Often, the word ‘new’ is associated with freshness, a pleasant change, and even the beginning of a journey. Whenever I hear the word ‘new’ attached to anything, I usually get a flutter of excitement: New clothes, bring it on! New books, count me in! But once, it so happened that the word attached itself to me and that is a story that never gets old.
(See what I did there?)
Being a new kid at school comes with its share of experiences both good and bad. But the usual consensus of every new kid is that after a week, it was as though they’d been associated with the school their whole life. But, like every consensus ever, no one said that sometimes, you remain a new kid for life.
I was barely six when I changed schools. It was quite a transition as I was being put in an all girls school from a co-educational one and the absence of my lads group from the old school didn’t make it any less daunting.
The first thing that hit me square in the face when I got admitted to the new school was the uniform. Before I saw that tunic and blouse with the polished shoes, I used to think that uniforms were a thing that belonged to my parents’ generation and that they were redundant but guess who was wrong?
In fact, I hated the idea of the uniform so much that I spilled water all over it on my very first day.
Turns out the material was water-repelling….
So, waterproof and uniformed, I entered the class and guess what happened? The teacher started the Science lesson without saying a ‘thank you’ prayer at the beginning of the day.
That scared me so much because in my old school, we ALWAYS thanked God for the wonderful morning and I was petrified that God wouldn’t make the next day wonderful cause we’d been so ungrateful.
Following the first lesson, we had what was called a “Welcome Session” for the new students and the teacher said that the “welcoming” would involve a play of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and the new students would be a part of it. Naturally, I thought that statement meant that the new kid got to be the princess but nowhere was it mentioned that the part of the main character only went to the girl who’d been in the school since pre-nursery.
I ended up being a tree in that play but trees symbolise new life, so at least there was proper symbolism.
The rest of the year saw me make up a story where I’d been in the school since pre-nursery but I couldn’t attend the classes in person cause my dad had a super secret mission in Antarctica.
And that is where I realised story-telling was cool.
After disappointing God and the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ fiasco, it was time for…..wait for it….Making Friends.
“Humour based on my pain, hahahaha……”
So, I walked up to this girl who had a pink bag and a book full of ballerina stickers and I spoke the one word that created a magical bond back in my old school.
The girl looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘I have a question.’
I was cool with that, cause one always has questions since this is the matter of creating a magical bond but the next thing she said was when I realised that I was going to be a brand new kid for a very long time.
‘Do you live in a building or a bungalow?’
In my old school, they always asked who your favourite Power Ranger was but maybe that would be the next question?
I said I lived in a building.
I crossed my fingers so that her next question could be about Power Rangers but the next thing she said wasn’t a question at all.
‘Sorry, I can’t be friends with people who don’t live in a bungalow.’
A week into the new school and I saw the new kids’ consensus shatter before my eyes. I got one girl to agree to being my friend but when she saw I don’t travel to school by bus like an ‘independent girl’, she decided I was too childish. Even though we both were six.
And then came my birthday, a day that I love to the ends of the Earth but for the first time ever, I got a scolding on my birthday because I brought Cadbury chocolates to distribute instead of small toffees. No one told me that was the rule since I was new and from the next day on, I was ‘The girl who got scolded on her birthday’.
Usually, when a person is new to an institution, the veterans make it a point to bring that person home but the only thing I wanted to do in my new school was to run back home and never return.
I did return though, for the next twelve years. Each day in the hope of not being a ‘new girl’ anymore, in the hope of fitting in.
Our teachers said that the school had a special place of comfort for everyone and a question that I still ask is where was my special place of comfort?
Where was my place of comfort when the same teachers isolated me from the class because I was a bad influence in their eyes? There was a general rule that no one should sit with me for lunch and man didn’t the girls obey it.
Where was my place of comfort when I had to wade through a maze of desks with a broken leg to find an empty chair because the kids didn’t want me to sit in their circle?
Where was my place of comfort when I sat with blood from an ankle wound seeping through my sock and the teacher wouldn’t let me go to the nurse because I would be interrupting the lesson?
Where was my place of comfort when the girls pushed their desks back to squash me in the far corner so I dropped a desk while standing up and everyone could have a good laugh?
Where was my place of comfort when I straight up got told that the reason people didn’t like me was because I wasn’t beautiful?
Where was my place of comfort when I never uttered a word in class because whenever I did, I got told my voice sounded weird?
Where was my place of comfort when the teacher told me I was a huge disappointment to my family and a problematic child?
As a new girl, I tried everything, making friends, doing things I normally wouldn’t, buttering up the teachers and even making the school proud. In fact, I was so excited to represent my new school at a skating event and even more so when I actually brought home the gold but when I came to school, eager to be the school’s new achiever, the cold response I received was, ‘What about academics? Sports aren’t everything.’
That hurt me so much that I eventually stopped telling people about the competitions I was attending cause making the school proud wasn’t the way to stop being the new kid.
I then turned to letting my imagination run wild and began to write stories, years after joining school, because I had to be an alumnus that was a credit to the institution but whenever anyone saw me write, there was a passing comment that my head was in the clouds and I had to be brought down to Earth. But that wasn’t what happened to the girls who’d been in school since pre-nursery. They were deemed the future Shakespeares.
I believe my only crime was not being in the school since pre-nursery.
Yet, there were a bunch of new girls who called the school their home away from home.
I guess it had something to do with the fact that I lived in a building.
Guess I’ll never know.
It’s been a year since I’m out of school now and it’s been a great new beginning since but it took me a long time to come out of it. In fact, I still have some remnants of those demons but what my whole school experience taught me was that people can be really mean and can put you down when you’re already down in the dumps but for everyone out their who’s facing bullying in school or anywhere, let me tell you that bullies are cowards. They love putting people down to make themselves feel better and while I’m fully for supporting mental health, I really don’t believe that a bully is troubled and needs help and their bullying is just a channeling of their trauma, no matter how flashy those Instagram posts get.
Also, pro tip: Never give up on your hobbies and passions, no matter how much someone ridicules you because it is those passions that never leave your side and stay with you in all your moments. And also, complain. Whenever you see that you’re getting bullied or you see another person getting bullied, complain to the authorities. I especially stress on the latter because for a person being bullied, it’s very hard to watch silent by-standers just watching with pity but too scared to stand up for them and it would mean a lot if someone actually supports the victim because it’s hard for them to complain. Remember, even if you’re not physically taking part in the bullying, your silence speaks louder but if you speak, you have someone’s gratitude for life.
And finally, remember, however iconic ‘Mean Girls’ is, being Regina George is not cool so burn that Burn Book and try to be a person with a heart.
Disney Princesses come to mind, in case anyone wants a reference of kind-heartedness:)
Yet, there’s one thing that I wonder.
Would things have been different if my teacher had remembered to thank God for the wonderful morning on the first day?
Guess who says their daily prayers now.
And that is a wrap,
until next time,