When I was about to walk inside the
cafeteria doors for lunch one day, I saw two kids sitting
motionless, side by side on the outside bench, staring out
into space with their backs to the window.
A boy. A girl. A foot apart. Frumpy
clothes. Orange-red hair. High-wired jeans. They weren’t
eating. They weren’t talking. Just sitting there, eyes
glazed, and behind them through the window, a whole
cafeteria of roaring noise and movement and laughter.
I immediately thought, wow, high school
must be hell for them. Going through that everyday, sitting
there, without friends, without laughter, amidst a mob of
talking thousands. I immediately felt pity.
But now, thinking about it, I shouldn’t
pity people I don’t know. I shouldn’t judge them by a single
glance. Sure they are loners, but they may not want my pity.
I only pitied them because I knew I would never be able to
live in their positions. And somehow, they are stronger than
me in that sense. And then I felt respect.
Anyone who’s ever felt like there’s
something missing in the traditional sports-playing,
pep-rallying, club-volunteering high school suburbia has
felt this kind of loneliness. Anybody who hasn’t worn the
blond-highlights, the Abercrombies, the cucumber-melon
scented hand lotions has felt this kind of estrangement.
Those that fit in, kudos to them. They’ve
found contentment and belonging at an age so young,
something that we as humans are forever trying to find. But
for those that don’t, high school is merely an awkward stage
in life, a growing pain that will ease once the more
tolerant adult world opens up.
How many times at high school reunions
have the nerds and freaks turned out to be the most rich and
successful and beautiful-looking people? How many times have
we taunted them and judged them outwardly or inside our
heads back in those four years?
We don’t know them, their inner drama, or
dysfunctional family, or life and friends outside of school.
We don’t know them, save for the surface observations made
during the eight-hour school day.
We judge them, not by their
personalities, but by their behaviors in a crowd. Then,
suddenly, labels fly, names are called, prejudices made.
I judged them too. In my head, I
immediately thought them weird because they had no friends
to eat lunch with, because they didn’t belong.
I shouldn’t have, because everyone goes
through a stage of estrangement in life. If not now, then
later. Better now, than later.
But I have no doubt that these people,
these nonconformists, these nerds, these freaks, these
beautiful loners will find a content and comfortable place
they will one day call home. They will fit in, thrive, and
have truly meaningful relationships, something so rare in
the desperation of high school as well as the adult world.
They will one day be part of the pack, and may even be