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No High School Musical For Me
Anaiss Quiles
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In my art class, I was once assigned to draw a self-portrait that included my favorite place as a background. I drew a library. It’s a place where I don’t expect to speak to anyone.

I mostly like being alone. When I do socialize, I prefer hanging out with just one or two friends. That’s why I have a zero percent chance of being popular, which is fine with me.

I feel overwhelmed in big, noisy groups. Loud laughter hurts my ears.

To me, it’s much better to actually get to know someone and have a real conversation than to be surrounded by a big group talking all at once. I like to read a person. But to do this, I have to focus on them without other people around.

People think I’m shy, but that’s not true. I’m an introvert.

Introverts often prefer quiet environments where they can feel more alive. When I’m with a close friend, I’m funny, and I talk so much I get thirsty. I’m the real me. But before I make friends, I have to see them away from the crowd. I have to know that they are kind, loyal, understanding, and good listeners.

No High School Musical

This worried me when I started high school. My high school is an art school. You choose a major—dance, acting, visual arts—just like college. I am a visual arts major, and I felt I was expected to hang out with the other students in my major.

I imagined it would be just like High School Musical, where everyone joins a clique. I couldn’t see myself in a big group like that. I also worried about people not liking me.

“Is there a specific place where quiet weirdos like me fit in?” I asked myself.

At lunchtime on the first day of school, I filled my plate and started freaking out as I turned and faced a sea of unfamiliar faces. The tables were mostly full. Many students were already grouped together, chatting loudly with their friends. I stood still, trying to find an empty seat.

As I looked around I noticed how many students from the same major were sitting together. I felt that I wasn’t going to fit in anywhere with my whispery voice.

Soon a girl waved in my direction. I pointed my finger to my chest. “Me?” She nodded. She was surrounded by all the friends she had just made. Some of them were talking with their mouths full.

“You’re a freshman?” she asked.

image by YC-Art Dept

“Yeah,” I answered. I had to raise my voice 10 times louder than normal because it was so loud in the cafeteria.

She said we’d been in the same group during orientation. As nice as she was, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to become friends in this situation. I couldn’t talk to her quietly one on one.

Finding Quiet

As others made friends in those first weeks of school, I struggled to make even one. I sat alone at lunch most of the time. I would only speak more when I was placed in small groups in my classes. I hoped I’d get to know those kids.

During lunch sometimes I walked in the hallways, away from the crowds. I pretended to text when I was in the cafeteria. I wanted to appear busy so I wouldn’t look so lonely.

I noticed another girl, a sophomore, also sat alone every day. She sat at the same table, eating from a small lunch box. I wondered if she had done the same thing when she was a freshman and if I would end up alone all year like her.

Time for Myself

One of the girls I’d met the first day of school eventually became my friend when we both got lost on our way to the school gym. We started talking about that first day and our experiences on the school bus. I felt comfortable with her. Over time, she came to understand me.

Soon she made another friend. It took me a while to become friends with the other girl because at first I was upset and felt that she had taken my friend. But I soon got over that, and the three of us were usually together. We walked around the gym singing songs and talking about movies and things that bothered us. We liked each others’ company.

I had finally made friends, but I still enjoyed walking the empty school hallways when I finished eating my lunch. Although sometimes there were students leaning against the walls or sitting on the dirty floors chatting with each other, this was way better than being in the crowds.

Once I got detention for being late to class by a minute. I sat in a chair with my lunch on the desk and read a book. It was so peaceful that I barely saw it as a punishment.

Quieter Than a Snake

I’ll always be an introvert, but I’ve found ways to adapt. Whenever I’m in noisy, crowded places I put in my earbuds and listen to music.

Now that I’m a junior, I’m glad I stayed true to myself by not forcing myself into a large clique. I’ve learned to be patient. I know what kinds of friendships I want, and I can only make them away from the crowd. I’m prepared to wait for them.

Now I am more social, but sometimes when I get quiet my friend asks if I’m OK. “Yes. Why?” I ask. There is still a part of me that is quieter than a snake when it goes hunting. Sometimes I forget that this strikes other people as strange. But real friends accept me as I am.

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(NYC-2018-05-17)

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