I always hated moving and making new friends. It was the beginning of high school and we had just moved again. It was scary to start over and break into a new place every few years and leave so many close friends behind. I remember going to the cafeteria for the first time and not knowing a soul. Where do I sit? How do I not look so vulnerable, lost, afraid, needy and terrified? Being all by myself and feeling like everyone noticed, is when I wanted to be invisible the most. Like being alone was somehow equal to not being likeable or having some terrible flaw. It felt so awkward and stressful. Somehow there was safety if I had a tribe to sit with, and being on my own felt as if I were an outcast!
When I look back on it, I realize that in each place I moved, I would end up making amazing new friends and being so happy! Turned out that I was pretty good at connecting and making friends. To have to go do it all over again always had risks though. Would it work out? Would I ever find friends that I was as close to as before? Mixed in with the excitement I also felt loss, grief, fear and discomfort.
The last place we moved before I went to college was particularly hard because I was going into High School and I somehow think I was more self conscious about being the new kid.
That year was when I got to learn a life lesson that I carry with me today: one person can make all the difference. I have noticed, as time goes by, that because I experienced what a huge difference it can make to have someone reach out, I find myself reaching out to others. I have paid it forward over and over again.
Like every school, there were the nerds, the “ingroup”, the druggies, the jocks, the theater group, the disenfranchised and the “hicks.” I really didn’t want to be a “good girl” anymore and being new gave me a chance to reinvent myself. That part of moving I really liked, I liked that I wasn’t pigeonholed.
One day, I remember I was outside walking up to the tennis courts and I met Tina on the staircase. She was a cheerleader and in the “ingroup” and it never occurred to me that she would even acknowledge my existence. I was so surprised when she did. She made an effort to welcome me. Because she made an effort, I had someone to sit next to at lunch. Then she introduced me to all her friends and before long I felt accepted and began to connect to everyone in deeper and more meaningful ways. I can say this one act of random kindness changed my life.