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You can't sit here: Outcast struggles to find acceptance
"We have one more gift, something special for you," my grandma said while she handed me a generic Christmas bag.
I nervously laughed while trying to avoid eye contact. I timidly reached in the bag and my hand grazed something soft. I try not to glance down, prolonging my anxious family’s suspense. I quickly pull out the mystery object and I’m surprised at what was in my hands.
A black sheep?
My family started to laugh as I looked at my grandma, waiting for an explanation. Obviously I was missing the humor in it all. "Erin, you’re like the black sheep of the family. You’re just different, with the red hair, the clothes, and the way you carry yourself."
My faced heated up with embarrassment and anger as I glanced around the enormous living room. My entire extended family congratulated each other on "what a great idea the gift was." My mouth dropped in disgust. Tears began to surface as I quickly ran out and retreated to the safety of my room. "Don’t you dare cry," I whispered to myself. But I couldn’t control the feeling of betrayal by my family, as I let tear after tear fall onto the dull tan carpet.
Whether with my family, my friends, or in school, I’ve always felt like the black sheep of the group. For most of my life, I had gone to Carrollton Christian Academy, which is a tiny private school literally the size of one freshman class at Hebron. Growing up, my teachers told me that I was safe at the school and was welcome to be myself. I have never felt more like an outcast in my entire life.
The first time I realized I was different than most was one day in middle school. It started out like any other day. My stomach started to growl as I walked into the lunchroom and approached my group of friends to eat lunch. As I began to sit down, my so-called "friend" turned to me and said "Um, Erin? You can’t sit here anymore."
My innocent 6th grade face contorted with confusion and hurt.
"What do you mean I can’t sit here anymore?"
My "friend" looked at me with disapproval and replied "Our backpacks need a place to sit, and it seems there just isn’t room for you."
My gaze shifted towards the lunch benches. Every spot was filled with a backpack. My whole grade began to laugh hysterically as I realized that everyone had been in on the "prank." I felt like I had been hit with a truck. What was wrong with me that everyone hated? And a better question, what could I do to change that?
I had my mind set that I was cursed with the black sheep plague, and I did any and every thing I could to change myself. I went through a preppy phase of long blond hair and American Eagle clothing, making sure every word that came out of my mouth was "acceptable." "Acceptable" conversation usually involved bashing someone or laughing at a "geek". The tables turned again as the group I had somewhat fit in with decided it was time to get rid of me again. This group of queen bees got the whole grade against me. My nights at home were filled with phone calls and texts from the "bees" telling me I was better off dead. All hope seemed lost on fitting in, so I decided to do something "extreme" in the eyes of the drama queens. If I couldn’t fill the preppy role then it was time to try the emo role. I began to wear ridiculously dark makeup, filled my wrist with obnoxiously bright bracelets and got dark, fake hair extensions. These dramatic changes didn’t help me at all. . Yelling matches with my peers began to fill my day-to-day life.
Finally, I gave up on trying to be something I wasn’t. If people don’t accept me, then that’s fine. I just couldn’t understand why it wasn’t acceptable to be different, but I came up with a theory. People are scared of others who automatically stand out. It forces them to think about who they are as a person and question their own self-confidence. No one wants to think about their flaws, so anyone that makes that happen is an outcast.As I’ve gotten older and changed schools, I’ve met people who are outrageous and embrace who they are. Because of these people, I’m encouraged to continue being who I am. While I’ve had experiences that sound like an episodes of "Degrassi" and were brutally humiliating at the time, I got over them. I realized that trying to mask who you are will leave you feeling empty and fake. People tell me that they find me really strange, but they feel the need to get to know me better. There is an undeniable attraction to authenticity. Something within it is rare and beautiful The gift of the black sheep from my family wasn’t a cruel prank. It was a sign of admiration for being different and not letting anyone get in the way of that.