Unique Discovery

May 31, 2008
The heat of the air inside the new building enveloped me in comforting warmth, rescuing me from the cool autumn air. I looked around for directions on where I should be, as a voice murmured “the gym is that way.” Walking towards the gym, my heartbeat increased as I neared the roaring chatter. I pushed open the doors to find 120 kids turn their heads to acknowledge the new student. As I scanned the silenced room, they and I both realized I was the only black girl in school.

Upon meeting me, it’s obvious I’m not from around here. With a name like Alfine and a skin tone so rich as mine, I don’t resemble the typical Mainer. And that’s true; technically, I’m not a “Mainer.” I was born in Nairobi, Kenya.
“Wow, really?! What brought you to Maine?” many ask, “I’m not quite sure..” I respond. The more recent question has been “What brings you to Falmouth?” and if you asked me four years ago, I’d give you the same clueless response. Several obstacles and triumphs later, however, I think I’ve figured it out.

In 2003, Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit housing organization would extend the American dream of home ownership to my family. I was excited about the journey ahead, yet my first year at Falmouth High School was a difficult one. The drastic differences were overwhelming. At King Middle School in Portland, the most diverse city in Maine, I was one of many. With over twenty-eight languages spoken, and students representing seventeen countries of the world, I felt at home. At Falmouth, it was just me. Each day, I’d go home with a new problem to address. I’ll never forget the time Mom asked, “So, how were things today?” I longed for something eventful and impressive to say, but all that came out was “I have no friends.” Accepting that I didn’t fit in, for the first time in my life, was one of the biggest hurdles I had to jump. In turn, I had to dig deep within myself, discovering a girl that was unfamiliar with the concept of self-love. I had to learn that in order for others to befriend me, I must befriend myself, first. Understanding this, I was able to open doors revealing my authentic self.

Moving into a homogenous society, I was afraid of being the “different” girl I inevitably was. While learning to accept my true self, I observed classmates change from reserved and narrow-minded to curious and warm. To encounter a girl as shy and insecure as I was, they couldn’t help but be seemingly cold and reticent. As time passed, it struck me that the comfort and love we have for ourselves reflects the comfort and love others will have toward us. After achieving this realization, I acquired a newfound freedom to be the girl I naturally was, differences and all.

Being able to withstand such profound challenges, I feel ready to face the future with assuredness that I can overcome challenges, and consequently succeed. Existing within each of us is a unique soul with stories to share and lessons to teach. From this experience, I feel compelled to share my story and in doing so, inspire others to share and celebrate their unique stories.

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