Joanne was a strange girl. She sat in front of me in AP US History in high school. She had stringy brown hair, eyes reminiscent of a deep sea fish meeting the air for the first time after being caught, and a mouth that would not stop talking. She knew every answer to every question. Talked about the Civil War while we were still on the Revolutionary one. Was allergic to everything. And blew her nose, incessantly. God. Would you please stop blowing your nose so hard? Some of that stuff is missing the tissue and landing on my desk.
I thought her allergies were pretty annoying, but the rest of her wasn’t too, too bad. She was unique. I could appreciate that. We were both weird in our own ways. I was quiet and shy, and liked to hide behind loud people in class so that teachers would pass over me when searching for someone to call on (they didn’t want to accidentally call on the loud one). So we were both strange girls. But, I didn’t connect with her. I just didn’t find enough in common with her.
No one in our class actually liked her. They called her names when she went to the bathroom. They cheered whenever she was absent from class. I felt kind of bad for her. To be “that girl”. That girl that everyone despised.
It has been said that my generation was the first one to experience a time where everyone still knows everything about each other, even long after you stop keeping in touch. When we went to college, Facebook kept us in the loop with almost everyone we had grown up with. Through my Facebook newsfeed, I watched as high school sweethearts went from “In a relationship” to “single”, saw friends from kindergarten get their high school diplomas, and boys I had crushes on back in the 5th grade become tattoo bearing motorcyclists. I also started seeing photos of Joanne pop up on my Facebook feed. She went to a private college in Massachusetts, known for its rigorous academics and students with intense the extracurriculars of chess, bowling club, and debate team. You know what? She looked happy! Increasingly happy. Every new picture had a new friend in it. She got a (super cute) boyfriend. She went on mountain retreats with the debate team. She put up political statements as her statuses on Facebook….and got avid responses from her fellow classmates. There, she was in her element. There, she was loved. I was stunned.
How could a girl with so little to like become the star of a college campus? It had seemed impossible for anyone to want to be friends with her back in high school. But suddenly, she was everyone’s friend at college. I couldn’t help but love her ascent. Feel happy for her joy and success.
But, what did I do to deserve to feel happy for her? The only thing I did was tolerate her, and maybe even use her as a shield against teachers.
Joanne showed me that sometimes there’s nothing wrong with us.
We just haven’t found the right place.
When we do, we will blossom.
Don’t stay where you are only tolerated. Go where you are celebrated.