Before a storm comes, sliver clouds hover above the sky for a while; suspended in mid air, they act as a warning, as a threat, that you must take shelter. They are a dead giveaway that mighty showers are about to cascade out of the sky, and being out there, unprotected would mean tormenting winds, ear-splitting thunder, rapid lightning and waves of water all aiming at you, wanting to hurt you. I guess in my case, the heavy, obscure, thunderheads shadowed over me for far too long; releasing momentarily sprinkles of pin-sized droplets, far too small to even notice, far too small to even make me worry about shelter. I got used to the gray sky. Unwilling and afraid to deal with what was going to come, I chose to ignore it. I convinced myself the heavy rainfall would never come; I convinced myself the clouds would leave without fulfilling their purpose. I tried to block the clouds away, I pretended everything was fine; I chose not to take shelter and consequently was hurt by the storm.
My heart raced in my chest, as my hand, unsteadily managed to write 9:45 a.m, in the cover page of my 7th grade exam. I leaned back into my chair, and a huge sense of relief washed over me. I scanned the ocean of faces around me, feeling my heart sink a little. Somehow, I managed to find safe haven in that room, nobody was worried about anyone else but themselves. In there, I was able to control what happened. It was my test, my answers, and my head the one answering. In there, I didn’t depend on what others did, my security didn’t come from what the vast crowd around me wrote down as an answer, It didn’t come from what others thought was right or wrong, it depended entirely on me. Like a cicada bug the bell chirped. I waited for the teacher to collect my test, with my heart thumping and my hands shaking a bit. Not knowing what would happen next terrified me. I walked up front towards the doors, hearing laughter and whispers about where every clique would spend their afternoon: at café’s, movie theaters, restaurant’s, friend’s houses etc. As expected, I heard everybody else’s plan for the day, except mine. Sadness took over me as I noticed that from a distance part of my circle of friends was getting in a big black Subaru, while moments later the other part of my circle of friends got into a white Honda and drove off into the horizon. I knew what was happening around me: my circle of friends was in the process of separating and frankly, non of them had invited me to go with them. My smooth chocolate hair waved to the rhythm of the isolating wind, as I stood alone in the middle of the parking lot. Bombarded by mixed feelings of anger, sadness and isolation, my eyes started getting wet. I closed them to fight the tears back; I knew that if they started the waterfall would never stop. I stared into the horizon. How can the people you shared everything with, all of a sudden leave you? How can they ignore you and pretend you were never even part of their lives?
Soon, the school days washed away as summer nights in Cancun took their place. I laid in the hammock, staring out into the pitch-dark sky; it was dimly lit by billions of flickering stars that were miles and miles away. The wind wrapped my body in a chill and gently moved my hair. I laid in awe as I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and took in the sound of the roaring ocean crash into the sand.
“I don’t want to go back,” I sighed. “Everything is… perfect here.” My friend Anapau whom I had come to Cancun with, stared into the horizon, and I could tell she felt the same way.
“Me neither, there’s no stress here; everything is drama free.” She added. Her words came out of her mouth calmly, yet with a touch of pain. We both felt the same way. Our eyes were fixed in the wonders of the mysterious night sky, the way one couldn’t tell where the vast ocean ended and where the night sky started was stunning. I thought about Monterrey, about my friends, about school and about how summer was slowly coming to an end. All of a sudden, a sick feeling took over my stomach. I don’t want to go back, I thought. It’s as if none of my friends want me back home. I could feel my blood start pumping faster through my veins, as my thoughts were lost in between the stars and salty wind. What did I ever do in order to be where I am now? I questioned myself getting agitated. I sat up straight and started vomiting words as they entered my mind.
“Why does it have to be this way Anapau? Why does everything back home have to revolve around drama? Everybody back there is so worried about fitting in and being accepted, they don’t care what measures they have to take in order to achieve it!” Tears started swelling up in my eyes. “It disgusts me! Who gives people the right to decide who gets to hang out with whom? Why do we even let other people control our lives? Why do we give them the right to control the way we feel, the way we act?” Anapau sat up beside me, her curly waves were gently being blown off of her tan shoulders like the palm trees leaves’ were floating off of its face.
“‘I’m tired of it! Society has tried to make us think that we have to do what everybody else does just to fit in, that we have to just stay quiet while we let other people control our destiny.” I moaned. “I have no idea what I’m going to do once we get back. My group of friends is in the process of becoming two and, I don’t even know who I’m going to go with.” I said leaning back and crunching into a ball. I paused and slowly whispered, “Or even if any of the two groups wants me to go with them.” Anapau let out a big sigh. She was about to say something, yet she knew there was something more I wanted to say, and she wanted to hear it all. I let a moment pass before continuing. “I know who I want to be with, but why can’t I just get the courage to do it? Why can’t I get the courage to invite them over or ask them if we can do something together? It’s ridiculous! When did I let myself get like this? I remember in 5th grade I couldn’t care less of what others thought. I used to run around the hallway with a ponytail in my forehead screaming and dancing. Now I can’t even call my own friends and invite them over. But you know what the funny thing is? I liked myself better when I didn’t care what others thought. I loved running around making a fool out of myself, being the spark in many people’s day... “ A long pause came after those words. We both took deep breaths in, and deep breaths out. Absorbing the salt air. Both of our eyes were teary. How did I get this way? Why did I get myself get this way?
It was the first week of 8th grade. Sadly, reality had set back into my life. Fake smiles, fake laughs, fake emotions were all being portrayed as I sat with half of my group of friends at a table in a restaurant called Peace and Love. My anxiety level had grown drastically as the first week of school finished. The other half of my group of friends were probably laughing their heads off in another restaurant, while I was here, praying that the time to leave would arrive soon.
“What did you order?” I asked Ana yearning to start a conversation, trying to sound interested,
“A Cozumel.” She responded happily, as she took one big bite out of the tomato and lechuga sandwich. I smiled and nodded carelessly good for you I thought. The minutes seemed like hours and my leg was shaking like an earthquake with anxiety. Just when I thought my evening couldn't get any worse, my thoughts were interrupted by simultaneous high-pitched dings! Questioningly we all grabbed our phones. My heart sank to the bottom of my feet as I dreaded what was coming. Please don’t let it be, please don’t let it be. All of a suddenCarly’s medium toned voice filled my ears with the words I dreaded most.
“Guys, lately things have been very different. We feel like we don’t get along anymore.” I closed my eyes and collapsed into my chair as I heard those words. Blood started rushing through my head, I started getting dizzy, as the ocean of tears started to line up ready to flow. She continued, “We feel like it would be better if we separated.” – the word came through my ears and into my soul like a sword. I tried to catch my breath stunned at what had just happened, everything I had been dreading all summer had just come true in a series of 3 sentences. As I tried to take it all in, my thought were interrupted by laughter. I looked around and saw some of my friends laughing while the others kept on eating happily. I couldn’t comprehend how they were taking this so easy.
“Pfft, like we care.” Johanna remarked carelessly as she continued on stuffing her mouth with a roast beef sandwich. Soon, the topic of conversation shifted to things they loved; yet I seemed to find no pleasure in.
“I’ll be right back” I managed to say in between all the confusion, anger and sadness going through me. The bathrooms’ door cracked open and without thinking twice I slammed it behind me. As I entered the miniature bathroom, I started having trouble breathing. Monsoons of tears started dripping along my red cheeks as I paced back and fourth. What am I going to do? I asked myself. Now I’m not in the same groups of friends anymore as the ones I can truly call my best friends. I don’t want to be with the friends I’m with right now! Trillions of thoughts like these sprang through my mind making the world go round. Andrea, I said to myself. Just one second ago you were still part of their circle of friends. The fact that you’re now stuck with these friends is entirely your fault. You could have easily gone with the other friends during the first week of school, yet because you were so afraid of what others thought, of being rejected, you didn’t!
I took a long look at my reflection in the mirror. My eyes were puffy and my eyes were red. I looked at myself and hardly recognized who I’d become. Who are you? I asked myself examining every inch of my face. I took deep breaths, Andrea, why did you even start caring about what others thought of you? If you hadn’t you wouldn’t be in this situation right now. Disbelief, disappointment and a melancholic feeling came over me. I heard footsteps coming and I knew somebody had to use the bathroom. I took one long last look at myself, whipped my tears away and stepped outside of the bathroom. I couldn’t blame anybody else for what had happened. It was my decision to become afraid of what others thought; it had been my decision to stay in my comfort zone.
That day I went home, laid on my bed and cried. I thought about everything. I thought about all the tears, all the time I spent worrying, I thought about that night in Cancun where I broke down, but I also thought about how that trip was one of the happiest moments I had had in a long time. I brought back all the incredible moments that were created on the sandy beach. I couldn’t help but laugh as I remembered the sun kissing our skin as the turquoise waves took me into their possession and spun me around like a tornado. A gentle smile formed on my lips as I realized that I hadn’t cared what my family nor what my friends (which know me since I was little) thought about me, and surprisingly, I realized, being me was so much more fun, that pretending to be someone I was not. Although I still wasn’t sure what to do with my friends and to be honest I still don’t feel fully comfortable with them, all the anguish was replaced with peace as I realized that really, when you don’t care what others think, is when people like you the most. I also realized, I was caught in the mess I was in because I waited for the problem to solve itself instead of taking matters into my own hands. I realized how stupid I had been; when black clouds hover over you, you can’t wait for them to leave you without a storm. You have to take the initiative, take shelter, make sure your safe, but most of all; you need to make sure you don’t lose yourself in the middle of the storm.