I spent my middle school years in a very small Catholic school. And when I say very small, I’m not exaggerating. There were only 60 kids in my graduating class (compared to a typical Long Island high school, some of which had 1,000 kids in a graduating class), and that was one of the biggest grades the school had seen in about ten years. We were in our own little bubble and knew everything about each other.
But when it came time to graduate eighth grade and move on to high school, it also came time for all of us to split up. The majority of the kids in my grade were heading on to one of about five different Long Island Catholic schools. Most groups of BFF’s were sticking together and everyone already knew older kids in those schools. And then there was the handful of us who were going to public school. I was one of them.
I’m not sure why my parents thought it would be fun to separate me from all of the kids I had known my entire life and put me into a completely new environment for high school, but they did. I mean, I guess I know why. They were so over my Catholic school education and they wanted me to be in a more diverse community where I could experience new things and people.
At first, I was excited about the change, mainly because I was sick of wearing a uniform every day (plaid skirts – not as sexy as Britney Spears made them look). I was also sick of my strict education. I had heard stories that public schools let you chew gum during class, wear makeup and experiment with different nail polishes – all things I was never allowed to do in school. I couldn’t wait to be done with grumpy old nuns forever.
But once I realized I was leaving behind all of my childhood BFF’s, I got less excited. I was, and still pretty much am, extremely shy. Who was I going to talk to in the hallways? Who was I supposed to pass notes to during class? And, OMG, who was I going to eat lunch with? For months before the first day of freshmen year, these thoughts whirled through my mind every night. Despite the fact that I had lived in my town my whole life, I knew only one person who didn’t go to my middle school. It was like the public schoolers didn’t exist.
The night before the first day of school, I stayed on the phone with my best friend Sarah for hours. We swore to each other that we wouldn’t let our friendship fall apart even though we would be in different schools, and she gave me tips on how to make friends. I cried myself to sleep, although I woke up every few hours in a panic that I had overslept.
Since I was anxious to make a good impression on my first day, I obviously wore a bright pink tankini bathing suit top under my t-shirt. Why? Because the padding made my boobs look bigger. I mean, I don’t know. Talk to my 13-year-old self and maybe she can explain.
My first day was super scary. I walked to school with the one girl I knew, but we had no classes together and I was too terrified to talk to anyone. During homeroom, I sat at a table with twins named Vicky and Chrissy. They seemed like they knew people. I watched their every move, but didn’t say one word to either of them.
When lunch came, I knew I couldn’t be that loser in the corner crying into her PB&J. I spotted one of the twins from my homeroom across the cafeteria and then watched her walk out the door (we had an open campus). I immediately followed her and another girl, Lauren, to 7-11, keeping a creepy distance of about five feet between us. After I followed them around 7-11, I finally mustered up the courage to say something. I tapped the girl Vicky on the back and said, “Can I eat lunch with you guys?”
After spending lunch with two girls who seemed super friendly, the rest of the day was a little easier. Sure, some random dude was weirdly teasing me in English, and yes, I spilled a bottle of Coke inside my brand new bag during Biology, but everything else was kind of okay.
I’m not going to lie – it was really difficult to be a new kid. I was shoved into a group of people who had been friends since they were in kindergarten. I was forced to be friendly and outgoing when I’m actually shy and reserved. I felt like I didn’t fit in for a really long time. Some days, I would come home and beg my parents to let me switch to Catholic school with all of my old friends. I was growing apart from them… even Sarah. The people I had once talked to all day were now people I was “catching up with” about once a week. And my public high school was the complete opposite of my middle school. Getting out of my comfort zone and learning to make a place for myself in a school where I felt like I didn’t belong was so hard.
But in the end, it all paid off. That dude who was teasing me in English? I ended up dating him for five years and he was my first love. Those twins from my very first homeroom and that girl Lauren from my awkward lunch? Seven years later and they’re still my best friends in the whole world. So listen: if you’re a new kid, just give it time. I did, and although I didn’t have the greatest first year of high school, I still had four pretty good years.
Have you ever been the new kid? What was it like? What was your worst school experience? Tell us in the comments!