All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
There’s something about a rainy day—maybe it’s the way the raindrops cluster to race down the window, or how the sun bursts through each microscopic prism into a grand spectrum of color—that opens a whole new realm of the mind where questioning the universe and my own role in it seems not only logical, but natural. And so it was on this long bus ride home on a rainy day in November that I began questioning the ‘perfect person.’ What would this person look like? Would she act superior, or be a friend to every living thing she meets? The perfect person, I thought. But who actually defines perfect? At this point I decided that not only would I define perfect, I would live up to my own version of it. It would take time, no doubt, years perhaps, but Step1 was convincing myself I had the power to do it.
I heard Bri and Steff’s dramatic fussing in the back of the bus.
No story is complete without its antagonist, the one force that stands in the way of an accomplished goal. That first rainy day on the bus could never have hinted at the emotional dilemmas I would face in the day to come. It was the next day, walking the long and crowded hallways of the middle school, that I saw Steff’s ‘work in action.’ She stood next to a girl not much shorter than she, but round-waisted and freckled-faced. The look on Steff’s face, oh her cruel, cruel stare, was nothing more than unprovoked disgust. This geeky-cute girl, targeted by the devilish glare, had done nothing wrong; you could see the innocence in her eyes and in every line of her face. Kneeling to lift a book from the bottom of her locker, her eyes glanced up at the pompous girl giving her the death stare.
“Um, eww,” Steff mumbled just loud enough to make it heard. She rolled her eyes, and with that, she slammed close her locker and walked away.
Nothing about the Chinese empires could hold my attention through history class that day. My usually buzzing mind was filled instead with the seemingly unimportant incident in the hall.
Soon enough, the bell rang for lunch. I strolled into the cafeteria, taking my usual seat next to Morgan.
“Bradi?” she said reluctantly, “I couldn’t keep Savannah from taking your seat today. She sat there first.”
“Oh. O-okay. Well...,” I said. I stood up once more to face the cafeteria. Not an empty seat anywhere called my attention, so I sat by an eighth-grade friend of my own. I’d always known it was good to have friends older than you, even if only by one year.
“Hey, B.!” I said to Allison (nobody actually called her by her first name).
“Is this seat usually empty?”
“Yup, sure is.”
Silently I ate my lunch. The table seemed to have an invisible line drawn down the middle, separating us from them—Cara, Bri, Amy, and Josh. I could hear their snickering.
“What is she doing here?”
“What’s it matter? She’s a f****** freak.”
“She thinks she’s in charge. What-a-b****,” said Cara, the eighth-grade President of Student Council, as if each word were her own personal property. She and I had worked together to represent our class until she stopped coming to the meetings. Now I was guilty of being the leader?
My eyes lingered to that side of the table, remembering only too late that my attention was their desire.
“Yeah—ugly—YOU!” Josh said. He applauded himself with a confident smile and a high-five to his friends.
B.’s expression wore pity, but it didn’t spread past her frown. Her eyes all but shouted, “I’m glad that’s not me.”
These people have so much! my mind projected. I see their brand-name clothes, their pearly-white teeth and carefully manicured nails. They’ve got the perfect looks.
Perfect? I thought. That’s it!
The classes I had after lunch that day passed in a blur. We may have been studying ecology in Science and linking verbs in English. I’ll never remember those details. Just then, I was piecing together what it meant to be perfect.
I stepped onto the bus after the last of my classes had ended unproductively. I sat, second seat from the front, while ‘perfect’ took a distant seat towards the back. As always, the questions never lingered far from the edge of my mind. It wasn’t in the looks. Steff and Josh and Cara all had those. The same went for their high-end clothes. It couldn’t possibly have come down to ‘to be Hollister or not. That is the question.’
Nor could it have been intelligence. B. had always been my role model when it came to schooling. She’d mastered every class with perhaps the highest percentages, but she wouldn’t say a word in my defense after being my friend for months and months?
My thoughts were interrupted by a movement in my peripheral vision. A package of Raman Noodles slammed into the back of my head. After years of going through the same bullied procedure, I had learned to ignore even these annoyances.
The bus was still in the parking lot of the school, and the last of the students were finding their seats.
“Yeah Taylor, sit with Bradi!” Steff’s voice flared with antagonism.
“Taylor, Philip wants to daaaaaate you,” egged Bri.
“Here Taylor,” I said, moving my backpack. “Take a seat.” I winked at her, assuring her that I did not mind sharing the seat. I knew how the kids in the back of the bus were. They didn’t see what I saw: a quiet girl that was interested not only in Hannah Montana, but also in finding the value of anything anyone said. They couldn’t see past the labels given to her—past the hushed judgments and hisses “slow” comments. No action of theirs’ could keep me from treating her with the respect any person deserves.
“Told ya, Bri. She’s a nothing. Can’t even keep Taylor out of her seat.” Steff chuckled as she pronounced Taylor’s name.
“They’re mean, Bradi. They shouldn’t be mean to you. Why are they mean, Bradi?”
Thinking back to the geeky-cute girl who absorbed Steff’s glare earlier, I said, “Because… well, Taylor, I’m not entirely sure. Maybe they just don’t understand good people. Maybe their moms and dads never taught ‘em to be nice. You never know…” I phrased what I said carefully, allowing her to form her own opinions.
Taylor may not understand Algebra. She may never be able to comprehend Pride and Prejudice or To Kill a Mockingbird, but she has a true-heart. I can see it through her eyes the same way I knew B. almost stood up for me at lunch. It doesn’t take a name-brand or straight A’s to have that innocence—that kindness—that comes so naturally as a child.
That day on the bus, I learned what ‘perfect’ is. The media may portray angelic models with unnaturally bright eyes as what ‘every girl wants to be,’ but the perfection is behind the eyes. It lies in the heart, as well as in the purity of the mind. ‘Perfect,’ to me, is not a measure of classy style or intelligence. It is a goal attainable by every person: to learn from every lesson and become the best they possibly can. Thank you, Taylor.