‘Lesley, you have to pledge allegiance too!”
I was six. I looked at my angry new American teacher bewildered, and all my classmates sniggered. I didn’t know what to say and tears welled in my eyes.
‘Put your hand on your heart’, she said, clearly exasperated.
I wasn’t really sure where my heart was. In my chest, obviously, was it to the left or the right of centre? I pointed at the correct place on my chest, hopefully.
‘NO, like THIS’, she said slapping her right hand across her chest. I mirrored her…. giggling now breaking out all over the classroom.
‘NO! OTHER HAND’, she shouted.
I quickly changed hands.
‘Okay, now join in with the rest of the children’.
‘Idiot’.. the child nearest to me whispered.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States….” I watched the teacher carefully and mimed the words, hoping not to draw any more attention to myself.
“STOP!!!” The angry teacher glowered at me. “YOU LOOK AT THE FLAG, NOT ME WHEN YOU PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE”
Contemptuous stares bored into me from all over the classroom, their new classmate was clearly extremely stupid. I could feel my face going bright red and I struggled not to cry.
We started again. I looked at the flag. ‘Why do you talk to an inanimate object?’ I wondered. The day had barely begun. It was going to be a long day.
It was a long day. It was a long, long two and a half years at that school without ever making a single friend. Lessons were tough, especially sports lessons. Break times were worse. Travelling to and from school on the school bus was worse still.
I avoided the children as much as possible. I ate my lunch in a corner as quickly as I could and then would find some space in the vast playing fields to sit and ponder… I think eventually I was mostly left alone.
I’ve never really seen the benefit of this. It has just been one of those things on the ‘shit happens’ pile.
However I read a really interesting post that suggested that it can be a good thing:
What Unpopular People Have That Popular Ones Don’t:Interesting - I love science, competitions, academics and research. The article that she refers to in Forbes is also interesting:
We can identify opportunities and slink off into the background to tap into them. No one is paying attention to us anyways. And by the time you figure out what we’re doing, you’re already relegated to playing a game of catch up if you decide to play any game with us at all.
The unpopular kids don’t rely on the opinions of others in order to deem whether something is a success or not. It’s why we love science, competitions, academics and research. Information offers validation.
We’re resilient. You can kick us time and time again and we’ll find ways to hide, morph, adapt and thrive.
We’re made to be entrepreneurs. There was a kickass article in Forbes not so long ago that speaks right to this. When no one’s your champion growing up, something really cool happens over time: you find ways to get things done without a whole lotta help. We’re born bootstrappers and have a lot of time to strategize since we know we’re not getting asked to the dance. But we’re all about organizing our own little Bootstrapper’s Ball.
You’re unpopular; so are game-changing ideas. If you are sick and tired of being an outcast, embrace the outcast status and recognize that whatever breaks the mold is first, untried, and secondly, unpopular, before it takes hold.
I see myself as a pioneer… I don’t fit a mold and I don’t care. I’m happy to try things and accept that they may fail, and I’m happy to put my head above the parapet and get shot at.
Funnily enough, I like being this way. Perhaps I have those kids in that classroom in America to thank.