Back when I was in preschool, I was the kid with no friends— the kid everyone ignored. Walking around school, I kept my head down with my eyes glued to the ground. I’d take quick, small steps with my short, dark wisps of hair swaying back and forth, my small figure rushing and weaving through small clusters of children bustling about. As a shy little girl, I would never be the one to approach others first because I lacked the courage to do so, while others were outgoing and open. And so, they would think I didn’t want to talk to them. Because a small group of people started ignoring me, others made the same assumption that I was cold and didn’t like people, so they ignored me too. But I never knew this back then, so it used to hurt when people ignored me. Every day when I got back home, I would go to the bathroom, curl up on the closed toilet seat with my knees drawn to my chest, and look towards the ceiling. Large tears would come rolling down my face. There was not even a sob or a whimper― just a cold silence.
I used to go to the Kids R Kids (a preschool daycare center) in Sugar Land, which is where I live, and life was quite depressing. Every morning, I would awaken to the blinding sunlight streaming through the window into my face. The sunlight told me another day had come― another long day of misery awaited me. I remember the days before, when my parents would always ask me how I was doing at school, if I had made many friends, what I did with those friends, and all that. But the thing was, I didn’t have any friends, and I always lied. It hurt to do so, but I did it anyway.
I lived about a fifteen-minute drive away from Kids R Kids, and it was always a quiet drive; my parents wouldn’t talk, and I wouldn’t talk. Everything around me was colorful until I walked into the school, and my parents drove away. Then, everything I saw became monotone, the faces of the other children were blurred, and only the teachers had a clear face.
When walking through the school, the hallways seemed endless, the walls and ceiling so intimidatingly high, with drawings and writings on papers strung all about. I usually paid no attention to the papers on the walls, but no matter what I did, I could not avoid the high walls and ceiling. The height of the walls and ceiling reminded me of how small and unimportant I was to others, and I hated it. You would think that once I got into the classroom with everyone else, my fears would dissolve, but you would be wrong. The room of children was no place that I could be happy—I never really understood what I was supposed to do. For example, on that day, the teacher was talking about bears hibernating in the wintertime, and she wanted all the kids to imitate a sleeping bear. She would then tap everyone, and no one should stir when she did.
Everyone did what they were told, except me; I could pretend to sleep, but the moment the teacher had tapped me, I leapt up. Normally at home, my parents would tap me awake instead of shaking me to avoid me falling off the bed. I would always leap up when tapped so that I wouldn’t be yelled at to wake up. It was just my gut instinct. However, the action that was normal to me disturbed all those around me. The kids in that class wouldn’t talk to me after that, and I had to lose class stickers because of it. It made me upset to see that the people around me showed hostility towards me because of a simple action. But even in times like that, I had something to look forward to: lunch.
The school cafeteria was the only bright and colorful place other than the outside in my monotone world of preschool. The warm and crispy popcorn shrimp would melt in your mouth after the first bite of the crunchy outside layer. A side of cold and somewhat sweet milk with the appetizing shrimp would be my lunch. The only part that was still not so colorful was the fact that I had no friends to sit with. Although I sat at a table with lots of other kids, none were friends with me and none would talk to me. I could ignore this, though, because I would not let something so small disrupt my enjoyment― the only enjoyment I had at school. After lunch, the smell of chicken and shrimp followed me on my way to the playground outside for daily recess, but soon it was gone and with it, left the color and happiness from lunch in the cafeteria.
I had never set foot on the cold metal and plastic structure of the playground, but instead sat on the wooden bench to the side, looking in the opposite direction of the playground. It was hard at first to ignore the yells and squeals of the other children as they played, but I had slowly learned to block them out. It was not fun to be lonely, and it was even less fun to witness others enjoying what I didn’t have.
On one particular day around the middle of the school year, though, I heard something strange and different from the noises I had blocked out before. I heard two small voices gradually getting louder and louder. I see shadows growing larger and larger, and getting closer. For the first time since the first day of school, I looked in the direction of the playground where the voices were coming from.
I saw two girls standing in front of my small and isolated figure. The first girl was a plump and small Chinese girl, with short black hair blowing over her pale skin, and warm dark eyes. The second girl was a tall and slender African-American girl with curly black hair blowing in every direction, and dark olive-colored skin. This was the first time I saw such details when looking at other children. The two girls seemed familiar, but I didn’t know them. They introduced themselves as Hannah and Gabbie, which they said was short for Gabriella.
Just to have people walk up to me and say something was a very peculiar situation, and I froze up and said nothing. I simply stared at the two girls in front of me and did absolutely nothing. I eventually introduced myself, but in a small voice with my head down, not making eye contact at all. Hannah and Gabbie pulled me by both my hands out of the pavilion under which my bench was bolted.
“You look lonely all by yourself,” they said. “Come play with us.” I was absolutely terrified when they started pulling me away from my bench towards the playground.
Hannah and Gabbie tried talking with me about food, parents, siblings, everything else they could think of. I hated them at first, thinking about how they didn’t respect any of my privacy (thinking back to how they pulled me away from my bench without my permission). Also, I felt extremely uncomfortable to have two girls talking and laughing loudly on both sides of me. To put it plainly, I was scared of these two exuberant girls.
But after that, we became fast friends. Every day, Hannah and Gabbie would walk with me in the hallways (I walked and they skipped), telling jokes and laughing loudly, and they would eat with me at lunch. We would sit on my bench and talk but never go to the playground. We talked about our favorite family members, siblings (I didn’t have any so I listened to their stories), and our favorite foods. I totally forgot about being scared of Hannah and Gabbie. They made me feel happy when we were together, and it became fun to hang out with them.
The beginning of our friendship was very awkward because I still was very shy, but as Hannah and Gabbie kept talking to me and paying attention to me, I started to open up to them little by little. It was a hard task at first but as I became more familiar with them, I could talk comfortably with my two new friends. Hannah and Gabbie became my best and first friends— we did almost everything together at school. They made everything colorful, and the walls seemed to lower to an acceptable height. I felt as if I were freed from my insecurities that used to be seen in the walls that were now luminous and transfigured. I was able to enjoy what other kids had been enjoying, and it felt amazing to feel what I had been ignoring for so long. Slowly but gradually, the sullen look on my face brightened into a smile. Hannah and Gabbie had given me love and gave me the confidence to speak up. I learned that I too could laugh and have fun like other people around me could. I came to know more about who Hannah and Gabbie were through our friendship, and as they helped me discover who I wanted to be.
Because Hannah and Gabbie chose to approach me, I’m not alone anymore. If they hadn’t walked up to me and introduced themselves, I would still be a quiet and neglected kid at school. Hannah and Gabbie helped me overcome my shyness and become more open to people. They also made me realize that I couldn’t get anywhere in life if I didn’t have the courage to approach others. I am truly grateful to Hannah and Gabbie for teaching me to overcome my shyness and choosing to become my friends.
Now, I am a sixth-grader at Quail Valley Middle School, and my life has changed so much since those days in preschool. Hannah and Gabbie are still my friends, but throughout elementary to middle school, I’ve made many more. I started to become more open to others. I became more cheerful and it has made me a more approachable person. It made me so happy to finally break free from my old self and discover new things and meet new people. I guess even in the depths of the darkest oceans, some light always pierces through. I just failed to notice it, but now I cherish every streak of light and I strive to share it with others who have not yet found the light.