My own challenge that I have faced was a very depressing and gloomy period of my life. Ironically, even though it was a sad time for me, I now believe has actually been very beneficial for me despite my feelings at the time. Do note that I do not blame anybody but myself and my choices for that time, and so I will omit any names but my own for the sake of their privacy. Changing their names would still be allow one to extrapolate information to deduce who they are.
The beginning of this challenge was near the conclusion of my fourth year of elementary school. My friends at that time were a group of not so nice people that probably had extremely poor and undeniably bad influences. I followed them everywhere and wanted them to accept me, but my last straw for them was after getting in trouble with my teacher for merely being in cahoots with them. The teacher had asked for people to give up, essentially, outright admissions of guilt and I guess my friends were, at the very least, honest enough to admit they were in the wrong, but I told my teacher that I had done it as well despite me not doing anything. A kid’s mind and way of thinking is very illogical, but my reasoning was that I did not want my friends to think I was betraying them and leaving them in the dust to get in trouble, and I thought that they would hate me had I not admitted a false confession. The fact that the teacher told all the boys out into the hall, demanded who was a part of the mess, and then threatened to write every single one of us up if at least some of us did not confess was to say at the very least disheartening. Before this it always seemed like the teacher actually liked me and wanted me to do well, but every time I saw them look at me all I could see in their face was disgust instead of a smile.
And so, I forced myself to tell them I would no longer hang out with those friends of mine. My memory is not of a high quality, but I do remember that we had gotten in trouble for something with “naughty” words. Perhaps ‘we’ had written them all over papers and desks or maybe called people horrible names, but I honestly admit I do not clearly remember the whole ordeal. But what I do still distinctly remember is those who did caused the mess and admitted it, and those who also cause the mess but chose to lie to not get in trouble. I currently retain a certain level of respect for those that can admit it as they are clearly not scared, but I still remember wishing I had not lied to merely be accepted by my friends.
Anyways, come fifth grade, all I was seen as was a disrespectful, ungrateful little kid who was quite shy and just a bit better than average at maths. I still sat near my old friends at lunch, but I tried my best to not acknowledge that they were there. I knew very few people that could be considered “close” friends at that time and considered most people to be those I knew only the names of. Making friends was not my strong suit and I longed for something fun to do at recess. On a normal day back then I would usually go on the swings and talk with the various people there, but that didn’t stop the inevitable loneliness that set in after a couple of months of being alone. One day, my mother asked me (in Vietnamese), “Khanh, why do you look so miserable?” Eventually, after countless times of sitting alone and hating school, my loneliness broke me, so I started uncontrollably crying and sobbing with tears all over my face. I reluctantly told her that I was the only person in my grade with no friends (I now believe this to be false as kids actually hide feelings much better than most people think and I was merely pushed to my limit of stress) and that I loathed school more than anything else. I thought this to be such a shameful display to my mom and later to my dad who heard about it, but I suspect that they already knew I was lonely.
What happened next the following week was completely unexpected to me but I had two people approach me during recess and asking if I wanted to join them in tag. I was so rejoiced I immediately said yes and I do indeed believe that this was the most fun I have actually had in years. There was no fear like that one of playing a gamble and losing all my earnings as I wasn’t losing anything when I said yes as I was already at the bottom in terms of worth and happiness at school. After playing a round of tag with them I saw how slow I had become by not playing it in almost a year, but I worked my way back up through games of tag during recess to eventually become a shadow of my former self to have the wind in my face when running. I remember having fun with them and I even got asked by one of their moms to come over and hang out at their house. That was the first time I had actually gotten invited to go to somebody else’s house other than my own! However sad that might sound for a prepubescent boy to finally go to someone else’s house after 10 years was completely overridden by the fact at how happy I was that I was a good enough friend for someone to want to invite me over. Even better, during that year, I was accepted into the advanced maths program after scoring quite high on my MAP test. Although, perhaps it was a bit of luck and some pity by my teacher who also knew about my loneliness earlier that year. After being brought down and getting in trouble, I was able to turn myself around and even made my parents a bit proud. They beamed at me and told me I did a great job and I promised to try even harder and do even better.
Unfortunately, right after my journey of loneliness derailed off the tracks, it found a way to pull me back in on those same sad tracks for a few more years of the journey. Those friends I had stopped hanging out with each other and that caused me to be unable to choose who to spend more time with and tell them who was “worthier”. During my sixth grade year, my friends were third graders, which there’s nothing wrong with, but it just seems so depressing to be known as a loner of your grade who hung out with little kids to push them on the tire swings.One of the things that saved me was the fact that in advanced maths in sixth grade, which meant I went to the highschool halfway through recess, which actually helped me as I couldn’t bear the fact that I was the only one who didn’t have fun during recess. My whole year there was comparable to a lone prisoner in a jail cell whose only grace was the fact that he was ever so slightly above average at one thing. I got to know the recess ladies who supervised the playground better than I knew the people in my grade!
One day, I heard from my mother after one of the conferences that my sixth grade teacher was really worried about me and wanted me to see a psychiatrist to see if I had a mental disorder. Maybe that was due to me being extremely antisocial with almost all my peers, the fact that I broke every single pencil and pen into pieces of plastic and wood during class, as well as the fact that she often saw me sitting at the doors during recess, one could see how she thought that I was not doing so well. However, after hearing this surprising tale hat my teacher thought that I was autistic (there is nothing wrong with having autism), my mother asked me if I truly was okay. With a straight face and trying to be as honest as I could be, I told her that I was, without a doubt, doing just a bit okay but there was nothing wrong with me. Fearing that she wouldn’t believe me, I also tried to calm her down by telling her that I was going to develop a new mentality for myself that would show I was great and happy with my life. I forced it into my brain that everything was okay and that there was no pain that I couldn’t handle. I would stop caring about what everyone thought about me and not fall to peer pressure to do what everyone else did. To never break down and even if I wasn’t smiling, at the very least, don’t hate the world and don’t blame anything on anybody was to be my motto. And, although it may seem a bit cynical, and in a strange way optimistic, there is almost always someone that wishes they could be you when their life is worse in quality than yours.
With this new mindset, I forced myself to talk to people, and it’s funny to mention my utmost failure with speaking on how I could barely formulate a coherent sentence in English to my peers when I had previously only spoken English to basically three people daily for the past year (my teacher, brother, and dad). I stuttered and would become bright red all whilst shaking and being nervous, but I forced myself to smile and nod instead of being a monotonous robot that only listened and said yes or no I still had no people I considered to be my friends, but, at least, I was a quiet loner who could actually talk once in while. It seems kind of narcissistic and overly cocky, but during my time as a loner I believed myself to be a lone wolf who didn’t need anybody to succeed. However, I dropped that attitude of surviving by myself, and by the end of sixth grade when the teacher talks to you about your report card, I was told that “Khanh, your grades are amazing but I’m very worried for you in seventh grade. Are you sure you want to share a locker with someone in middle school? I can arrange it so that you don’t have to share a locker.” I laughed and said to her that it was funny how she was so worried about me she thought I couldn’t handle a locker with somebody else. I then asked her how messed up she thought I really was for her to think that. Telling her that I was going to learn how to be fine, I left sixth grade seeing a smile on her face and wondering if I quenched her worries. The fact that people were so worried about me gave me confidence. I was not as insignificant as I thought and I decided I wanted to prove that I changed my lackluster attitude next year.
In seventh grade, there wasn’t anything that could stop me from being as happy as I could be on the inside. I was a loner and still did not make many friends, but at least I was not as miserable as the average protagonist of an average movie after they fail. Excelling at school and actually learning stuff also aided me in making me feel like I was actually capable of stuff. One day, after seeing the same kid sit alone by himself at lunch every single day, I decided that I would sit next to them as my challenge. They used to be just like me, most likely lonely and very antisocial. To start, I had doubts about doing this because I had a slight fear that if I sat next to them that they would leave and I would end up hurting them rather than helping. Thankfully, though, the first time I approached them, I sat down right next to them during lunch, and said to them as sincerely as I could, “Hey, you look like you don’t have many friends, but it’s okay as I’m a loner too. I know how it feels, so can I sit next to you?” I never gave up on them, and eventually, they accepted me. After that, for the rest of seventh grade, the spot for me to sit at lunch was to sit next to that person. I was even able to attract other people to sit near us two even though we were both unconfident and quiet people.
That, to me, seems like my first achievement after giving myself a new mentality on life. If one just tells themself to stop caring about their useless problems that are based on the unkind thoughts of others, then one will be much more happy. I developed other mentalities during seventh grade that helped my justification. The only people I should care about what they think of me are the people I want to be proud of me; why should I put effort into impressing people that’ll hate me trying to cheer someone up? I knew I wouldn’t have been able to befriend another loner like me if I cared about every little thing people would say about me becoming friends with what seemed like an ostracized person, but I didn’t care and befriended them anyways despite some of my peers disagreeing with me and telling that I shouldn’t be friends with another loner, but sadly, after seventh grade, I never saw that person whose life I hopefully changed. Even if it had brightened their day just an infinitesimally small bit each time I saw next to them, I would wholeheartedly go through the whole ordeal to use up my time to sit next to them because I used to be just like them: a lonely kid who hadn’t been happy for a long time.
My journey through loneliness had been almost completed and eighth grade only gave me more confidence to propel through school, but I did convince one of my seventh grade friends to join me in helping a person with no friends have a great and jovial year in eighth grade, and it indeed worked. But that was all my eighth grade year was: an extra future life supply of confidence that might run out due to my personality, and helping out another lonely kid, who thankfully, seems very happy whenever I see them nowadays. This current ninth grade year has been great and fun, but like my eighth grade year, both seem to be boring. Somewhere in between eighth and ninth grade I’ve realized that I myself want to help make people happy and nicer, because I mean, come on, there is not really a justification to not be nice to other people unless one considers themself a sadist or truly just wants to hurt other people. Everybody should enjoy being happy and seeing other people happy, so why be mean?
Nonetheless, the amount that my journey through learning how to cope with being a loner throughout school has taught me stuff I still know today to apply to almost all situations. I am thankful for the learning experience, and the fact that I pushed away horrible influences that were on me is also great, but the hardships throughout elementary school and middle school were without a doubt so horrible that I would wish that no one go through the same path. It makes me weep now when I ponder about how I actually survived it without descending into madness. Perhaps I had a mild form of depression that I was able to defeat without a diagnosis. However my sad past may be, it has made me care more about my siblings and caused me to ask them if they are having fun at school and have friends to play with. I believe I have almost changed my attitude a complete 180° with the only exception being my quietness. Being happy and having fun is one of the reasons I will laugh so easily at a joke or try to be so optimistic it seems I am sarcastic. As for my current state, I am as happy as I was yesterday and the day before that, and I do not believe I am as alone as I was before, but I am sure I could be alone again with the flick of a switch. However, I am sure a different but equally as challenging battle will come soon. My life has been much too quiet so far this year!