Before starting kindergarten, I had not really interacted with people that much outside my home. I lived my life within the safe and familiar confines of my neighborhood. My best friend lived next door and another friend five doors down. Whenever I ventured outside of our quaint neighborhood, I would be accompanied by parents, like a dog on a leash, and thus I never was truly on my own. I was always near my parents and could rely on them for safety and comfort. Until that first day of school confronted me, I never really had to challenge myself and venture outside of my comfort zone.
As I remember, the week before school started, I was lazily sprawled out on the sofa. The couch’s soft, enveloping cushions held me like a willing captive, even as the view through the windows revealed a sunny, inviting day that beckoned me to come outside. While I was clicking through the television stations looking for something to watch, my parents walked in with an eerily excited look on their faces. “Next week, Alex, you will be starting kindergarten!” they gleefully announced to me. Unaware of exactly what that meant, I gave a weak smile, yet inside I felt my stomach turn and a sense of uneasiness creep into my mind. I soon would begin my life as a student and more importantly, walk on my own for the first time into a new world.
During the next week, flickering thoughts of what would come skittered through my mind. Then one day, I suddenly awoke to my mother’s smiling face and the smell of fresh green apples emanating from her recently washed hair. My eyes darted to the glowing red numbers painted on my digital alarm clock, which read 7:00 AM. “You have school today, Alex,” she whispered, “We need to get ready.” A lump in my throat formed as I realized something profound and important would happen. I silently followed my mother downstairs to eat breakfast and get ready. Walking to the car, I started to feel very anxious. My palms felt cold and clammy, and my heart pounded incessantly, feeling as if it would burst right out of my chest at any moment. Beads of sweat began to form on my forehead. My shirt label felt scratchy, and my sneakers suddenly felt too tight. Though I was nervous and trembling with fear, the day outside looked surprisingly promising. The sun shone brightly and proudly as ever and the birds chirped joyfully as if cheering me on. I crawled into my car seat for the ride of my life. After what seemed like an endless journey through many unfamiliar streets, we eventually arrived at my new school, and I cautiously peered outside my window to get a sight of what my parents had been anticipating so much. What I saw was quite underwhelming actually. In front of me stood a small brick building that seemed to sink into the ground, with a chained in playground that reminded me of a prison. Gripping onto the car seat, I resisted my mother’s pull to get out, but she efficiently pried me from the carseat and my means of escape, the car. My mother dragged me towards a set of huge, intimidating doors, while I helplessly watched my one-way ticket to freedom slowly fade into the distance. As soon as we reached the door, a short woman who reeked of perfume and wore heavy makeup approached us. She smelled just like an old, musty attic and gave us a crooked smile. She squawked, “Welcome, Alex, let’s head inside,” and extended her bony and deathly hand to me, trying to lead me through the brown doors beyond which I could hear the laughter of children. Though the kids sounded like they were having fun, I did not want to leave my mother’s warm, soothing hold. Clinging onto her creamy white dress dappled with tiny pearls that she always wore at work, I burrowed my face in it, afraid of looking at my new teacher. Gently nudging me off, my mom promised me she would come back soon, which felt reassuring, so I hesitantly took the teacher’s wrinkled hand that felt like leather. As the teacher and I walked inside, I noticed my mother had an encouraging look, one that she always gave me when she knew that something good would happen. My mother waved happily at me as the heavy doors shut with a resounding thud. And so, my first day of school began. To my amazement, I did indeed survive and enjoy myself. I interacted with many new children and engaged in activities that took my mind off the horrible thoughts I had envisioned. My first day turned out much better than I expected. When my mother came to pick me up at the end of the day, I wanted to stay.
That morning on my first day of school, I had over-dramatized what school would be like and greatly overreacted, but in some ways, I hadn’t. This was my first true experience in the real world, away from home. It would open the path to many opportunities and be one of my first steps toward independence. My first day of school was the bridge that connected my innocence and bliss to the joys and hardships that accompany life. My journey at the time seemed like the world was ending, yet looking back, I can say that it is all relative, and I will experience many more momentous events in the future. Most importantly, I learned to overcome my fear of obstacles in life and to confront them head on. My perception of facing challenges drastically changed from that day forward, and now I strive to approach seemingly daunting situations with an optimistic outlook and without too much fear.
On the morning of my first day of high school, my mom, wearing her white dress, crept quietly into my room to awaken me. “Alex, time to get up for your first day of high school,” she whispered. I slowly rose from my swath of blankets and stretched. A sense of determination and confidence began to swell in my body, and unlike my first day of kindergarten, no worried lump formed in my throat.