The day is September 8th, 2014. I arise at 6:00 in the morning to prepare for another day of school, however this time it’s my first day of high school. The eagerness to start this new step in my life that I had throughout the summer was gone because of the increasing nervousness every minute closer to 8:15, when school officially starts. I’m ready to get through the rough times of now attending a new school with new people surrounding me everywhere I’d turn, or at least I thought I was on this day. Coming to SLA on the first day I looked around and saw the most obvious difference between my old school and now current school. Besides the fact there was no rule of wearing uniforms, the diversity was shocking. I walk down one hall and I see white students, I walk down another hall and I see Hispanics, and walked into the cafeteria on the first floor of the school and stop to look. I see everyone. Right here is where I feel I learned my first lesson of change, expect EVERYTHING to be different and out of one’s comfort zone.
*Flashback to the world I grew to feel most comfortable in…
Growing up I attended Kearny Elementary/Middle School from Kindergarten to Eighth grade. Residing across from the community the school was apart of made it easier for me to establish a name and a picture to that name throughout the school and neighborhood. With this being said, I was able to quickly make friends and be apart of my own group or team of people who were good friends of mine. Teachers at Kearny watched me grow from a little boy to a young adult, and obviously I became accustomed to being around certain teachers as well as certain peers. Peers, that were more so African American. Being around mostly my own race growing up, I sort of fell into a comfort zone where I only talked to people that acted like me. My thinking growing up was “that’s probably only my race”. The way we talked to each other. “What’s up bro”, “yo bro”, “what’s the move today” I only seem to hear from people throughout the African American race, the people who were similar to me. There were no more than two white students in my grade or that was around my age to be considered a peer to me, and because of them acting and even talking different it created a barrier between white students and my friends and I. “Why is he so uptight”, “why is he so weird” is the question we were so quick to ask and judge upon. Even when we were forced to interact because of table discussions there was this blatant awkwardness between both sides. Everything between us was different which made it really uncomfortable for us and them as well.
Many people might say “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover, you have to try to adapt to the change and new environment.” Specifically this because my mother is the one who told me this. As I listened and took this advice, the beginning of a new change was here in full effect and I felt I had to first figure out how to stop running from it because no matter what, this problem was going to catch up to me as the SLA school year continued. It’s easy to just say I will change or become more of this, but when the situation comes along where the opportunity appears to attempt whatever it is one needs to do, it’s easy to become stagnant. The enthusiasm and care to seriously adapt to that new thing is loss because at the end it is common for one to dislike change. Stick to what I’m used to right now was the mindset I had and when I’m willing and ready to adjust I’ll put the effort into doing so or at least hope to do so. Change is in any form costly because it involves time and effort to adapt to a new reality. Because of this I thought I was acting rationally by resisting change. I knew that I wasn’t the only student going through the same uncomfortable change, probably most of the incoming Freshman felt the same way.
Communication in a relationship is key no matter how deep the relationship is. Communication acts as the judge, jury, and executioner who has the final say on whether the relationship lives or dies. Learning how to talk to different types of people is important as well and coming to SLA for me it was critical for me to master. “Why is he so quiet”, “Why doesn’t he like to interact”. These are things I would hear a few times out the day a lot between the first two weeks of high school. The feeling when I heard these things to me was first a funny one. I used to chuckle when I heard this because the transformation from me being a somewhat talkative person to feeling like one of the most laid back student in the school was amazing. Also, it was hysterical to realize how one of the most hushed personality student in the class could still receive as much attention. At my old school, I received the attention but I was more involved with my environment. I was confident to approach anyone at my old school and communicate to them about anything, something I clearly had to learn all over again coming to SLA since I literally only knew one person from my old school that attended SLA. There was an obvious difference between how I acted, my mood, and my comfortability speaking to my old friend I been really close friends since 1st grade and my new classmates I only knew since a week ago. I was around a like minded person for sure. Coming into SLA, I had a tendency to speak with a lot of slang which comes from being around and interacting with my fellow race. There is a stereotype of black people being more illiterate compared to whites when speaking because of the constant use of slang or profanity and was another reason for it being easier to speak to my friends or at least peers that have a better chance of understanding what I’m saying and can relate to the exactly what I’m saying. Especially in a school like SLA, you can be judged for that especially when there are a lot of students coming from different environments when attending their previous schools.
This change in environment was definitely tricky and made me face an obstacle that was harder than expected. However, the changing reality contributed to my ability to present myself to other races in a more comfortable way. Also, I feel as though I came to an understanding that change is nothing more than a learning experience that I will continue to go through throughout my existence however will approach me in different scenarios. Mary Anne Bell from The Things They Carried relates to going through a change and seeking ways to adapt to it like I did with the curiosity of how difficult this change in environment from Kearny to SLA would be. Still to this day SLA helps me with having the confidence to be able to speak to peers outside of my race, personality, and the people I’ve grown accustomed to interacting with which is a great thing to be the best of both worlds in my opinion. Having the capability to be professional when needed and understand the slang that is widely used throughout all races but more so popular in the African American race.