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As a child, I believed one person was powerless; “How can they make a difference in anything?” I wondered. What I didn’t know was that sometimes one person is all it takes. It started when I was entering 6th grade at a new elementary school in a new country, Japan. My goal in life was “To be as invisible as possible!” and I was good at it. Sadly, things were going to change.
The classes lined up in their spots, waiting for the first day to start. My stomach rumbled and laughed at me. I stared at the ground and begged the day to end. Hands wrapped themselves around my lungs and clawed at my throat. “I can’t do this.” I thought to myself, “I have to go home.”
“You look sick.” Adrian, my childhood friend, told me.
“No one asked you!” I grumbled and haughtily stuck my head in the air. “That’s right,” I assured myself, “I have Adrian; I can get through this, right?” I wondered.
At lunch I sat a few places down from Adrian, purposely placing myself inconspicuously close for that extra protection, in what was the second largest cafeteria I’d ever been in. People had already formed their groups. I sat in a small group of two other girls, who knew a few others. “Here is fine. I’m okay.”
The pressure continued and I seemed to be the only one noticing. “It’s all in my head; it’s all in my head;” I told myself over and over, as if trying to brainwash myself into believing it. It’s just nerves. I’m being over sensitive as always. “Don’t have a break down.” A voice in my head laughed. “Blacking out on the first day tends to leave a poor first impression.” My stomach flipped and I put my sandwich away.
“Things’ll be okay.”
Then I saw him. Shivers ran down my spine. “Evil” a voice sang in my head;
“Malicious” another argued.
“Definitely wicked” a third countered.
“No.” I told them. “I don’t hear you.” I watched him. My heart began to beat fast and breathing became almost impossible. Everything else seemed to stop. This wasn’t “Love at first sight,” it was “Intimidation” and it was suffocating. A force just seemed to radiate off of him. This was my first impression of “Dare.”
My first few months of sixth grade were spent being as aware of Dare as possible while trying to distract myself. “He won’t notice.” I told myself. “Be invisible. Be invisible.” My excessive awareness of him caused those around me to assume I liked him. “I like him” sounded better than “He scares me,” so I lied.
After a few months my friend Ashley decided to “move things along.” She took my comic book pad and tossed it to him. My nerves kicked in and the questions began. “Would you rather tempt evil or be laughed at by it?”
“Come on, he’s getting away”
“What will you do?” they asked.
I began to run. He was faster than me and his lead didn’t help. Across the playground and to the top of the climbing wall, I ran after him. I glazed the bottom of his sneakers and he jumped over the other side. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” I whined. I flipped my leg over the wall and looked down. “I’m going to get hurt!” but, all the same, I jumped down from the wall and crashed onto the ground. “Which—there!” I continued to run after him. Around the playground and toward the ball courts,
“Thanks Dare!” Ashley laughed as she snagged the comic book pad back and handed it to me. “You wanna know something really funny?” she asked him.
“Ashley, don’t you dare!” I linked fingers with her and began playing mercy immediately. I clutched her hands and pushed her to the wall. “Don’t even think about it!” I snarled. She giggled.
“I don’t care.” Dare told us, and, as the game was over, he left.
“How cute,” Ashley teased. “Your face is all red."
“What? Sh—shut it!” I stuttered.
“It’s red from running." I assured myself.
“You like him,” one of the voices sang
“You really do” another laughed
“Shall we tell him?” one giggled
“Stop it!” I said aloud.
“What?” asked Ashley, “I was just trying to help; Dare probably didn’t even know your name before to today.”
“I would kind of like to return to “before today,” if it’s all the same to you.”
Although that’s what I said, I really didn’t agree. If anything, I felt the opposite. This person, that had scared me so badly at first, now fascinated me far more. His messy brown hair that fell perfectly out of place was cute. His deep forest-like eyes were captivating and made me want to stare forever, but left me with an uneasy feeling. The red settled on my face; yes, I did “Like” him, as everyone already thought.
The girl that never said much soon became the one that always said too much. He frustrated, provoked, teased, annoyed, mocked, and out-witted me, but, strangely, I was happy and, eventually, I learned to laugh about it all. Even though I can’t always say the things I want to, just talking is enough. Just being able to talk is enough. Those that speak are far more likely to be heard than those that stand invisible.
As a child, I believed that no single person could make a difference; they couldn’t tip the scale or change a life—I believed that until a single person changed mine. Whether it was for “better” or “worse” is something I’ll never know. All I know is that I like who I am more than who I was.