Between grades 4-9, I attended 5 different schools. Most of the school changes were due to budget cuts & mergers. My family only moved once, just before my freshman year of high school, 2 blocks away from the school. Crazy, huh?
Every school-change was difficult for me. Adolescence is tough enough, but to throw my entire world into a tailspin just about every autumn really messed me up. I used to hate my birthday in August, because that meant school was coming: classrooms full of strangers to be overwhelmed with anxiety over. I didn’t love a Michigan fall until after I moved to Tucson; now I can’t WAIT for fall! It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
The first impressions I would give out were never that great back then. I was extremely shy and did not find it easy to make friends. I would get physically ill about a week into the new school year; I would throw up and feel debilitating pain in my stomach. The fear of entering these new schools where no one knew or cared about me was that intense.
One of my toughest transitions was when I switched from Catholic to Public school in 7th grade. Two of my teachers seemed to hate me from the start. I was in the AP English class, but since I wasn’t participating in the discussions, and missed a few days during the first two weeks of class (because I was vomiting I was so overwhelmed with anxiety!) the AP English teacher had a talk with my mother and decided to kick me out — into the “regular” English class. Humiliating. Even worse? My own mother refused to stand up for me, and actually agreed that I was not Advanced English material. Yeah, that helped my confidence. Never good enough! Of course, getting kicked out in 7th grade made it difficult to transfer into the AP class in high school because now I had that blemish on my record. Good times.
My science teacher didn’t seem to like me much either, but… for legitimate reasons. The Catholic school I went to didn’t teach many science concepts. I could barely keep my head above water in my 7th grade science class. And that struggle went on throughout high school. Thankfully I did have a couple of good teachers then… and one ass-hole who graded on a terrible curve where I’d flunk every test, and eventually the class my junior year. He was no Walter White, that’s for sure. Damn Chemistry.
I wasn’t used to teachers not liking me. Even if I didn’t have a ton of close friends until about 5th grade during my Catholic school days, the teachers always liked me. I was a good student, and probably a bit of a kiss-ass, but, from my experience, you can’t go wrong with the teacher on your side. But the first impressions I gave off when I transferred to Public School was only the beginning of my learning experience.
Once I survived high school… I had to deal with first impressions on a different level. The first impression I gave to my in-laws was likely one filled with anxiety & awkwardness. I was 18, so… yeah. Still learning.
As I grew, each change in my life became a little easier to adjust to. And once I stopped caring so much about the people who *didn’t* like or want to hang out with me, I started to grow into the person I am today.
The confidence I’ve developed did not happen overnight. But once the hubs & I moved to Tucson… that clean-slate feeling of “no one knows us, let’s pretend we’re cool” kinda worked. The hubs always seemed to make a good first impression, so acting confident was no big deal to him — I don’t know many people who don’t like him… unless they disagree with his strong opinion. But that usually comes much later!
Once I made a conscious decision to act confident when I met someone, it amazed me at how well it worked. Try it sometime. Because the more you act confident, the more you become confident. It’s a crazy concept that actually works.
Once I got over those first initial, awkward moments, I’d remember to smile, stand up straight and walk with a purpose. I looked forward to sharing stories with people who never heard them. I started to get excited when it was time to meet someone new instead of puking my guts out.
Last month, someone I met earlier in the summer expressed just how much she loved the way I carried myself, not with an attitude of shyness or negativity, but oozing with positivity. How, when I walked up to her, she immediately wanted to know more about me. My awkward, 12 year-old-self cried her eyes out over this sweet compliment. But wait, it gets better! She went onto offer me a part-time gig at her non-profit office twice a week, and I just started that phase of my life this week. YES!
Work-outside-of-the-home-Momma reporting for duty!
This latest life-transition is a little scary… first time I’ve worked outside of the home in 8 years. Yes, 8!! But, my first day, although very exhausting, went well, and I’m looking forward to another day at work tomorrow. The kids enjoyed their time in the after-school program, and everything seems to be falling into place.
Even if I’m once again feeling like the new kid: overwhelmed & possibly losing my mind attempting to do it all, I know I have the many changes I’ve experienced over the years to thank for where I am today. They may have been scary enough to induce vomit at the time, but what’s life without change? Pretty damn boring, if you ask me.