Tell us about a time when you felt out of place.
It was eighth grade, the heart of darkness for adolescent girls, the time when even the simplest of actions was fraught with danger. I was a new student, not new to being new, but new to this school. It was my fourth school in as many years, and I was as canny as a veteran soldier sent out on recognizance in enemy territory.
Food tray in hand, I exited the cafeteria line and surveyed the terrain. Instead of the standard long tables, this dining room had smaller 4-tops. My go-to strategy was to pick a table and sit down on the unoccupied end, close enough to a group to maybe wind up being included, but not so close as to appear presumptuous. That approach wouldn’t work here, all because of those damn tables. I silently cursed the fool that had made this decision, clearly someone with no knowledge of middle-school social life or else a former popular kid, grown up and still tormenting the rest of us.
I needed a new approach, and I needed it fast. I surveyed the terrain, outwardly calm, looking for the right group that still had an open seat. There, across the room was the perfect group for me: girls dressed slightly wrong, not stylish, talking a little too loud. The word ‘nerd’ wasn’t yet in common use; had it been, it would have perfectly described what I wanted. Shit! Another girl took the final seat, filling the table. With only four chairs per table, I had to act fast.
Quickly I located another group that seemed to have potential and hustled over. “Can I sit here?” I asked, outwardly calm, heart racing. “Sure” came the answer back, and my school year was saved.