It was my first day of school and I was excited. Even though I hadn’t been to kindergarten or pre-school, I was excited. Going to school looked so fun on TV, so I was pumped.
As Mum dropped me off, she gave me a kiss goodbye. “Have fun at school today.”
I smiled back at her, confident that I wouldn’t disappoint her. Kids surrounded me, rushing off to their classes. Despite being a little nervous, I was ready; I knew that school was going to be a blast. Quickly lining up at my classroom, I looked around at the kids around me. A handful were talking in loud voices while a pair spoke in hushed tones. Everyone else was silent, unsure in the crowd of unfamiliar faces.
When I walked up, they all went quiet; it was really weird. Several eyes were pointed towards me with strange looks plastered across their faces. Looking around, I double checked that it was me they were staring at. Some of the kids took a step away from me, one girl in particular looked like she was going to cry. As I saw her eyes tear up, I outstretched a hand, wanting to comfort her. She only retreated more, clutching her bag to her chest. I was crushed at first, I only wanted to be her friend. Whatever, it was only one kid, right?
The shrill sound of the bell broke the silence and chatter started up again; leaving the awkward silence far behind it. Once the kids started filing into the classroom, I followed, knowing that I wouldn’t leave school without making friends. For the first few minutes, the teacher got us to sit on the floor at the front of the class. Her name was Mrs. Taylor and she seemed really nice. With a wide smile and warm eyes that shined just as brightly, I felt a lot more at home.
As she directed us to our assigned seating, our names were read off one by one before we sat down. Slowly, each of my classmates left the space on the floor and made their way to a seat. My name was read out last. Slowly standing up, Mrs. Taylor gave me a smile before guiding me to my seat. I was seated next to a boy who was tall for his age but appeared to be nice enough. A blonde mess sat on his head, playful brown eyes settled beneath. All hope that we could be friends was shattered when he stood up.
“Mrs. Taylor.” He said suddenly.
“Yes Patrick?” She asked with a smile.
“I don’t want to sit here.” He blurted out.
“And why not?” Asked Mrs Taylor
“Because of…” he pointed at me, unwilling to call me by my name.
The classroom faded away as he looked back at me with the devil in his eye. Awkward silence hung in the air, our teacher speechless at his statement.
After the moment passed, he continued, pointing at me again “That is not like us. I don’t like it.” He snarled before spitting at me.
Grossed out, I tried to wipe the spit from my face. As tears filled my eyes, I kept wiping for what felt like a silent eternity.
“That’s quite enough Patrick.” Mrs. Taylor said, finally gathering her composure. “Every child is important and special. What they look like doesn’t make them a bad person. Also, you should never refer to a child as a thing.”
“Well this piece of shit is stupid.” He finished, causing the room to erupt in voices.
She yelled over the uproar. “Patrick! Go to the principal’s office! Right now!”
Moments turned into minutes as I stared at the wall, unaware of what was going on around me. My tears didn’t stop for a while. I felt numb, no person had ever made me feel so inadequate. The only thing I could remember afterwards was being alone in a classroom, Mrs. Taylor sitting opposite me. Her genuine smile was replaced with something forced upon her face, ageing her young appearance.
What she said only made it worse. She didn’t understand why I was so upset. I wanted to fit in with the other kids, not stand out. Blending in was vital to making friends. Most of what she said I forgot moments later but her last words haunted me, sticking in my mind.
“It’s okay, try not to worry about it. It’s not your fault that you’re different.”
Even I struggle with empathy sometimes. I ask myself how the other person is feeling and how I would feel in their place. It helps me see as many perspectives on a situation as possible. That way I can make a judgement on it with less of my personal bias.
At the core, this is a story about bullying, racism and on a much larger scale, difference. When writing this story, I aimed to start a conversation about all of these things, outlining their impact on the world today and why they need to change. Uniqueness and individuality is so important; why should we allow practices that go against those ideals to continue?
I’ll stop my ramble here. Thank you for reading, I hope to see you all back for my next story on the 19th of September.