It’s your first day of school. You go through it once a year, but it’s different this time. Because today, you’re starting high school.
You’ve been at the same school, with the same people, for the last 3 years. But now you’re a freshman, navigating unfamiliar halls with faces you couldn’t name if your life depended on it.
Now it’s 4th period. You walk into your class, and don’t recognize a single person. All day you’ve been in classes with other freshmen. You didn’t know them all, but at least they were in the same boat as you, navigating those same unfamiliar halls.
You quickly find out that you are 1 of only 2 freshmen in the class. There’s 1 sophomore, but the rest are juniors and seniors.
That’s what my first day at Heritage was like. I walked into the class that I was already nervous about taking – it was something totally new to me. Twenty or so people did that weird stare that we’re all guilty of doing when someone new walks in the room. My stomach was tight. I scanned over the room, desperately looking for someone I knew or recognized, but to no prevail. The only seat open was at the back of the room, so now I had to walk past all the staring faces just to sit down. The room was full, and I was horrified. I had no clue how everyone had already gotten to class. I wasn’t late but everyone was already seated and ready to go – probably because they knew where they were going. I noticed that there was a back room, and decided I wanted to run in there and hide. I could still listen to the teacher, but I wouldn’t be surrounded by strangers. This whole thing took all of 7 seconds, but it felt like years spent just walking back to a seat. My legs were shaking and I couldn’t get them to move fast enough. Once I sat down, I just sat and took in the room.
The room was practically silent if you ignored the quiet music that was playing. Some indie band I’d never heard of. One of the unrecognizable faces from the hall could have been singing that song and I would have never known.
There were a ton of pictures stapled up; an insane amount of them covered one wall. They were pictures that students had taken, and looking at them made me realize the amount of talent in the class, and I didn’t think I could even begin to measure up to it. I started hearing what everyone else’s skills were (video production, photography, audio production, etc.). I didn’t really think I belonged in this class when I could do pretty much one thing – write. I won’t lie; this class was so foreign to me, and I contemplated switching the class. But I didn’t really know where else to go, there wasn’t another class I was REALLY interested in. So I decided to stick it out, to give the uncomfortable Newspaper class a shot, and to make sure I didn’t piss anybody off. I don’t think I even said two words within the first few days that weren’t in response to the teacher – to me it seemed the best way to stay tolerable to the rest of the class. It made it easier knowing that I didn’t look my age. Considering my height, a lot of the juniors thought I was a senior, and a lot of the seniors thought I was a junior (I found this out when I finally started to talk). At one point a guy in class asked what grade I was in. When I said I was a freshman, his response was simply “Damn, you’re tall” accompanied by widened eyes.
One of our first big projects of the year was “Nightmare,” which was basically a bunch of creepy stories published throughout October. Now, creepy stories are right up my alley – horror/suspense is my favorite genre to write in, so I was psyched for the project. I wrote a couple small pieces for “Nightmare,” but nothing great. A couple of the girls in class had read them. I was insanely nervous thinking that they would hate the stories, and of course hate me for writing them (yes, that was my mindset). The girls thought they were great. They gushed over the stories, so I kept trying to write more and more. It seemed to be the one thing I could use to get to know and people in the class. I kept writing, kept using my one talent to my social advantage. And then, I finally got it. I wrote the story that really made me feel like I was a part of the class. It was the last story published for “Nightmare.” It was called “Into the Fog,” and not only did the girls in class love it, but so did the teacher, Mr. Strong. It was the first piece I had written where people really took interest in it, where the teacher wanted to take it as far as he could – taking pictures and voice recordings to go along with the story. It was the first story I had written that made me really feel like I belonged. Once I had gotten into
“Nightmare,” I then got into the “Performing Arts Showcase,” and now, I’m writing this piece for “Awkward.”
I wrote this piece because I realized how stupid I had been those first few days. I stayed in the class and am (obviously) still in it, and I’m so happy I made that decision. Between the great feedback from other students and being published on HOWL Heritage, I feel so much more confident in my writing, and I feel more comfortable with others reading it. There are some great people I’ve met in this class, and those I haven’t but are still welcoming and helpful. Even at the beginning of the year, nobody else did anything that would make me think they hated me; I was just getting in my own head. And maybe they do hate me, but at least I’m not bothered by it. Experiences like this make me want to try other new things without that fear. I have to thank everyone in class for the warm welcome and reassurance, and I hope I didn’t piss you off.
Most of us have been in a situation like my first day. Whether you were in a new school, class or club, we all know what it feels like – an annoying feeling that finds home in the pit of your stomach. It’s freaky, it’s dumb, it’s uncomfortable, it’s weird, and as we all know, it sucks. It’s awkward.
Words by Emily Fraser
Photography by Camper Ruybal