In the hierarchy known as middle school, most people think that they are better than someone else. This is usually extremely true for the popular crowds, who seem to think that they are better than most. This is also true for the outcast kids. Just because they aren’t part of the popular crowd doesn’t mean they are at the bottom of the food chain.
In middle school I had several equally outcast friends, and we formed a decent group of loner kids. I still thought that I was better than a few, and I played into popularity like almost every other kid. There was one girl in particular who I thought was at least lower than me on the social food chain. I am not proud but I took many of my frustrations out on her, and made fun of her with my friends. I felt like making fun of her made me better somehow, and I wasn’t very nice.
I didn’t connect the dots, and realize that I was doing to her, what other kids did to me. My friends and I made her life more difficult, and I have no doubt that we made her feel bad about herself. In all fairness, her side was pretty much the same. She and her friends saw themselves as a little bit better than us, and taunted us as well. We never got along and it was fairly safe to say that we were enemies. Both of us playing into what was socially acceptable, and making life more difficult for one another.
This went on for all three years of middle school. She dated a friend of mine once, and when that didn’t work out, we had even more fuel for the fire. We called her names based on her bodily characteristics, and put her down repeatedly. I am not proud of myself for how I treated another person in school; it seems so silly to me now that I didn’t see myself giving her the same hell I was going through.
Before graduating from middle school, all the 8th graders got to go on a field trip to some fun place. Like all the other students, I went along for the fun. The day started off with all the older students getting on busses to head out. When I got on the last bus, there were no seats available, except for the one next to my so-called enemy. I had to sit next to her for the entire ride there and I wasn’t looking forward to it.
At some point along the way we stopped ignoring each other and made real small talk. I had never really talked to her before, and I was surprised at how well we could carry a conversation. That moment of friendship ended as soon as we got there, and we found our own friends. The day carried on, and everyone enjoyed not having to be in class for an entire day. I saw my enemy a few times but never approached her. On the ride home we had to take the same bus we took to get there, and once again we ended up sitting next to each other.
We easily struck up a conversation again, and before long we had each other in giggles. It amazed me that this person I thought I hated so much, could be so fun to talk to. Conversation came so easily to the two of us, and we really seemed to have a lot in common. I started thinking about why I didn’t like her, and I couldn’t really think of a good reason. So what if other people didn’t like her, other people didn’t like me either. There was nothing bad about this girl, and she really was nice. I wasn’t really sure why people were so mean to her. She was different yes, but she wasn’t weird or crazy.
On the ride home, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t have anything against this girl, and I decided that we should call a truce, after all why couldn’t we like each other? She readily agreed, and that was the beginning of the longest friendship I have had in my life.
I learned that her family situation was pretty crappy. She had a single mom who was prone to drunken outburst, and a total lack of sobriety. We quickly bonded, and she spent more time at my house then her own. By the time we started high school together, she was more like a sister.
I couldn’t believe that I had spent the last three years acting like a total jerk to this girl for no real reason. Just because it was socially acceptable didn’t make it ok, and in the end I really did like her. If I hadn’t given in to the social pressure of popularity, I would have found my best friend earlier. I am so thankful that we were able to see beyond the reputation other kids had given us, and see each other for who we really were.
It was a good lesson to help me realize that people are not defined by what others say, nor how they look, or your preconceived notions of them. I learned to take the time to get to know someone even if other people have bad things to say about them. How do you know that other people took the time to get to know someone before judging them? Maybe we should all take the time to see who a person really is before we judge them. I think a lot of people will find that instead of making enemies, they make friends. I know I am thankful for my best friend, and for the many years we have been able to lean on each other.
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