Glares, rolls of eyes follow me throughout the crowded hallway. I can’t stand it, I bury my head into my books, hoping to crawl into a shell, like a turtle does, where no one can see me. Only now I can’t see where anyone is, nor what is around me.
“Hey! Watch where you’re going!” a girl yells at me, after I accidentally elbow her in the side. Her sudden yelp frightens me, causing me to trip over my own feet, collapsing onto the floor, my books flying from my arms in all directions.
I stutter to pick up my things, and people all around me laugh at my clumsiness. My right arm throbs, from slamming it on the ground during my embarrassing fall, but no one bothers to help me pick up my things.
The hallway begins to empty, as students head into their classes. I finally get my stuff in order, and realize I only have about ten seconds to get to class. I pick up my stuff and begin to run down the hallway. As I run past each doorway, students stare at me, thinking about how stupid I am and can’t make it to class on time.
The bell rings, I am going to be late. Two seconds later, I burst through the classroom door. Everyone is already in their seats, and they all stare at me, as if someone coming into a classroom is the most irritating thing in the whole world. Miss Corbett, my science teacher, looks annoyed. I must look ridiculous, my face red as I try to catch my breath, and my short, curly blond hair sticking out at odd angles.
As I walk to my seat, I notice my classmates faces. They practically say, “Brielle, why can’t you be on time? What’s wrong with you?” I sit down in my seat in the front of the room, where everyone can stare at me. These faces are lingering thoughts that distract me throughout class.
Later that night, I lay in bed wondering why people dislike me so much. The problem was I couldn’t come up with a single solid reason. I guess they could be annoyed at a few small things, and I guess I could try to fix them, but how?
I know I could try harder to get to class on time, but everyone hates how clumsy I am, and this tends to distract me from everything else, worrying about fitting in. How can I ever stop myself from falling over, if that requires looking up, when I can’t stand to see anyone’s disgusted faces?
Two days later, I am once again in the hallways at school. I am trying hard to be less clumsy, but I am not doing so well. I lose my balance, and once again hurtle to the floor.
People around me laugh and glare. “Why does this happen every day?” I think. “Why can’t I just be normal like everyone else.
Today I am lucky, though, because as I start to stand up I see a hand reaching out to help me up. I take the hand, and pull myself to my feet.
Once I am on my feet, I quietly mutter a “Thank you” to the girl who helped me up. She has reddish-brown hair, blue eyes, and a face of consternation. I quickly recognize the girl to be Angie Embers.
Angie doesn’t stop at helping me stand up, she looks at the students laughing at me. “Don’t you have something better to do? Go to class!” she shouts.
I don’t know how to thank her, as she starts to stack my books into a neat pile. She hands them to me, and all I can do is say “Thank you,” a million times over.
Angie asks, “Are you alright, Brielle?”
I am still in shock that someone actually helped me, so I just nod my head up and down, indicating that I am not hurt. Angie, still seems to think something is wrong, but doesn’t press the issue. I barely know her. The only reason I even know her name is because we have a few classes together.
“Don’t let them bother you,” she says and walks off to class. I remain there for another minute, shocked that Angie had just decided to help me. I realize that I can’t stand here forever, because I really don’t want to be late to class. I walk down the hall and shuffle into English just like everyone else.
For days I can’t stop thinking about what Angie did and said. How could I not let those people bother me? They thought I was stupid, like there was something wrong with me.
There is nothing wrong with me though. I am human. Maybe I am clumsy and socially awkward at times, but otherwise aren’t I normal? I know I am.
Realization hit me, I think I am normal. So why should I let it bother me that someone else didn’t. Angie must have saw me as normal, and that is why she stopped to help that day in the hall. Anyway, how would I know if someone thought I was stupid? I couldn’t read their thoughts. So, what did it matter?
It didn’t. I didn’t have to be like everyone else to make myself think I fit in. As long as I thought I was fine, nothing anyone thought could bother me. All I had to do was stop being so paranoid. It would just take some practice.
Two months later, I walk through the hall, my head held high. I haven’t been tripping as much lately, because I have become unafraid to see the faces around me. It took me a while to realize that there were very few people who laughed when I fell, but now that I know this I feel a lot better. I don’t care what the people who laugh at me think, because I know that they are wrong.
All of a sudden, I see a girl trip and fall, dropping all her books. Papers fly everywhere. She looks exactly like I did just two months ago.
I don’t even hesitate to step in, I have gained a lot more confidence. “Leave her alone,” I say to the kids laughing as they walk by. They listen to me, and move along, this is one of the advantages to having confidence in yourself, you are able to do the right thing and people listen to you. I help the girl get up and pick up the scattered books and papers. She looks nervous as she thanks me.
“Don’t let them bother you, it really doesn’t matter what they think,” I tell her.
The girl looks at me confused. I walk away, she’ll figure it out soon enough, but she must do this by herself. She must learn to trust what she believes to be true in order to gain her own confidence.
It is a late May afternoon, and I see a butterfly flutter by, as I wait for the bus. I am still thinking about the girl who tripped in the hallway, when I see another monarch flutter by.
I suddenly think back to learning about life cycles in 1st grade. I reminisce on the butterflies that we watched grow up in our classroom, before we finally let them go. All butterflies start out as caterpillars, a creature that can only crawl, only able to watch as a butterfly fly by. The caterpillar wishes it were a butterfly, because then it too would be able to fly. Eventually the caterpillar makes a chrysalis, where it stays changing, waiting.
Finally, a butterfly emerges, who soon will be able to fly, and the process repeats for other caterpillars.
Maybe our lives aren’t that different from that of a caterpillar’s.