I moved a lot as a kid. I went to 6 schools before I finished Elementary School. Although, fourth grade was definitely a turning point. The whole year was its own journey. It was my first year of school after the divorce. I felt like I was given a fresh start. I could find myself, I was no longer in the control of my abusive dad. I could be a normal kid. I was at a new school, but that didn’t bother me, I was used to it.
Warren Elementary School, Baltimore County, Cockeysville, Maryland. I started the year going to therapy, my mom thought I needed it because my… traumatic childhood. I didn’t. To this day my mom questions how I came out of my childhood intact. After maybe 2 months, the therapist said I didn’t need to come anymore, she said I was fine. School had been going alright. My best friend was a white kid named Tristan, we didn’t have much in common, other than being huge geeks. Each class in the 4th grade got two tables for lunch so there was naturally a split between the cool, and the not-so-cool kids. Me and Tristan sat with the not-so-cool kids, but I was okay with that.
First lesson Aren had learned in his new life? Stay with your real friends.
My home life was so different. For once I could spend time just relaxing - finding myself. I remember starting to watch shows on Disney. Before, my dad had convinced me all sitcoms, even the ones on kids channels like Disney and Nickelodeon, were for adults. I started watching shows that kids my age would have watched years ago. Next lesson Aren learned in his new life? TV is pretty good, and Netflix is very addicting.
A few weeks passed and I remember being put into an after school program, Kim’s Karate. I loved it. Some of my best times were there. One of the cool kids in my class, Isaac, also went here. We became friends, and surprisingly I also made friends with some of the other ‘cool’ kids at Kim’s Karate. In fact, I met who I considered my best friend in 4th grade, Jeremiah. I still remember drudging through school just so I could get to Kim’s Karate. New lesson? It’s good to find something to look forward to.
Isaac, Jeremiah, and I became pretty inseparable. We would see each other on the weekends. I was innocent compared to all the other kids I knew. Jeremiah and Isaac helped with that. For example, I had always assumed girls had the same “parts” as boys. I was wrong. They also got little ‘ol Aren to start cussing - something I saw no need to do. I still remember running to the playground and telling a friend of mine I could cuss. I just started throwing swears, like it was some revolutionary concept. He ridiculed my breakthrough. I didn’t care, I felt cool.
One thing I learned quickly was that I was pretty sensitive, something I would have to learn to live with.
I remember almost every time Isaac, Jeremiah, and I would hang out, I’d cry for some reason. It’d be small things, but they hit hard… I guess I was still a little vulnerable. Isaac was pretty mean to me about that - he didn’t get nicer because I was sensitive, he got harsher. My new lesson? Don’t cry, stay strong. Don’t let stuff get to you.
Probably the biggest change was in school nearing the summer. We were having a field day and I was talking with Tristan on the field. Then out of nowhere he started chewing on some grass. Confused, like any normal person, I asked what he was doing. His answer? “I’m half horse,” and he wasn’t kidding, he was serious. This was the most weird thing, in a string of weirdness, from Tristan. I didn’t feel as close to him. So the next day, I simply moved to the cool table. Just to see what it was like.
Isaac and I were best friends and he sat there, and the rest of the kids thought I was alright. So I took that life shaking choice. I walked in that cafeteria, and instead of walking left, I walked right. The open seat taunted me. One spot at a lunch table, in an elementary school cafeteria. Same as every other seat, yet it held so much more power. I sat, and it was great.
Lesson learned? Don’t be scared to do what you want to do, you’ll be fine.
So does my story end with the end of that year? No. It still is continuing, I learn new lessons all the time. My new life treated me well, and a lot of what I learned that year, made me who I am today. The next summer I moved again. But this time it was different. I was different. I had found myself.