Every year at Halloween I work up the courage to visit haunted houses. For me, it’s always a scary mission to walk through those halls, but when I come out the other end, I’m grateful that I was brave enough to face my fears. I learned early in life that facing your fears helps gain a greater appreciation for the world around you…
It was a Monday. I stepped off the bus and was greeted by a cool fall breeze and the sound of my schoolmate’s chatter. Today was no different than any other Monday, other than the alternate route I took to class. Instead of pushing through the over-crowded hallways, I took a much less popular hall that passed by the biology pond outside. There, seated at bench, head buried in book, was a messy-haired boy about my age. I shrugged it off and went about my day.
Later at lunch, I noticed the same boy reading alone. Day after day I began to wonder who this mysterious student was. Weeks later, I finally let my curiosity get the best of me. I deserted my usual lunch crowd (the cheerleading team) and invited myself to a lunch for two at the secluded biology pond.
I plopped down next to the boy and started eating. At first, he completely ignored me and continued reading his endless novel. A few quite moments passed, and I began asking questions. Question after question he slowly answered, while never releasing his book from the suspended space in front of his face. There was an abrupt pause in the conversation, and he asked, “Why are you talking to me.” I looked back at him with a confused expression. “Aren’t you on the cheerleading team?” he asked.
That day opened my eyes. People rarely see you the way you view yourself.
In school the pressure to “fit in” and “be cool” can shape and mold us into people who avoid those who are different and to miss out on our true potential. One of the biggest fears we have as teens and even adults is to stand alone, to be different, to be unaccepted. Being a part of a cheerleading team gives you the stability of a group: You practice together, you hang out together, and you wear the same uniform. To bystanders, this can seem intimidating. Uninviting. And perpetuates stereotypes.
I remember how scary it was to see myself from someone else’s perspective. To see how people who were not a part of the “my group” felt. The boy by the biology pond became one of my very closest friends, and inspired me to take an interest in reading and writing, which is now one of my favorite hobbies. He learned that cheerleaders weren’t all that he had assumed they were, and gladly joined our busy lunch table for the remainder of the school year.
I’m glad I faced my fear. Don’t be afraid to stand alone.
- Jessica Green