(August 13, 2012) Hear the audio version
I’ve never been lonelier than on my first day of school in a new town. No matter how many times my dad’s job changes during the boom years of the Southern California defense industry made me have to start over in a new school, I never got used to looking out into a blur of unfamiliar faces at lunchtime, telling myself, “I will not cry. I will not cry.” Then before my sophomore year of high school my family moved across the country to Connecticut, where kids seemed to speak a different language. They carried “pockabooks” rather than purses, and met in the foyer—was that the same place as the “foy-yay?” I wanted to go home. But where was home?
These feelings come back to me vividly, painfully at the beginning of every school year as I think about my fellow new-kids-in-town. Perhaps the new kid’s mom or dad is in the military, and he’s done this many times before. Maybe Dad is a high-tech exec, or Mom’s a physician or professor and the family moved to Silicon Valley as the promised land. Or it’s entirely possible, especially this year, that the new girl’s parents lost their jobs and then their home to foreclosure and the family had to move in with grandparents, or other family members or friends.
They’re all facing the first day of school as a new kid. It’s scary. I hope they meet with kindness, and maybe make a new friend today. I’d like to tell them that it will get better as the year goes along. It did for me, even after those tearful beginnings. Also that my expert status as a new kid in town made it easier to adjust to new jobs as an adult. I expected to do something stupid that first day, though walking into the third floor girls restroom to find out it’s actually a smoking lounge happened only once, thank goodness. More than anything, I hope someone asks the new girl or the new boy to sit with them for lunch.
With a Perspective, I’m Debbie Duncan.