I was five years old when I moved to Atlanta, Georgia from India. The transition was anything but easy. When I started to go to elementary school, it seemed as if my whole world shifted from underneath my feet. Everything was an unknown that I needed to figure out. I couldn't communicate with anyone nor could I make any friends. I felt as if I didn't belong here.
Growing up as an Indian in a primarily white area just made me feel isolated. All throughout elementary school, I was the girl that had to go up to the front of the class to ask for a partner as no one wanted to be with me. I was the person on the bus who would sit alone and stare at the window. I was so desperate for a person that I would bring extra chocolates to lunch, so someone might come to ask me for a piece of chocolate.
When I moved to middle school in a different county, I desperately wanted to find a friend, a person who understood me. As a sixth-grader, I didn't understand the difference between a true friend and a fake one. Thanks to my luck, I made a fake friend, a friend who only made me feel worse about myself and put me down. She would get angry at me over the most trivial matters, and I would have to apologize while feeling worse about myself. I realized she wasn't a friend, which further deepened my dilemma about why I was the only one who couldn't make friends.
I blamed myself, so I thought maybe if I changed, I could make friends. I stopped listening to Bollywood music, one of my favorite genres of music. I started to hate what was once my favorite subject, math. The biggest change I ever made was to my name. Everyone made fun of my name to the point where I didn't like it anymore, so I changed the way my name is pronounced. A tiny change at the moment, but it felt as if a piece of my identity left me.
It wasn't until seventh grade when I finally felt like I belonged. I made true friends who wanted me for who I was and not who they wanted me to be. They would build me up when I fell down and would support me through my struggles. I would tell them my thoughts and was reciprocated with love and affection, an emotion I had never felt before from a friend. All the changes I made to myself slowly became undone. I started to fall in love with math again. I jammed out to Bollywood music with my friends. The most important undoing was my name; I showed them how to pronounce the correct way.
Looking back at the time, I could tell I lost myself in the search of the feeling of belonging. However, in the journey, I started to resonate with a quote from Bernard M. Baruch, "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." I am at a point in my life where I love myself and the person that I have become. I love the people that I am surrounded by and anyone who doesn't like me for all of me doesn't matter to me anymore. I am no longer in the search to find a friend because I have the luxurious feeling of belonging. The moral of this story: don't change for anyone as the feeling of belonging will find you.