Throughout my freshman and sophomore year of high school, my anxiety continued to climb. I was involved in honors classes and AP classes. Studying was life. Sophomore year I finally stopped escaping to the library during lunch to study. Mom advised me to stop cutting off social opportunities. Yet, social situations also caused me anxiety. People had labeling me the “Quiet One” therefore, I wasn’t expected to talk. And honestly, most of the time I didn’t want to. Naturally, I am more of a listener. What caused me so much social anxiety was when I did talk I wasn’t listened to, I was discounted, brushed off, or even mocked at times. (My ridiculous blushing face didn’t help either. Think of the brightest red you can imagine, and place that color ALL OVER my face and down my neck. Yeah, my blush got made fun of tons, although Layla would tell me every day boys thought it was cute—which didn’t help in the least, but I commend her for her efforts. I didn’t care if a boy thought it was cute; I wanted to stop blushing so people would stop recognizing when I was embarrassed).
Eventually, I became what people expected of me. Expect my good friend I made in orchestra (we’ll call her Page); I didn’t talk much to anyone.
Page started sitting with me and my friend group at lunch, which saved me from a life of silence. She and I would talk and joke. Our inside jokes became so funny that sometimes my friends would start laughing because Page and I were laughing so hard.
Honestly, Page was a life saver. To this day, she remains one of my beloved friends.
Now, apparently when you’re labeled the “Quiet One” and the “Nice One,” this makes one vulnerable to unrequited hostility. Or should I say people who think because I was so “nice” they could take advantage of me and I wouldn’t care.
Unfortunately, my sophomore year was the year people began to realize they could treat me disrespectfully and I wouldn’t fight back.
Reason being? Most of the time I didn’t care, especially if it was directed toward me; the Freshman Bullies really toughened my skin.
The only time disrespect bothered me was when it was directed toward my friends. There was this Freshman girl in our orchestra class who was in First Violins…we—the sophomores in the class—nicked-named her “The Robot.” I was a Second Violin, because at this point I discovered writing was my passion, so I dedicated more time to writing than to practicing my violin. I wasn’t awful, but I was by no means the best.
The Robot was the best.
And she knew it.
The majority of the class hated her because she was so condescending and cruel. It was the first time I actually knew how it felt to hate someone. And how hard it is to eventually try and forgive them.
We were in sectionals one day—this is where each instrument group in the orchestra goes into a separate practice room—and usually First and Second violins were separated, but not this day. The Robot was put in charge, and the sophomores audibly groaned.
Gosh, she was horrible. I have never felt so stupid, low, or angry in my entire life. And let me tell you, it takes a LOT to make me angry.
The way she spoke to us, as if we were two years old and had no idea how to play our instruments. Her posture was stiff, and her voice was deep, her eyes blazed with grandiose glory. I think what made tipped the burg was how she was younger than all of us. Yes, she was incredibly talented, I will give her that, but she was a terrible human.
I have never been so angry I wanted to hit someone, but she managed to get me that blazing mad. I gently set down my violin, stared her in the eyes, and in the calmest voice I could manage, told her I was going to the bathroom. She told me I couldn’t, so I glared and walked out anyways.
Now, several years after the fact, I am finally confident enough to tell this part of the story.
I went my orchestra teacher and asked to speak with her in her office. I told her about how The Robot was treating us. About how disrespectful she was and how awful she made my friends feel.
The next day, The Robot was demoted in the First Violin section from First Chair to Fourth.
The justice I felt was so pure. And although it made my orchestra friends happy for probably the wrong reason, at least it stopped The Robot from being so awful. The Robot was the only person in my whole high school career to ever make me angry (just wait till I tell you the surprise I got Senior year…)
Mom always thought I was odd for a teenager, because I didn’t react to the petty actions of others and acted far more mature than my age (I don’t think I told her about what happened with The Robot). Mom noticed how I worked so differently than the people around me. Since she pointed this out, I began noticing how my difference caused my friends to stop trying to understand me—I became an enigma to them.
My friends would praise me when I either told them I talked to this cute guy, or they saw me talking to a guy or anyone in general.
“Great job, Natalie. I didn’t know you were brave enough to talk to boys.”
I would frown at them and say something about not being a complete imbecile. This continued so often whenever I talked, I eventually stopped telling the majority of my friend group about various aspects of my life. I even stopped confiding in Layla—my closest friend since elementary at this point—a lot about my life. The other girls and guys in our friend group became more interesting to her anyways.
Do not take this as complaining. I am not. I do not blame anyone for anything (well, maybe except The Robot, because she clearly chose to act the way she did). I understand had I changed my actions, life would have turned out differently. If I was the person I am now, acting back then, life would have been different. However, all of these experiences made me into the amazing person I am today. I was also a completely different person back then, so confrontation or talking about deep personal things was NOT something I did with ANYONE.
Remember, I am simply explaining my origin story of how my anxiety became a roaring monster.
When Page didn’t come to school, I would go to the choir room with Layla and our friend group during lunch. I did my best to get to know the others, but they were already in their clique. Again, I was only “allowed” to tag along because I was a part of the originals.
I began to really hate lunch hour. It was just that too, an hour long. Some days I thought I would die.
There were days I prayed lunch would go smoothly and quickly. That I would be more confident and able to talk to those around me…to fit in. I knew deep down my friend group were kind people, but looking back…as teenagers I don’t think we really understood many of the aspects going on beneath each of our surfaces. I just wanted someone to pay attention to me, to actually make to effort to get to know me.
Page was that person. And I thank the heavens every day for how she saved me. At least in my orchestra class, I wasn’t invisible.
Everywhere else, I was.
This was the first time in my life I started to think no one would care if I disappeared. I believe the two things that kept these thoughts from becoming too serious, were Page with her unconditional kindness at school and my family. When the darkness became too cavernous, I thought of my family and the thoughts would fade.
The only class I truly enjoyed at school was orchestra, because at least people talked to me, and wanted to know more about me.
Since Page and Layla were the only ones who would give me the time of day and I’ve encountered so many people like The Robot, I began to believe I was unlovable. A thought I still struggle with today.
Always and Forever,
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