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At their high school graduation they were asked a question that every single one of those six students, sitting in a class of nearly 300, knew the answer to without thinking. They were asked the question “What was the hardest, but most rewarding, assignment you ever had to complete in your entire high school curriculum?” The answer popped into their heads as fast as the speed of light. The answer for these six best friends was Mrs. Matthews’ “Who Am I? non-fiction short story” from sophomore year.
It all started at the end of their freshmen year when these six best friends, Clara, Sadie, Denny, Matt, Kimie, and Milt, had to pick an elective for their upcoming sophomore year. They wanted to pick a class that they could all be in together and that was as easy as pie to pass, so they picked Mrs. Matthews’ Creative Writing class. They thought, “Oh yeah, poetry, stories, blah blah. This is going to be easy.” Little did they know what complications their first assignment would bring them.
Mrs. Matthews was a woman who really liked to get to know her students, so she made the first assignment a non-fiction short story about nothing more than the students themselves. They had to write a story about who they were, about what made them passionate, what kept them going, what kind of person they were, etc. You see this posed a problem for the inseparable six. They have been best friends since they were in diapers, and they knew everything about each other but, being honest with themselves, they didn’t really know who they were. They knew what they liked to do, they knew what they liked to eat, they knew what they would be classified as in a high school environment, but out of everything they knew they didn’t know themselves very well at all.
People would say that Clara is the girl who likes to have attention, but doesn’t know what to do with it when she gets it. She is a 5 foot, 6 inch beauty queen with blonde hair that rushes to the middle of her back. She has semi-tan skin with dark pink lips that have a plumped look to them. She has an hour glass shaped body, and she works out every day to keep that flat stomach needed in order to win a beauty contest with ease.
Sadie is almost the complete opposite. Sadie is the book smart, school loving, sweet, shy individual that everyone knows but doesn’t necessarily interact with on a daily basis. She is about 5 feet, 4 inches of pure brainiac beauty. She has long light brown hair that compliments her bright, crystal like blue eyes. She has a fare colored skin with lightly faded brown freckles on her cheeks. Her smile is radiant to anyone who sees it within miles. Her body is athletically shaped due to her love of playing volleyball, as long as it doesn’t interfere with school work.
Denny? Well Denny is the jock. Denny knows two things better than anything else, that’s sports and his friends. He is the macho man of the group. He plays football and baseball, and would be able to give you statistics on any sport that you asked him about. He is a tall, built, handsome “man” with buzzed cut brown hair and brown eyes. He is a smooth talking charmer; he can talk his way out of just about any situation and he can make any girl cave with his charming words.
And then there is Matt. Matt is the friendly guy, he is friends with everyone and knows everyone. Matt is also a charmer, a ladies’ man, if you will. Matt is about 6 feet tall with a nice body, but not built. He’s got short cut blonde hair with navy blue eyes and a personality that could make a girl melt. His smile makes you want to smile just by looking at it. He is the perfect guy, but the thing with Matt is that he always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Though he is never the one doing anything wrong, he is always at the scene of the crime.
Kimie, Oh Kimie, she has one of those personalities that everyone either absolutely loves or just can’t stand. Kimie is a 5 foot, 7 inch stylish girl with light brown skin and shoulder length black hair. She always matched head to toe with the cutest outfits. She always told people how she felt and how she felt about them. She could strut the streets like it was nobody’s business and own it! Kimie always knew what she was doing, she knew where she wanted to go, knew what she was getting herself into, she just always knew. Kimie is the kind of girl that could leave you either completely speechless, or to where you always had something to say. Kimie was not the kind of girl you wanted to mess with unless you knew her VERY well.
And last but not least there is Milt. Milt was the prankster. You get pranked, you know who to find. Milt was a 5’11” pranking genius with dark brown skin and very short black hair. He had a pretty built body with a voice that did not go. His voice wasn’t really the deepest for his age, more like one of the highest, but he didn’t sound anywhere close to a girl. Milt was perfectly content with himself.
On their first day of classes for sophomore year the inseparable six walked into Mrs. Matthews’ class, picked desks all next to each other, and sat there awaiting their first assignment.
Mrs. Matthews’, one of the sweetest teachers in school, walked into the classroom with an arm full of papers, put them on her desk, and told the students, “If you remember from the first day, last week, I told y’all that I like to get to know my students so that I can get an insight to who they are before reading their work. Most teachers would have y’all fill out a questionnaire, but I’m not most teachers. This is your first assignment. I want you guys to write a non-fiction, short story about yourselves. This story cannot have to do with any of your friends, though you can mention them, it is not about them, it is about you. I want to know who you are and I also want you to find out who you are for yourself; so that means do not ask your friends, ‘What kind of person do you think I am?’ don’t ask them anything. Think long and hard about it, dig deep into yourself, look into your past, find who you are completely by yourself, with no help from anybody. Do you think you can do it?”
All the students looking at one another with confusion as to what they were going to write, or where they are going to start, were astonished to see Sadie sitting there with her jaw dropped wide open in shock. For the first time in her life she felt stumped and confused just like everyone else. Sadie looked at Kimie and said, “Now that I’m thinking about it, Kimie, I don’t think I really know who I am. I really don’t know where I’m gonna start with this story.”
Kimie said, “Way-da join the crowd for once girl!” with a smile on her face.
Sadie wasn’t the only one stumped about what they were going to write, pretty much everyone in the class was. But those six were going to have the hardest time writing this paper, everything they have been, everything they have done since they were babies had been together. So you see finding themselves wasn’t going to be an easy task.
At lunch they all conversed about what they were going to put in their stories. They shared opinions back and forth about each other so that they could get an opinion from someone else about whom others think they are. They all got a lot of different feedback but they decided that they would just work on it by themselves and at home, so that they could really dig deep into themselves.
Sadie went home and sat on her bed for hours just thinking about who she was. Who was she? What is something about herself that she really couldn’t live without? She thought maybe she needed to start off by talking to her parents; maybe she needed to see if they really knew who they were. After all she is them, anything they were she must be too right?
After talking to her parents she found out that she got her love of sports and athletic ability from her mom, she got her smarts from her dad, and she got her incredible will to learn and know as much as possible from her grandma. She thought, “Maybe this is who I am, maybe I’m just the smart, athletic, and willed person…”
At school the next day, after her long night of conversing with herself, she asked her friends how they were coming with their papers.
Denny said, “It’s coming along, but I’m having a hard time trying to decide if I’m writing about what I like to do, like my hobbies, or if I’m supposed to be writing about my life, and what has made me want to do what I like to do. Do y’all have any clue?”
With a huge smile on his face, knowing good and well he was about to bust a joke, Milt said, “I got started off by sayin’ the kinda person I am. I said somethin’ like ‘I’m me. So who you? Cause I’m me!’”
“Come on Milt I’m serious, this is a lot harder than I thought it was gonna be, I mean who are we really? Do we actually know who we are? I mean we like certain things, and we all have our own personality, but is that really who we are or does it go deeper than that?” said Sadie.
Kimie said, “I kinda got a start on it last night and I put, for me, that I’m the kinda person that will be nice to you if your nice to me and then I went into explainin’ why I’m like that. I explained that when I was little my dad wasn’t the nicest father and I thought that being nice to him and obeying him would get him to change and be nice to me. Once I figured out that it didn’t I began building myself off the reality that people should be treated the way that you want to be treated. I went into deep explanation about that and then kinda just started tellin’ my whole story.”
Clara decided to butt in, “I started mine last night too! I wasn’t sure what to put though because everything that I am you can see on the surface so it was kinda hard for me to show the insides of me.”
“I hate to say it, but I’m kinda clueless!” sighed Sadie.
That day when they got to class, since they were all a little clueless, Denny asked Mrs. Matthews, “What’s the difference between the kinda person we are and who we are?”
She responded by saying, “The kind of person you are describes your personality. I want to know what gives you that personality and what makes you who you are.”
So basically the only person who had anything written correctly was Kimie so far, and even she was still confused.
They all went home that night still stumped on what they were going to write, but out of all of them Milt was the most stumped. Not only did Mrs. Matthews go into more detail about what they were supposed to be writing, but she also told them that this was a big part of their grade. Milt always got good grades but he didn’t always do all the work and he never took anything seriously. For the first time he was realizing that he actually has to do this all by himself, he can’t use anybody else’s work since the paper had to be strictly about him. He actually had to sit down and THINK! Sadly this was so hard for Milt that for hours all that went on in his head was absolutely nothing, it was squeaky clean.
While Milt was struggling with this realization Denny had somewhat of a break through. He knew that they only had a week and a half to work on this and since the next day was day 3 his half was gone. He started thinking long and hard about who he was, he thought, well I’m the jock, I love sports and I’m good at ‘em. I can talk most people into just about anything and talk my way out of just about everything. His problem was trying to figure out why he is that way; he needed to figure out what made him that crazy, good at anything, willed to play, smooth talking jock. At that moment, around 9:30 pm, lying in his bed, he realized, a light bulb went off in his head, he is like that because he was raised that way. Since before he was born his dad just wanted a boy that he could raise to work hard, love sports, and be successful; his dad got exactly what he wanted. Pretty much from the moment Denny was born his dad began to engrave into his head to ‘be a good sport, work hard, and to never give up.’ That is where he gets it from. Denny started playing football and baseball as soon as he could stand alone on his own 2 feet. He was the kid that would get out on the field and push anyone out the way for the ball, he was the star player. But at the end of the day he would always help someone up off their butts after the play and he would shake their hand in the end, with a smile on his face, and say ‘GOOD GAME!’
When Denny was about 11 years old his mom got a really rare cancer in March of that year and in July she was on her death bed. Her dying words to Denny were, ‘Denny I love you. I want you to follow your dreams, work hard in school, and always play to the best of your ability in sports, but stay a good sport! I will see you again someday my heart and soul.’ As if being great wasn’t enough, those words from his mother were his extra push to never give up!
Denny just found who he was, why he was the way he was, what made him him. He put all that into his paper; a little more elaboration on that and he had himself a short story.
At school the next day Denny couldn’t wait to tell everyone that he had his story in the bag. When he did he found out he wasn’t the only one with good news. Sadie finally got a spark of inspiration and started finding herself as well. She told everyone that finding herself wasn’t hard but it wasn’t easy. She realized that the reason she has always been the smart one and willed to learn wasn’t all because of her dad and grandma, the funny thing is it didn’t even have to do with her but more so her peers. When Sadie got her first pair of glasses when she was about 2 years old, she never really had good eye sight, and glasses always seemed to be a deterrent for whether you were smart or not. So whenever Sadie went to school people would always call her the nerd, the smart one, the know it all, any of those and more. It kind of became a mindset for Sadie that she “just was” smart. Ever since she got that mindset it just stuck with her and she really became the smartest in her class, she always had the highest GPA, if you needed a tutor you called Sadie, and you never saw lower than an A on any kind of work done by her. She loved volleyball because she grew up around it, her cousins played, her mom played, just about everyone in her family had played volleyball once before and she fell in love with it. She said, “I finally found the things that make me Sadie!” with a smile on her face.
When the group of six got into class on this Friday afternoon Mrs. Matthews announced, “I have something to tell everyone.” She wasn’t smiling. After everyone’s sighs and ughs, she continued, with a smile, “Ha ha, y’all don’t worry, it’s not bad. Instead of working on your stories for the first part of class we’re gonna do some get to know each other games since none of you guys seem to want to talk to anyone, including me, we are going to become very comfortable with everyone in this class.”
Everyone began looking at each other like wow, this is going to be awkward. Despite the fact that it was they all joined in and made the best of it. One of the things they did was they all sat in a circle and went around saying their names, an adjective that described them that started with the first letter of their name, and they said one thing they liked to do while acting out a motion that goes with that activity. They all became a little closer in that class, at least enough to actually talk to one another during that hour and half they had to spend together each day. It also helped that it was Friday and everyone was ready to leave school, it definitely made the class go by faster.
When the bell rang everyone was ready to party. Sadie, Denny, Kimie, Milt, Matt, and Clara needed a break from thinking and writing all day. It was time to party. Around 8:00 pm the six walked into a house full of people and the party started. Matt was running around talking to everyone, dancing with everyone, just being social you know. Milt and Denny were running around messing with everyone, making people spill their drinks, and scaring all the girls to make the jump back and fall into their arms. You know the usual pick up. Kimie and Sadie were just straight up showing off their moves, showing everyone how it’s done. But Clara, the party girl, was just standing in the corner all by herself in deep thought. She couldn’t get her mind off the short story she hasn’t even started on.
“Hey Clara, what’s wrong? Don’t you wanna get out there and show off your moves with us?” said Sadie.
“No, I’m not really in the mood. I can’t get the short story outta my mind. I haven’t even started on it yet y’all! Is it really that hard to figure out who I am? Like is there any more to me than just a bubble brain blonde that just wants attention?”
“What are you talking about Clara!? You are not a bubble brained blonde that wants attention, and even if you actually believed that about yourself there is way more to you then blonde hair and your ability to get attention. You know you’re smart, and we all know you just don’t like to show it. But girl, you got like really good grades right now and you could convince anyone of anything. Don’t look down on yourself! Come on. Let’s go dance; you gotta get your party on Clara!”
With a smile she said, “Ok. And hey thanks Sadie!”
“No problem. Come on!”
But even though Sadie could get Clara out of the dumps, Clara couldn’t get her mind off the paper. She was dancing and having a good time, she was laughing, cutting up, and still thinking so hard that the vain in her brain that allows you to think was literally about to burst.
While everyone was having a good time dancing, pranking, hanging out, Clara was on the dance floor, in the middle of doing the ‘Wop’ when she had an epiphany. She figured out who she was! Over the loud music she yelled to her friends, “HEY YALL, I GOTTA GO HOME RIGHT NOW! I’VE FINALLY FIGURED IT OUT!” Clara left in a hurry; she didn’t even give her friends time to respond. She left them speechless.
Clara got home, ran inside, opened up a new document on her computer and began writing. Her reason for why she was the way she was, and who she is, was because of her parents fightable differences. Ever since she was a little girl her mom had her in any pageant they could find. Clara was a little curly haired blonde with big bright blue eyes, and the cutest little dimples. She was just like one of those girls and their moms from “Toddlers in Tiaras” but with a lot better temper. Her mom raised her to get attention, to look good no matter where she was going whether it be a party or a gas station. When she was little she didn’t have a choice on how to be, it was completely up to her mother. Her dad had different opinions though; he thought that she should be concentrated on learning something other than ‘always match your eye shadow with the clothes you’re wearing’. She should be learning the basics for a four year-old, like math, words, shapes, etc.
When Clara was about 5 her parents got a divorce, not just about her though, they had a lot of other problems that they just couldn’t work out. She spent every other week with her mom and every other week with her dad. When she was with her mom all she heard about was beauty, attention, makeup, and pageants. When she was with her dad she was a normal five year-old little girl, she flew kites, played board games, learned math, spelling, shapes, and anything else that was in the curriculum.
Clara became 2 different personalities because of her parents and she also formed another personality on her own because of her parents. She was smart, she was beautiful, and even though she could get any amount of attention that she wanted to get from a guy, she never wanted to have a relationship because she didn’t want it to ever end up like her parents. So I guess you could say that’s her scared side.
She was so excited to finally figure out who she was that she finished her whole short story in one night. She called her friends the next day and apologized for just leaving them there and she couldn’t wait to get back to school Monday to see them!
When Clara got to school on Monday she let everyone know that she was finished with her story, and how excited she was about that too. “Who else finished their stories?”
“I did!” said Denny, Kimie, and Sadie.
“I still can’t figure out where to start! I just don’t get how I can’t figure out who Milt Creagh is. I mean really…how do I not know who I am?”
“Oh my God! I completely forgot about that story. I’ve been so caught up in other school work that I completely forgot to get a start on that paper!” said Matt. “When’s it due?”
“Dude it’s due this Friday,” Said Denny.
“Anyway…Milt, how are you having a problem with this? I thought that this would be so easy for you. I mean aren’t you the one who has no problem showin’ off who you are? Just show it off in your paper!”
“Yeah that’s true, Kimie, but…I don’t know it’s just really hard for me for some reason.”
“Well, good luck. That’s the bell. See y’all later.”
Later on in their creative writing class period, they had the whole hour and a half to work on their papers, so Matt decided to get a start on it. To his surprise, unlike everyone else, he only thought for about five minutes when he already knew exactly who he was.
Remember how I said, earlier, that he was the kind of guy that always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Well that is how he knew who he was, he got his ‘wrong place, wrong time’ thing from his mom. When his mom was about 19 and in college she went to a huge frat party with her friends. She was definitely a “social butterfly.” At those frat parties the brothers liked to spike the punch so that the girls would think they aren’t drinking anything, but indeed they were, his mom was one of those girls. She met this guy at the party, and let’s just say, things didn’t really go as planned. About 2 weeks later she found out she was pregnant, she told the guy and believe it or not they did start dating. They actually turned out to be the perfect couple; they got married a year after having their little boy, Matthew Joseph Wells. So that ‘wrong place, wrong time’ thing ended up pretty well for Matt. Since he knew this story oh so well it was really easy for him to talk about how he was such a social person and how he got the gene of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
By Thursday Milt had 2 words written on his paper, his first and last name. This kind of posed a problem since the paper was due on Friday. All of his friends were finished with their papers, and he was still thinking long and hard about what he was going to write. When he got home from school that Thursday afternoon he got onto his computer and began looking at old pictures, videos, recordings, anything he could get his hands on he was looking at. He was determined to find himself, even if it took him all night and into the next morning. While looking at the memories he had he realized that he had been through a lot in his life, this is what made him such a strong person on the outside, this is what helped him be so ok with making people laugh and living life to the fullest. When he was little he had a pretty good family life, his parents never divorced, his siblings were never sick, everything was good. When he got into 3rd grade his mom’s best friend for 14 years died of some really rare cancer that had to do with the kidneys and then just spread throughout her body. In 4th grade his cousin Tyson died of a heart attack while he was on the football field, he was pronounced dead at the hospital. That same year his grandma had been struggling with breast cancer and died at the end of his school year. When he was in 5th grade his Uncle Wayne died of old age. His 6th grade year was off time, he was delighted at the fact that nobody had passed away. Then he was in 7th grade and his great grandma died of old age. At this point Milt felt like this would never end, it was like a streak or something. 8th grade, his friend’s dad; 9th grade, his other great grandma; and then that very year, his 10th grade year, a friend of his that was in the grade above him died in a car wreck.
Through his whole life he has had to go to funerals, and services for people that he knew, people that he was close to. All of these deaths for him made it apparent that he had to be there for his family, he had to be strong, and he never failed. Milt put in his paper the reason he has felt the need for being strong, a jokester, and someone to look up to, and those were the reasons.
Friday morning, today was the day, Sadie, Denny, Clara, Milt, Kimie, and Matt walked into creative writing that day, put their papers on Mrs. Matthews’ desk, went and sat down, and all agreed that that was one of the hardest but most rewarding assignments they had ever had to complete in their lives!