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Have you ever lived your whole life, thinking you knew everything, and there was nothing more to it? Well that was my life. I had everything. People wanted to be me. And at the time, I didn’t see what the problem was. I thought my life was perfect, and I never wanted it to change. So how did I end up here? Driving, not knowing where to go, with only the money in my pocket. And why am I so much happier now, then I have ever been in my entire life?

I’ve always been surrounded by money. My grandparents on my mom’s side won the lottery before she was born, and started their own company. You’ve probably heard of it, they have a gas station on every block. My dad’s a whole different story. Everyone in his family has started their own kind of business. My Dad owns one of the most popular law firms in the country, along with about four other different fast food company’s he’s bought out, and well, you’ve heard of Wall-mart.
I had my own credit card by the time I was ten. On my fifteenth birthday, my grandparents gave me a Porsche, so I could practice for my permit. When I was sixteen, I got another new car from my parents and a back up Ferrari in case my car ever broke down. I have a purse from every designer you’ve ever heard of, unless they put things on sale for under $200, because according to my parents, it’s not designer if other people can afford it. I’ve got a closet the size of my bedroom, filled with clothes from all over the world.
My life has always been based off of the theory, money buys you happiness. And if you would have asked me that question a year ago, I would have agreed.
It was the first day of my senior year. Everything was like normal too.
I was the popular girl at school, or I guess the rich girl everyone sucks up to because I have money. Whatever I wanted, I got. I know it sounds really bratty, but it’s true. Although today, I was focused on my first day of school. It took me almost two hours to get ready, because my outfit had to be perfect. I wore a new dress that wasn’t out yet, with some new heels, and a new designer pea-coat. And to top it all off, a Prada bag. My mom always told me fashion is everything.
When I went downstairs, my mom surprised me with a new bag for school, and it was designer of course. That wasn’t the only thing though, outside in the drive was a new Mercedes. My life seemed great.
“So Paige do you like it?”
“Yes I love it! Thanks so much!” I gave my mom and dad each a hung and jumped in my new Mercedes.
“Good. Have a great day. Maybe after school we can order some new clothes for you. Some of your stuff is getting a little outdated.” Oh my mom always had to make sure we were the best dressed. It was all about status to her, and my dad. He bought a new sports car whenever someone else on our street did. My parents definitely liked to show off.
“Okay cool, sounds good.” Not that I’m complaining, it’s nice to get new stuff.
Of course next thing I did was text Katie that I got a new car and coach bag. Katie was my “best” friend. We met in fourth grade, she was the new kid, and my parents immediately invited her family over when they found out she was rich too. It’s always kind of been a competition between our parents to prove who’s richer.
When I got to school, I parked next to her brand new Porsche. She was sitting there painting her nails, acting like she didn’t notice me pull up. After about a minute of sitting there she finally acknowledged me.
“I haven’t seen you for like two weeks, and the first thing you text me is you got a new Mercedes and limited edition coach bag? It’s like you feel the need to prove something to me. It’s pathetic.” She rolled her eyes like I was the stupidest person on the planet. “I mean honestly, who cares, next to my car it looks like an antique.” And you know she may be right, because her parents own a car company, which means she gets the newest sports cars before there on the market. But it still means she can be mean to me like that.
“Wow, get a grip Katie, yours such a drama queen” When I got out of my car and walked away she immediately followed me and acted like nothing happened. “So you ready for senior year!?”
I probably should have told her how I really felt, that I didn’t want to be friends. But when we weren’t fighting, we were really good friends. “Yea!” Or at least as ready as I’ll ever be.
It probably sounds cheesy, but when we opened the doors we walked with our heads held high, acting like we didn’t see anyone around us. But I noticed the stares. Even the cheerleader that thinks she’s the coolest person on the planet stared at me. I guess I forgot about how popular I was.
We walked to our lunch table, which was in the perfect spot to sit and eat with my friends. Tod was already waiting there for me. He’s my boyfriend, and the best football player in the whole school. Needless to say, also the most popular. And half of my fights with Katie are about him. She had a crush on him ever since I can remember, and she gets jealous sometimes and I tend to over react.
“Hey. Ready for senior year? I haven’t seen you since last year.” It was true; I had not seen him all summer. And I felt guilty that I didn’t feel bad about ignoring him. It was just sometimes I wanted to pretend I was a little more normal. I couldn't escape my money and fashion crazy parents at home, but I could escape some of the popularity.
“Aw yea. I know it stinks that we both went on vacation so much. We never got to even talk.” I was kind of grateful my parents decided to go to Paris for a month..
Just then the bell rang for class.
“Bye, see you at break.”
“Ok bye!”
“Wait for me! Bye Tod!” I thought Katie got over that crush already..Oh well she can have him. We only started dating for popularity.
When I got to science the teacher assigned us lab partners. I got stuck with the new kid. He seemed nice, but he was quiet. And the first day is always the worst, because you never know what to say, so we didn’t really say anything.
As we were working on our experiment, he accidentally spilled some chemical on my new bag. He tried to clean it up, “I’m so sorry. I’ll go get some paper towels.” For some reason he didn’t seem to sad about it.
“Oh it’s okay, I’ll let my parents know and they’ll let me get a new one.” I thought this should cheer him up, but it made him look almost mad.
“Oh your one of those people..Yea okay whatever.” This made me mad.
“What’s your problem?”
“Nothing, I just don’t get along with people like you.” This boy was not making any since.
“What do you mean people like me?”
“You know, like you. Spoiled rich kids that get whatever they want.” I wanted to say something, but I didn’t know what to say. “Listen, I don’t want to argue, I just want a good grade, can we just focus on class now?”
“Yea okay whatever. But you should know I’m not a brat, and if you knew me you would understand that.”
“Okay the next thing we need to do is calculate the PH levels of the different…” I couldn’t believe that he just ignored me like that. But maybe it was better, to only talk about class stuff, because we obviously weren’t going to get along. This was going to be a long semester.
When class ended I went to lunch. I noticed nothing had really changed since last year. I still sat with the same people, Katie still had a crush on my boyfriend, and I was the richest girl in school. So why should I care about what he said? I guess no one had ever told me I was a spoiled brat before..I was used to people begging to be my friend so they could get free stuff. You know, the rich girls friend.
I went through the day thinking about what made me spoiled. It’s not my fault I’m rich. I should enjoy spending money. Nothing’s wrong with that. Is there?
The next day I actually went to class early, hoping to find out why he thought I was a spoiled brat. I kicked my Coach purse under the desk to seem a little less rich. I don’t think it worked.
“Hey. I know where not supposed to talk unless it’s about school. But I have a question.” I couldn’t help it, I had to know.
“Um okay”
“Why do you think I’m a spoiled brat?”
“Well, you have money, which isn’t a bad thing, unless you act like you do. It probably doesn’t make sense, but you could ask anyone who doesn’t sit by you, and they’ll tell you. You act like a brat because you flaunt your money in everyone’s faces. Maybe if you dressed like you were going to school, and not like you’re going to meet the president. Or if you drove the same car for more than a year, you wouldn’t seem spoiled.”
I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t imagine myself living without my car, or my money. I didn’t say anything. I just got up and went to the bathroom.
That’s when I saw it, there was a flier on the bathroom stall advertising for a program that lets you live like someone else for a month, basically an exchange student program. I tore it off the wall and brought the flier home to my parents.
I wanted to know how other people felt, normal people.
I knew there was no chance my parents would allow this, unless they could request that the family I lived with was going to be rich, so I also had a backup plan.
I went downstairs wearing a dress my mom bought me but I never wore. I knew the only chance I had was to suck up to my parents.
“Mom? Dad? Can we talk?
“Sure, what’s the matter?” My mom had no clue what I was going to say, she probably assumed I broke a pair of heels or something.
“Is there a problem?” My dad on the other hand didn’t seem too interested.
“Well, I want to be part of an exchange student program my school is offering for a month.” I handed my mom the flier. “I really want to do this.”

My mom read over the flier and laughed, “No way. Please tell me you’re joking?”

My mom handed my dad the flier, and he also laughed. “You can’t be serious.”

Well my plan A had failed no surprise there. Time for plan B. “Haha don’t worry that would be very unrealistic, I know. I mean, can you picture me living in a one story house driving a used car for a month? No that is very uncivilized.” I never realized how stuck up my parents were, they laughed and completely agreed.

“Yes! My daughter will never drive a used car, only poor people do that and most poor people are homeless, we do not associate with homeless people.” What my dad said shocked me.

“Oh, well actually I want to go to Paris for a month, it’s a program at school.” It was true, the only thing was I was going to call sick last minute, and use my own money to register for the exchange program.

“Oh I think that’s a great idea”

“Me too, when should we register you in the program?”

“Tomorrow.”

I couldn’t believe I was doing this. Secretly going to live with someone else for a month, in a smaller house, wearing normal people clothes, it seemed like a dream. Or a nightmare, I hadn’t really decided yet.

If my parents knew what I was planning, they would never talk to me. My mom had a fit when I wore a shirt I bought a year earlier, she said it was too old and if I didn’t change into something that wasn’t used she would ground me for a month.

But this was really happening. The next day my dad brought the check to school, and I dropped of a check for the exchange program in the office. In a week I would be normal.

“Why are you so happy today?”

“No reason.” I told him. I wish I could tell him, to see his reaction. He probably wouldn’t believe me. But I wanted to prove to myself and everyone at this school, that I can and am normal. I can live, and make friends, without being rich.

“Okay then.”

“Yepp”

We still didn’t talk that much, but I didn’t really care that he thought I was a brat. I cared that a lot of people thought I was a brat.

At lunch that day I hardly spoke at all. Katie tried to get me too talk but I just sat there, counting the days until Saturday. I wanted to be on the plane, but I had to wait. And the days went by so slowly. When I got home, I would pack a fake suitcase for Paris, and when my parents were sleeping I packed a suitcase for the exchange program. I had to go shopping by myself too. It was weird going into department stores, they had so much stuff, and the prices were good too. It was pretty fun shopping like normal people.

Finally, it was Saturday, and my parents were all excited about me going to Paris. My dad even went to work a little late to drop me off at the airport, and he never skipped work. I know they care about me, but sometimes I feel like they don’t understand anything but money.

I saw a group of people in a corner of the airport, by a sign labeled Exchange Program Meeting Check Point. That was where I had to go, but first I had to change. I wanted to seem normal, not dressed in heels and a dress my mom ordered from Paris. I went into the bathroom and changed into jeans and a t-shirt. I never realized how nice jeans wore. My mom hardly ever let me out of the house wearing them.

When I walked to the check point area, I felt like a weight had been lifted off of me, for once social status didn’t matter. I was free to just be me.

The rest was so much easier than I imagined, all I had to do was sign in and I was given an address and a plane ticket. When I was on the plane, I called my school. “Hello, this is Paige, I’m supposed to be on the trip to Paris, but I’m sick so I won’t be able to make it. I’m sorry.”

It was so easy. And before I knew it the plane landing, “Hello. Thank you for flying with southwest airlines, welcome to Arizona.”

Wow I had never been there before. For the first time since I left home, I was feeling nervous. No one knew I was here, and I didn’t know anyone here.

Thankfully my substitute family for a month was waiting for me in the Exchange student meeting area. They seemed nice. They had a daughter that was my age. “Hi, welcome to Arizona!” Aw they were so nice. “I’m Mrs. Laura. This is my daughter Miranda and my husband Bob. Were so happy your staying with us!” They helped me carry my bags to their car. Only to my surprise everything wasn’t how I imagined they would be.

I looked like an idiot because I stood by the valet waiting. Miranda came up to me, “Hey um what are you doing? The cars that way.” Oh my gosh. They didn’t use a valet. Who parks their cars?! I just followed them in silence.

It gets worse. They drove an old station wagon. It’s from 2009! Who keeps a car for two years! Oh gosh are they homeless?

When I got to their house I wanted to cry. It was a two bedroom, one story house. I had to share a room with Miranda. I had never shared a room in my life.

“Well welcome home! Goodnight girls!” Her parents hugged us both and said goodnight. Even though I was in this small rundown house, for some reason it felt good to be here. They were so nice. My parents never said goodnight like that anymore. We hardly ever hugged.

“hey, can I ask you something?”

“Sure”

“Do you like it here?”

“Yes, actually it’s a lot nicer than my own house.” She might not agree, but there was something nice about the small house. I guess it was nice actually talking to your parents about normal stuff. I mean, in the car they were talking about school and about a song Miranda liked on the radio. My parents only talked about money and clothes.

The next month was the best month of my life. Miranda was the best friend I had ever had. We always talked and she wasn’t like Katie who agreed with me no matter what. She was a good friend, and her parents were the best.

They were actually involved in her life. They volunteered at school whenever they could, and they always told her to try her hardest and she can accomplish anything she puts her mind too.

I also made other friends, who actually cared about stuff other than whose bank accounts bigger.

I had never been so sad in my life. All my new friends threw me a goodbye party. It was simple, just a sleepover. But it was the best party I had ever been too. If my friends at home knew about this they would think it was dumb, but they didn’t know anything.

The next day I had to say goodbye. I didn’t want to leave. I cried on the plane, because I didn’t want to go back to being the rich girl.

When my plane landed I got in my car and drove home. My parents heard me come in and immediately were at the door.

“Hey! How was Paris? We got your postcards.” While I was Arizona I sent postcards to my parents with the Eiffel tower on them.

“It was good. But I’m happy to be home.” I did miss my parents, I love them. It’s just hard to adjust to this lifestyle again.

“Good. Now go upstairs and get dressed! Surprise! We are going to a party tonight at Katie’s house.”

I just got home and already a party. I wanted to cry. But I got dressed. The party was okay, but when I saw my friend they acted so happy to see me. But I knew everything about it was fake, they didn’t miss me, just my money. How come I never noticed it before now?

The next day at school I got fed up with everything. “I’m sorry but I can’t be friends with ya’ll anymore. I’m not like you. Oh and Katie, you and Tod make a good couple.”

I heard the gasps from my, well I guess ex-friends. But I knew Katie would be happy because I just gave her permission to date my now ex boyfriend.

I went straight home and told my mom what happened. She was furious and said I need to apologize because they are the only people I can associate with. But I just laughed, I was now 18. I can do what I want. I got in my car, and just drove, wondering what to do next.





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