The power of one(Mini essay contest entry)

It was the first day of school in a new place for me. My dad had been transferred, and I had to start from scratch, yet again. As I entered the classroom, barely aware of the kids staring at me, I picked the first seat that seemed empty. "This seat belongs to my friend!" I stopped right in my track. This was new territory for me. Usually, when I moved to a new school, I was used to being ignored by kids. But I had never been questioned or argued with on the first day of school. "I'm sorry," I mumbled and looked for another seat that might be empty. As my desperate eyes found another seat, a girl pushed me aside and sat on it. She didn't even bother to say anything, and just decided to give me a defiant glance. I shrugged and moved on to the only other available seat on the last bench of the room. No one bothered to claim that seat and I sank into it, thanking God that I didn't have to sit on the floor, on the first day of my new school. I was not aware of it that day, but life was in the process of teaching me a lesson, the value, and power of one. We spend the majority of our lives trying to fit in with some group. As a child, we want to hang out with friends. As grown-ups, it may be colleagues, family or friends. Our size changes, but the need to fit in stays the same till we stop existing. To top it all, we then begin to watch our children, an extension of us, go through the same struggles. We scrutinize their every movement. Do they have enough friends? Is their social circle too huge to manage? Whether our children are surrounded by friends or are loners, it takes an emotional toll on them and on us. When they wander alone, we feel sad that they have no friends to share their joy and pain. When they are surrounded by kids, they might feel that they have no privacy and feel the constant pressure to keep up with their social engagements. The truth is that whether the child is a social butterfly or struggles to make or keep friends, they all eventually find their tribe. This group can be a big one or it can be just two best friends hanging out together throughout their lives. Such friends can be made in childhood or you can find them much later in life, as I did in college. But the point is when you find them, it's like coming home to your bed after a long vacation. You do not have to make any effort to maintain this tribe. You can be yourself and let them be themselves. You just click and fall in place. However, the hardest thing to do is to wait for that tribe. Because, while you're doing the waiting, you walk from group to group and one bully after another. You lose faith in the concept of ever meeting your one true friend, let alone a tribe of a friend. And that's when you really begin to wonder if being alone is better than this constant heart-break. That is when you truly explore other possibilities. When I was a kid, my family became my savior. The true constant in my ever-changing life were my parents and my little sister. We fought, we played and we bonded. As a result, whenever I found my children facing heart-breaks in their friendships, I stood up for them. I reminded them that they were a valuable asset and that if no one played with them, their mom and dad would always be willing to play. When children realize that they have options, they feel brave enough to take a chance. They feel free to soar. My son clearly told me one day, "Let me find a friend first. I want to play with a friend." That was the day I felt confident that he was on his way to become independent. But what if we find ourselves alone in life? It can happen to the best of us. I went through lots of those times during my childhood which lead me to earn the title bookworm. Books became my best buddies and I spent a lot of my childhood catching up on the lives of my favorite characters. I spent a lot of that time figuring out myself. It's not until we are comfortable in our skins that we truly value others around us. I learned the power of one very early in my life. I made my own rules on who I liked and who I didn't like. I learnt that I loved books and I loved to sing. My daughter learnt that she loved to express her feelings through art and music. My son learnt that he loves to play math games and music. None of these discoveries could have been made if we surrounded ourselves with noise and chaos all the time. If I could talk with myself back then, I would say ... It is all going to work out, even though it may not seem like it. These strange faces are going to turn familiar soon. You will learn soon who you should bond with and who you should stay away from. That girl who rudely sat in your spot will one day save you from a teacher's wrath. That boy who saved space for his friend ...well, he will turn out to be that guy you will learn to avoid. It will all work out you see. Life will teach you to move on even as it pulls you from behind. Life will teach you to move through groups even as you learn to be alone.

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Angell Kim

Always doing things you never would have done.

Bogotá, Colombia