In elementary school I was always the teacher's favorite student. I never tried to be, I was just quiet. It's hard not to be the favorite when you're literally the only one not screaming in class and trying to wipe boogers on everyone. So as much as I like to think it was because I was the ideal student, it was in reality because I was quiet. And nice.
In third grade I had a teacher who I am told saved her favorite work of mine until the day she retired. She also went to my same church which caused a predicament for me because I didn't know if she actually liked me, or just knew my parents so she liked me. She gave me the only A++ on a paper that she awarded all year, so then I convinced myself that I was actually a good student and was also really cool. One time she had to leave the classroom to make copies and was going to be gone for a whole 5 minutes. She had to put someone in charge so that they could tattle on the kids that did something bad during that time. I was 110% honest so I knew it was coming. I even looked down so she would think that I was not an option for a candidate.
"Ashley, I'm putting you in charge of the whole class. I need you to tell me if anyone gets out of their seat or talks to the students around them while I am gone."
She left the room, and I wanted to follow right behind her.
Oh my gosh. What qualifies as moving? What if someone whispers kind of quiet, and I sort of hear them? Do I really tell on them for that? Oh please, I hope everyone just stays quiet and I don't have to make any decisions. I don't want anyone to hate me. Oh my gosh.
Then it happened. The cutest boy in the whole class, the one who chose me first for every football, soccer, and kickball game (okay, I was seriously the biggest tomboy ever) started laughing with his friend. He told a joke to the class and I was dying inside. The class got quiet right when the teacher walked back in. My face was beat red.
I had to do it. I told her that he talked. He looked at me in disgust, and even worse, the teacher made him march up to the behavior chart we had and move his magnet from green down to red. There was nothing worse than having your magnet on red; no recess. After that, my kickball buddy didn't talk to me anymore. I was chosen last for every game (he was always the captain and chose the teams) and I was crushed. I couldn't take it anymore, so I forced myself to be friends with the girls. Oh my gosh I hated pretending that I was afraid of the ball like all the other girls when it accidentally was kicked our way. The monkey bars and twirl bars that I had to learn how to do stupid tricks on gave me the worst blisters I've ever had in my life. I even had my mom curl my hair one day and put me in this cute striped jump suit situation. All the boys told me that I looked like Cindy Crawford, and I was so embarrassed I hid in the bathroom all during lunch and recess. I tried to take out the curls but they didn't come out. Luckily it was towards the end of the school year so I didn't have to worry about my dilemma for much longer.
When fourth grade hit I went back to being a tomboy. It was too annoying trying to fit in with the other girls. They were annoying. Or maybe it was me, and I just didn't know it. But jelly sandals and leotards just weren't on my agenda so I really didn't care. The prettiest girl in the whole grade was in my class that year. We got put on a team together with another girl to take down the big American flag everyday right before school ended. One day as we were walking outside on our routine flag take down task, she looked at me and said, "It must be nice to not care about what anyone thinks of you. What do you have, like five shirts?"
I probably actually had six shirts, but I let that slide and realized that she was making fun of me for being, well, me. I didn't think she was cool anymore after that, and asked to be put with a different flag team. I didn't know why everyone thought she was so cool, when I knew that she was actually pretty mean. She and her friends would make fun of me here and there after that, but it made me realized something.
It made me realize that I didn't ever want to fit it. To me, fitting in meant that I was forced to become someone that I wasn't. Ever since then, I've never really fit in anywhere. I've always done my own thing. And then I found people who do their own thing and we have beautiful relationships full of understanding and collaboration. When I think about fitting in I think of trying to force yourself between a tight space like when a baby tries to hammer a circle inside of a triangle when they're playing with that weird lil tykes toy. If you're a circle, don't try to be a square. It makes like a lot more enjoyable.
No great feats, accomplishments, or successes
have come from fitting in... but from within.
Today, just be you. Because seriously, nothing is cooler.