Do you know what it's like to not be able to trust your own mind? Every night I pray to find peace. I read the Bible, go to church, they say "Trust in the Lord and you shall find peace." My peace cannot be found in the pages of a book. To not trust your mind is to never know yourself. Are friendships real? Do my parents love me? Am I living my best life? Nothing ever feels right because you do not know what right is. If you can't trust yourself, who can you trust?
There's no moment in my life where I can pinpoint where I lost myself. I just know that the girl I once was is gone. I realized this as I sat watching my favorite YouTube vloggers. Wearing my signature look, consisting of an oversized hoodie and sweatpants. I hide the depressing beige walls of my bedroom behind blue bedding, a black dresser, and a cardboard box masquerading as a bedside table. Mesmerized by their lavish lifestyles I wished to be them. The tan skinned girl with the wavy hair showed me her luxury fashion haul. A peppy teen told me the best wigs to buy. A shaggy haired college drop out walked me through a day in the life of a nomad.
"Why Do you wish to be them?" I'd ask myself.
"Well look at them. Look at their lives. Who wouldn't want to be them?"
"But what about their life do you want?"
That is a tough thing to simulate. Happiness, to me, is different for everyone. You have to know what you want to find your own individual happiness. You have to know who you are.
The cold December air did not compare to the cold content in my heart. Being the melodramatic eleven-year-old that I was this was the worst year of my life*. I had moved to Austin Middle School almost half-way through the year. This plus my social anxiety did not make it easy to make friends. I had never been so lonely. I had came from a close nit school in Acworth, Georgia. Everyone in the school had known each other, no matter how shy you were. At Austin I was lost in a see of preteens, all of which already had their own friend groups. I was in the sixth grade already wishing to graduate high school. I remember my first day there. My mom took me and my older sister into the front office. This was my first-time stepping foot in the tiny one level pre-high school. The office was a small glass box with one desk stretching the width of the room. Behind the desk was a bright Chinese woman whose black hair cupped her round face at her cheeks.
"Good morning!" She beamed at us as we walked up to the counter.
"It's there first day," My mom started, "They have not received their schedules yet."
"Ok, what are the names?"
The woman typed something into the desktop in front of her before a printer at the far right of the counter roared to life. "Here you go." She smiled handing us our respective class schedules. "I will call a student down to show you around."
I was taken by a brunette girl whose name I forgot as soon as she told me. The school's interior was built of white painted cinder blocks that stretched into four separate hallways. Each hall had a different color stripe down the middle of the white tiled floor to represent the three grade levels and one hall for elective classrooms. I followed the girl down the blue striped hall. "Science class is there," She pointed to the left of the hall, "Social studies on the right…" She carried on like this pointing out each classroom on my schedule. She spoke like it was a burden just to share the same school as me, let alone direct me to my classes.
My first class was language arts and we had a substitute teacher. "Sit in any empty seat." She had instructed me. We were given a single work sheet, so it did not take long for the class to disrupt into chaos. At my old school students barely spoke without permission, so you can imagine my surprise when the substitute sat idle as students threw paper, tape, and spit balls at each other. I could only assume I was in a nightmare. Being the only kid sitting quietly as I dogged the various types of balls mad me feel very isolated.
"How can people act like this?" I had asked myself.
"They're just children. This is what they find fun."
"You are a child."
"Only on the best of days."
The next day the actual teacher was present, and student behaved much better, but still nothing compared to my old school. The desks were aligned in five rows vertically across the room. I was in the penultimate seat in the middle row. It was independent working time when a tall skinny bleach blonde woman had stepped into the room.
"How may I help you?" My teacher asked.
"Is there a Danielle in this class?"
My teacher looked puzzled as his eyes gazed around the room. I shot my hand up in the air since he must have forgotten me being the new student and all. "No, I don't think so." He responded confused. I tried raising my hand higher almost lifting out my chair, but he didn't seem to notice, no one seemed to notice.
"Sir." I tried with no avail. "Sir!" Now this was a nightmare. I had some how won my wish of invisibility at the most inconveniencing of times. Maybe I'm not real at all I wondered. Only did the spell wear off when the blonde women was about to exit, so I stood from my chair pronouncing my presence. That day I learned two things that have undoubtedly steered my life to my current position. One: That I was being moved into all advance classes. Two: That I, as a quiet person, had the ability to disappear, whether I wanted to or not.
Seventh grade was the worst of times and the best of times. For once I had a good group of friends. At lunch we would sit together and discuss the latest Doctor Who episode as we ate our dietary restricted homemade lunch. "Freaks" is what the other students called us, but friends were all we were. I was lucky to find such a good group of girls especially since I held the power of invisibility. Somehow, they noticed me. They also introduced me to my first ever social media site. It was the September of 2012, my friends started discussing the memes they reblogged on Tumblr. I had never heard of Tumblr, but I had scribbled down the name in the book I was reading so I wouldn't forget. That night I had created my own blog called biggestwhovian after the name created for fans of Doctor Who. I eventually created a side blog entitled rose-evelt named after the surname of a fictional character I had created a year before. I chose that name because I loved that character and, even though the URL came from the name Roosevelt, the name "rose" just felt right. One blog for fando posts and the other for the dark aesthetic I was creating for myself.
"Maybe middle school wouldn't be so bad." I assured myself.
Looking back, I think that was the last time I knew who I was.
High school help every hope of a new beginning for me. No more Ms. Shy Girl! I would be confident and extroverted at my new school. I was to attend Paulding County High School's Magnet Program for Science Research and Medicine. I thought it was a new beginning for me. "You all are the crème de la crème." Teachers had told us repeatedly on the first day. Cream I was not, but cream was what I tried to be for the next four years. Those four years felt a lot like eight when you decide to join every club, including starting my own book club, in a desperate attempt to not only fit in, but distract myself from the loneliness.
There was never a lonelier time than high school. Going to a magnet school meant going to a different high school than everyone else at my middle school. For four years I had joined ten extracurricular activities, five volunteer opportunities, three visits to the cafeteria, and zero friends. Unless you count the librarians that I aided every lunch period since the fourth day of the ninth grade.
"We missed you yesterday. Where were you?" Ms. Ali, the English teacher, had asked me the May of 2018. "Where you at a party?"
The question was laughable. I had missed the Magnet graduation party the Sunday before. Missed being the polite word, purposefully skipped being what actually happened. Either way I simply replied, "No." Spending my weekend with students who wouldn't care if I were there or not was not my idea of a good time. I am still confused on why she even asked. Yet, those four years did teach me something. Nothing changes if I do not make it change.
I had done my very best to become cream and ended up a sticky puddle. I was not cream. I must have been nothing at all. I just didn't know it yet.
Two years into my college career I figured out I hated myself. Attending the University of Georgia as a microbiology major, I was destined to make my parents proud.
"Why don't you like yourself?" My mom had asked me.
I felt this was an entirely rude question, "What makes you think I don't like myself?"
"You always talk down on yourself."
Yourself. Myself. My second year into university and I realized I had no self. I only intimidated what I thought everyone else wanted. I had to be cream, I had to be perfect, I had to make my parents proud. I regretted most of my life. I didn't know who I was, but I did know I was not going to let myself be unhappy for my whole stay in college.
I had thought I was living the life I wanted for six years only to find that I didn't like myself. I didn't like myself because I wasn't myself. I was just existing but never living. I allowed myself to have no friends, crippling anxiety, and stress myself two years into a major I didn't want. That night I chose to change. If I am to find peace, I must find happiness. If I want happiness, I must find myself. I do not know who I am, but I think I'm off to a good start.