Picture the scene: two girls sit talking. One is confident, holding the assurance that people want to hear what she has to say. The second is shy but trying to engage in the conversation, with the caution of someone not used to speaking.
After a while the first girl gets up and wanders off. The second girl was in mid-sentence, but she doesn’t bother trying to recover the conversation. She goes back to her book with forced concentration and feigned interest. Any other reaction is pointless.
Guess which girl I was?
If you said the second, you’re right. This actually happened, and it was somewhere around the time I gave up on my classmates. I didn’t fit in with them, being one of the youngest in the year. When they were getting drivers’ licences and enrolling to vote, I wasn’t. I was too young and for the first three years of school I was too young to legally work, making me feel like they were worlds away. They were getting jobs and all I could do was practice compiling a CV.
As the high-school years progressed, I felt more and more like a solitary penguin among fish. The fish didn’t speak my language and they were into fashion. I wasn’t, and felt like my talking points were limited. In year 12, I skipped my school dance-ball-thing, and therefore the class photo my language class had planned. My absence went unnoticed.
In year 13, they were legally old enough for clubs and drinking; at sixteen I was too young and too disinterested. One girl was apparently allergic to using my name, referring to me only as “she” or “her.”
“When do we study Shakespeare?” I inquired of a substitute teacher in year 11 one day. She shrugged. My question had not been missed by the masses.
“Shakespeare? Who’d want to study him? Why?” they cried plaintively.
Needless to say I gave up on the fish and made plans for university.