National Do Things You’re Bad At Week, day four.
Once I got in to ninth grade, I wasn’t familiar with very many people. Most of my middle school friends were either assigned to different schools or weren’t in any of my classes. So I had to make new friends. I hadn’t yet developed the best conversational skills (it would be another year until I realized I was a better speaker than I thought), but I got acquainted with a few people nonetheless. It just didn’t bring me that much satisfaction. I got bored and ran out of things to talk about. Once I rediscovered my love of reading, however, I never felt bored again. I felt bad reading during lunch, because I’d mentally check out of everything and leave my acquaintances to talk among themselves. Eventually, though, I stopped caring. Books were just better than acquaintances. I abandoned the group and moved to the far end of the table to sit alone.
Tenth grade rolled around, and I’d already decided to find my own spot right away. I chose a circular table in the corner of the cafeteria. Nobody noticed me for months. One day, I accidentally made eye contact with a nice fellow–and he joined me. A few strangers had sat at my table before, minding their own business, and I was usually fine with that. But this fellow wanted to talk. And by talk, I mean make small talk. Tiny, microscopic talk, fluffed up beyond all hope. About what my classes were. My weekend plans. Upcoming assignments or tests. Every other day he came and sat with me. I wanted to be nice, but it felt like torture. One day, I told him that some others had asked me to sit with them. I found a spot with a group of friends, made a partial cubicle with my backpack, and asked them to cover for me. A few weeks later, I saw him sitting with another group. I felt a little guilty–admittedly, I hadn’t handled it it very well at all, but I took solace in the fact that he looked like he was having the time of his life.
This year, I’ve made the choice to sit with people at lunch. I’m a junior, for God’s sake, and I’ve been completely and utterly involved with my school. So I found some friends and asked to sit with them. They’re cool people. I’m a great conversationalist when I put my mind to it. But I always find myself back in my book. It’s almost unconscious, like I don’t even realize it until lunch is over. I don’t want to push everyone away and realize years down the road that I’d shut down opportunities that could have (who knows) changed my life. So today, when somebody struck up a conversation with me, I decided to engage more. We hit it off really well. And while I’m proud of myself for making wonderful new friends, I’m still going to let myself read sometimes. I’ve earned it.
And I always have free period.