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“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” (Eleanor Roosevelt) These words of wisdom are simple, but true. Sticking up for myself was never one of my strong points. I accepted what was thrown at me, and quietly cleaned up the mess. In other words, I gave others the consent to make me feel inferior. That is, until I met Julie.
It was another Monday morning. Great. And staying up until one in the morning studying for the Biology test was just icing on the cake. After walking up the stairs, I spotted Abby rummaging through her locker. She had dark circles under her eyes, and her usual smiling face was replaced by a blank, dreary expression. “What’s up?” I asked her, in a monotone voice.
“Oh, no that much. Really tired,” she replied. We exchanged complaints for a few minutes, most of them being about the biology test. As we talked, we were interrupted by the sound of a locker slamming closed next to us.
Julie approached us, and with a huff of annoyance, said, “Do you guys have any idea how late I stayed up? I studied for that stupid test for four hours!”
“Yeah, I’ve heard the same from a bunch of other people. Bio sucks,” Abby responded, with that same worn-out voice.
“Abby, shut up. I have way more work to do that both you guys combined! Don’t even talk to me about your hard lives! You have no room to complain!” She was nearly shouting, and even students from across the hallway stopped what they were doing. I quickly shut my mouth, when I realized that it was wide open with shock. What do I do? What do I say? I looked at Abby. Her eyes started to water, and I knew that she was desperately trying to hold back her tears. Say something! Don’t let her get away with that! I opened my mouth, but no words came out. Julie just stood there, completely oblivious to Abby’s discontentment, with a smirk on her face. She turned around, and strutted off towards the math hallway, her nose held high in the air. Run after her! She completely insulted you! Are you going to let her rub it in your face? But by the time I could even begin to piece together what I would say to her, she was gone.
“Do you think she meant it?” Abby whimpered, her voice cracking, tears finally beginning to fall from her eyes.
“No Abby, I don’t think she did. She’s probably just having a bad day,” I responded sympathetically. But that excuse was worn-out and both Abby and I knew that it wasn’t true.
From the moment I met Julie she had always been cold. The frequent and unnecessary insults she’d thrown at many of my friends, the rumors she brewed behind our backs, and the pessimism of a perpetual rain cloud were just too much to handle. Every day I’d hear, “She’s just not feeling good,” or “she’s having a bad day.” I would agree and disregard her negative attitude but my head was screaming at me to fight back. How could she remain completely unaffected by the hurtful things she said? Had she felt the slightest bit guilty? As my mind asked these questions I became increasingly intolerable to her. She wasn’t going to be the one to tear my friends apart.
After school, while getting ready for track, those barbed words were still playing through my head like a broken record player. When we had finished getting ready Abby and I headed outside. I reached for the doorknob, but jumped back when the door was quickly swung open. Julie stood in front of me.
She briskly walked toward her locker and threw her backpack on the ground. I stood there, as unmoving as a stone statue. “Are you going to just stand there and not apologize for this morning?” she barked.
“I…” I stuttered, still frozen in my tracks. I looked up at Abby for help, but she too was completely motionless.
“I don’t think you guys realize how selfish you are. I have so much to do and so much to put up with, and you guys just sit back and complain about your pathetic lives.”
I was fuming inside, trying not to rupture with rage. My fists were clenched so tight that my knuckles began to turn white, and I could feel my face turning cherry red. How dare she! Suddenly, I burst, my words flying out of my mouth at a hundred miles an hour.
“How could you ever say that? Abby and I, and everyone else for that matter, have put up with your stupid attitude problems since the beginning of the school year! And not once did we complain, or fire back at you! Get a grip! If you’re gonna keep this up, I don’t want anything to do with you!”
It took me a while to realize what I’d just done. Abby’s mouth hung wide-open, and Julie looked just as hurt as Abby did that morning. I didn’t want to see Julie cry. I thought about apologizing, but quickly decided that this was what she had coming to her. She desperately needed a taste of her own medicine, and I had given it to her.
Normally, a cloud of guilt would surround me after moments like these, but this time I felt as if a heavy burden was lifted from me, and I was free to live again. It was then that I realized how important it was to take a stand. What’s the point in living your life if you have no voice in it? Not one more person would receive my consent. I’d had enough of feeling inferior.