We’re all looking for a place to fit in. Being with the in-crowd gives us a sense of acceptance. We all hang out with our friends because we know that they accept us for who we are. We don’t have to try too hard to impress them or to get them to like us. Once you make friends with someone, you’re pretty much stuck with them for the long run. Anyone who isn’t part of the in-crowd is either labelled an outcast or a loser. Growing up, I was probably both.
I am not a popular guy. Growing up, I was not very popular in school. I never was and I don’t think I’ll ever be popular. I was always one step behind the in-crowd. While the rest of the guys are outside playing basketball, I was shelving books as a Library Helper. When I got into basketball, they were into street hockey. When I got interested in street hockey, they upgraded to rollerblade hockey. No matter what I did, I couldn’t catch up.
When I was younger, I had a hard time fitting in with the other kids. Language was a big issue at first because you can’t make friends with people you can’t talk to. I moved around a lot so I got used to the fact that I had to make new friends every time. But that didn’t help make matters any easier.
Back then, I went to five different elementary schools. Each time, I had to make new friends at all of them. The first school that I attended was Stinson Avenue School. It wasn’t that hard to make friends in Grade One because when you’re in Grade One, all you do is play. You don’t really care who you’re playing with, as long as you’re both having fun.
In Grade One, I didn’t know much English so I was sent into English as a Second Language (ESL) class. I don’t remember much about that class but I do remember making a lot of friends there. Everyone there had something in common, we didn’t know English. Plus there were a few kids from the neighbourhood in that class so I got along with most of them.
The following year, I attended Sanford Avenue School. I had some problem making friends because I had just transferred to the school. Attending this school didn’t start out very well because I got into a fight on the first day. A few kids were outside of the entrance playing wrestling. This one little kid name Cory was winning against this other kid, who turned out to be his younger brother. I didn’t know that Cory was the older brother because he was smaller. As I stood there watching them, I made a comment about how I could probably take him on. So we started wrestling.
This little bugger was quick and managed to get around me. Next thing I knew, I was lying on my stomach on the ground and he was on top of me pulling my arm. He pulled it back and it hurt so I started crying. That’s when a teacher came out and stopped the fight.
We were sent to the Principle’s office before going back to class. The Principle knew that I was the new kid and thought that Cory was picking on me for being new so he made Cory apologize to me. After that, we were sent back to class. That’s when I found out that Cory was the older brother of one of my classmates. I wasn’t on the younger brother’s good list because I got his older brother in trouble.
A few days later, the younger brother and a few of his friends surrounded me on my way home for lunch. They wouldn’t let me go so I took my backpack off and swung it at them. One of them, Mike got a hold of it and grabbed it from me. I had nothing to defend myself with. There was four of them and only one of me. They started calling me names and started playing hot potato with my backpack. Luckily, this old man came by and helped me out. He grabbed my backpack from the other kids and shooed them away. He handed me my backpack and I ran home. I still didn’t know English well enough to say much to the old man.
The next day in school was pretty much the same as the previous day. I was alone in the class because I didn’t know anyone. What was worst was that the four guys from the other day were all in my class. I didn’t tell the teacher about it because I didn’t know how to.
When it came time for recess, I went and sat underneath the tree and watched the other kids running around playing tag. I saw that all these kids were having fun and I was left out. It saddened me so I started crying. I made myself into a ball and buried my head into my knees and just cried. Then this sweet little girl came by and started talking to me. I looked up and saw the most beautiful ever. She had one of the brightest smiles that I’ve ever seen, even though she was missing one of her front tooth.
Her name was Amy and she was Laos. I must have had the biggest crush on her that year. I found out she was Lao because she told me the word for “friend” in Lao. If I remember correctly, the Lao word for “friend” is “moo.”
Amy: Hey. What’s wrong? Why are you crying?
Me: I don’t have any friends to play with. And nobody will play with me.
Amy: I’ll play with you.
Amy: Ya! Come on, you can chase me!
I’ve never had so much fun just chasing after a girl. When I caught up to her, I grabbed her and gave her a big hug. I even managed to lift her into the air. She liked it so much that she asked me to do it again. So I lifted her again.
Not much happened between Amy and I. We were both young and had no idea what we were feeling towards each other. Plus, midway through the school year, I had to transfer to another school because my house was in a different district. They must have moved some borders or something because they pulled me out of class to tell me this. The school that I transferred to was about the same distance. Again, I had to make new friends.
I think all of my moving around has made me into an easy going person. I can have an opened conversation with a complete stranger and not have to worry about anything. Just being able to speak with someone helps you fit right without a problem. I got along very well with my college classmates because I was able to talk to all of them. I could relate to everyone because we were all in the same program. I didn’t see them as nerds or geeks because they were into computers. I saw them as colleagues and accepted the fact that they had similar interests as I did. Our similarities help us get along together. I didn’t care what our differences were.