 13.