No One Is Thinking About You!
I remember being in fourth grade, it was my birthday, and the annual book-fair was taking place in our school library. Soon, it would be our class turn to visit the library, and buy all the books, pencils, erasers, and other cool items we wanted. Before departing to the library, my teacher announced to the class that there would be a drawing. Whichever student’s name she drew from the box would be able to get any free item they wanted from the fair. She stuck her hand in the box, and I couldn’t believe it—my name had been called! I was so excited. I loved the book-fair, and now I had the chance to get any item I wanted for free. The moment she called my name, I knew I wanted something special. Maybe stickers, pencils with cool erasers, markers, or a paint-set.
Just seconds before we were to leave for the book-fair, the teacher made a comment to the class that sent my heart twirling into sadness. She encouraged us to go to book-fair, and buy a book that was at the fifth-grade reading level. Doing so, she noted, would help us improve our reading comprehension, and prepare us for the reading/writing sections of future MEAP tests.
I knew my teacher would be very pleased if I bought the book. But there was a problem. I wanted to color! Not read a boring book!
All the students in my class were huddled around the right section of the book fair. That’s where all the fifth and six-grade level books were located. And the teacher was even helping students pick out which books to buy. I stayed with the crowd for about 30 seconds or so, but wasn’t entirely happy.
Nervous of the repercussions of what would happen if I strayed, I hesitantly started making my way to other sections of the book-fair. Lo and behold, located at the left side of the library, I found an item I fell in love with. It was a plastic purse, and inside of the purse was a “Clifford The Big Red Dog” book with cool coloring utensils, a pencil, and Clifford eraser! I started fantasizing about how fun it would be when I got home, and had a chance to start reading, coloring, and using the cool eraser.
While I knew it was what my heart wanted, I kept the purse on the shelf and proceeded back to where my classmates and teacher were. There I felt safe, but not happy. I was doing what everyone else was doing. My teacher would be happy, and no kid could possibly make fun of me for choosing an item for a little kid. I picked up a fifth-grade level reading book that I thought might interest me. “Just maybe,” I thought to myself, “I can enjoy reading it.” But as much as I tried to convince myself, I couldn’t. Should I stay with the crowd and get the book? Should I go back, and get my Clifford package? Would the teacher be disappointed if I didn’t challenge myself with a “big-kid” book? Would the other students make fun of me for choosing Clifford—a book for babies?
I slowly proceeded back to the left-side of the library to admire the Clifford package one more time, but didn’t dare pick it up. I reluctantly started walking back to the crowd. But as I was heading back, something from within caused me to stop walking. There I stood in the middle of the library—half way from what I really wanted, and half way from gaining the approval of others. I felt trapped. Maybe I could get my Clifford without anyone noticing? I could keep it on the down-low, hiding it as much as I could with my hand. And so that’s what I did. I had made my choice: Clifford it was. No one was going to notice anything.
Our shopping time was nearing the end, and I was keeping the package on the down-low. While I was making my way back to the crowd, my teacher came up to me and asked: “What did you get?” I reluctantly showed her the package, and what came out of her mouth shocked me! “That’s a nice choice,” she said with a big smile on her face. I couldn’t believe it. What!?! It was a nice choice? But I thought she would disapprove because she was encouraging us to get a fifth-grade level reading book?!? But no, I was wrong, she thought it was a nice choice. And for the other students thinking I was a “baby” if I got Clifford, you know what? They didn’t even notice what I got. They didn’t even care. They were all caught up with their own books, and what they had bought. Both my assumptions of what my teacher and classmates would think of me were wrong.
I didn’t realize it at that time, but that experience offered a great life lesson. It was a lesson I would have to learn over and over again in my own life: You are free to live the life you are meant to live. The choice to be true to yourself starts and ends with you. People can tell you whatever they want. They can share their advice. They can tell you their opinion about the choices you are making. But at the end of the day, it’s completely up to you as to whether you follow your dreams in life. I know now more than ever in my life that my happiness will be derived only by having the courage to pursue my dreams. And no matter how it looks to others, you come alive when you know deep within your heart that you are living the life that is right for you.
– Emma Hunter, PhD, Life Coach and Author of Where’s The Love?, Confessions of a Soccer Mom, and Failure: The Key to Success