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All Bottled Up
I can’t do it. I don’t know how they do it. How are they able to be themselves? Are they really being themselves, or are the putting on a mask, like I do? And my mask isn’t even a very good one. I just…I can’t connect with people. Does anyone else have this problem, or am I alone? Whatever the answer, I feel more alone now than I ever have before.
It all started at lunch one day. I was sitting with my friends: Emmy, Clarissa, Melinda, Selena, Lindsey, and Thomas. Poor Thomas. Today, Mike was sick, so that made him the only guy at the table.
The topic of new and old souls sprung up. I was intently listening, as I do. I am never myself. I listen more than I talk. I keep my thoughts to myself. I try to hard to be funny and fit in with my funny friends. They make me laugh, but I only make them give me weird looks.
“Okay, so, my mom told me that I was a new soul. New souls…they just want to learn stuff, ya know? They want to explore the world and figure out everything there is to figure out because they don’t know much.” Emmy was saying. She had this laid back voice that was constantly talking. It was good. She brought conversation to the group.
I start to think about how that’s like me. I didn’t know much. I was smart, but I didn’t know much. And I wanted to explore the world and know this stuff.
“Old souls are more…” Emmy trailed off, trying to describe it to us.
“Accepting?” I put in.
She nodded to me, but I could see it was a reluctant nod, like I wasn’t quite there.
“So what am I?” Perky Lindsey asked her. She brought open-mindedness to the group.
“Well, what do you want to do with your life?” Emmy asked.
Clarissa and Thomas started talking, having their own brief side conversation. Their voices buzzed in the background.
“I want to go to Julliard and be a dancer and strut my stuff,” She giggled.
“Yeah, you’re a new soul.” Emmy smiled. “You’re, like, wanting to learn everything about dancing so you can go places and be great. You’re ambitious, girl.” She said.
“So what am I?” Selena asked loudly. She created most of the laughs because she really wasn’t afraid to by herself. She’d come to school dressed as a stereotypical geek or an Egyptian and would get praise for it. She had the best jokes and the coolest expression. She had the most random phrases that made everybody laugh all the time.
“What do you want to do? Honey, you gotta give me something.” Emmy said, lacing her hands and resting her chin on them.
“I wanna be a motivational speaker or editor or something!” Selena said excitedly.
“So, like, traveling and stuff?” Emmy asked.
“YEAH!” She yelled in the lunch room. Every face turned to her for a moment; she didn’t notice; and then they all went back to their own conversations.
“So, like, yeah, you’re a new soul.” Emmy smiled.
The conversation was about to turn. Emmy was talking about the new and old soul business, and our level of interest waned. Finally, she stood up.
“And so, like, Melinda would be a new soul.” She said.
Mel grasps her necklace and moves her legs up and down, getting excited. “Thank you,” she said in an unusual voice. Melinda brought love to the group. She was also really funny.
“And then,” Emmy turned to me. I know she will say I am a new soul, because her description fits me perfectly. “Okay, so, like, I think you’re an old soul because you know a lot and study a lot and are kind of quiet and all that.” She said.
“W-what?” I stuttered quietly, but they don’t hear. Clarissa and Thomas have joined the convo again and all eyes are on me.
“Yeah, you do study a lot,” Clarissa commented. She’s this big sports star. We used to be close friends, but she…she jumps around with friends. She’s with our groups, but shows the most love to the most popular person.
“Yeah, you actually try,” Melinda laughed.
“And old souls aren’t so bad,” Lindsey said.
“Why can’t I be both?” Selena asked herself. She was loud again, so everyone laughed.
Thomas was still laughing, pointing to me from behind his lunch box. “Yeah, you’re probably the dumbest smart person I know.” He said. “You’re book smart—”
“But yeah, you’re not people smart.” Emmy cut in.
I know the words are moderately true, but I still don’t like it.
“And yeah, you’d definitely be an old soul. You just aren’t as ambitious as the rest of us.” Emmy added.
“Yeah, and that’s cool, ya know. Because it’s just how you are.” Selena spoke.
I know what they are alluding to. They think I study, study, study and never have time for anyone else. But that’s not true. They think I don’t have any ideas for what I want to be when I grow up. But that’s not true. They think I’m no fun. But that is not true.
My eyes start watering. I was hurt by their words. But I tried to be strong and not show it. I looked up at the ceiling and faked a yawn. My eyes always water after yawns.
Lindsey reached her hand out to me. “Oh, honey, take my hand.”
I stared at it. “Why? I mean, is there any reason?” I said softly. Of course, I hadn’t quite phrased the words as I’d wanted them to go, but whatever. I didn’t really care now. I suddenly realized how much my friends…didn’t know me.
“Well, because you’re eyes are watering, silly. You don’t need to cry.” She said.
Clarissa and Thomas and Emmy were in their own conversation again. Melinda was texting. The only other one who heard was Selena.
I shook my head. “No, I’m fine. I just yawned. That’s all. My eyes always water after I yawn.” I told her.
She hesitated and then brought back her hand. I wasn’t sure she completely believed me. “Well, yeah, my eyes always do, too.” She said.
I nodded and stood up. She looked at me. “Where are ya going?” She asked.
“I don’t want to be late for class.” I replied, even though I’d be twenty minutes early.
They all look after me as I go.
No one knows me. I’m not sure if I even really know myself. They only think I study, study, study. I never study. I’m only good at school because education is important to me. But they don’t realize that I want to be a fighter pilot when I grow up and then travel the world, and I love act and read and I really, really care about them. They don’t know that I’m only really myself in an environment that is more fitted to me—my home, a party, etcetera. They don’t know how hyper I get, how much I love chocolate, and how ambitious I really am. They don’t know how much I love to play piano or how much I love to swim and watch movies. They don’t realize how crazy I go at sleepovers and how outgoing I am.
And I realize that I hold myself back around them because I don’t really know them as well as I thought I did. And I don’t really know how to be myself around them.
Why is life so hard?