Written By: Anna Taylor

Moving to a new school and state can be challenging. As a daughter of the south, I assumed that there would be difficulty fitting in. All those little voices in my head were telling me that the people up north will treat me with a certain distance and only share pleasantries as a result of social convention. I moved to New York in 2008 and attended Westhampton Beach Elementary School for fifth grade. I discovered that all those little voices, were right. Despite spending time in California and Virginia, it seemed my Texan accent could not “hide” from the ever perceptive ears of that delightful collection of cliches, “the bullies in the back of the bus” As per my personality, I kept to myself. Apparently to then find I would become the recipient of pity filled “Are you okay Anna?” “Why are you so quiet?” “Why are you by yourself?” from well intentioned schoolmates. They would offer me the hands of friendship from a distance. Akin to the way an bystander would give a few coins to a homeless person. I thought little of it. This distance allowed me to delve into my inner world. The world of fantasy and science fiction, the world that was my own. I may have been quiet—but it was already loud enough in my head. These characters, these worlds, were far more enriching and rewarding to me than the “reality” of “who liked who” However I was far from oblivious. I knew that the normal standard dictated that I was to have friends of the same gender. That failure to do so would make me a “weirdo”. So I found a way to assimilate to their strange ways. It seemed to have worked, (unless you don’t agree with the proposed policies of an African American candidate—then you’re a “racist”). Despite my difficulty in this new school, I was looking forward to the new privilege that life had denied me for so long. To have people know you for longer than two years. I would be entering the new phase of my life: middle school. With familiar faces to depend on. Until I was transferred to East Quogue Elementary School when we moved to Hampton Bays. While it was true that in seventh grade we would be going to the same middle school anyway, I still couldn’t help but feel a bit of contempt to this new development. So I made a compromise with God before the school year began. I will go, but I will not even try to make friends. Why bother? By sixth grade I knew the routine. People would see that I’m alone, offer to “play with me” only to then discover that I was too quiet or perhaps the few thoughts I spoke out loud weren’t “normal”. Any attempt I made to fit in with their customs felt…forced. While they remained polite, I couldn’t shake this feeling that they could tell I was only pretending. As with most things though, God seemed to have a plan of his own. I would make a friend that year. One who had the same strange thoughts as me. One who would make me laugh, and not seem put off by any of my quirks.He would remain my friend for five years. That year would also help in my two new self-discoveries: Acting and Creative Writing. Suddenly my writing in school could go beyond book reports and history papers. Mrs. King had me write what I wanted to write. Put those same thoughts I would escape to, on paper. Make them tangible, make them real, make them my translator to articulate what my shyness wouldn’t allow. The former: acting, would introduce me to a new side of Anna Taylor. That year in the musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie Jr.” I was Ms. Flannery. I wasn’t the shy girl that was left in the background, that got often overlooked. I was the sassy, quick witted stenographer who was the foil to the nauseatingly upbeat Millie. Why be the wallflower Anna when I could be this new snarky Anna that everyone praised? While I would only be in a few plays after, this mentality stuck with me. As for writing…that would engulf my soul. If I can’t speak my mind, maybe I could write it. If anything try to quantify it to myself. Most works would be kept under lock and key—I wasn’t ready to bear my true soul to their ever scrutinizing eyes. The ones that labeled me a lesbian because I simply failed to see the appeal of cursing sixth grade boys whose highlight of the day is when one them touches himself. Of course they were too “polite” to say any of this to my face, it was only when a friend of mine asked for clarification that summer that I even came to learn of this line of logic. I never quite had the heart to tell those girls that they really weren’t my cup of tea either. Throughout middle school I would focus more on writing than acting (though I practiced it in a way). I had started what I liked to call “my personal writing project” an actual coherent story with characters and settings. Once again my escape into the more calming oasis of my mind. To allow my brain to rest when the careful navigation of “normal” behavior became too strenuous. I learned that “normal” depends greatly on circumstance. Sometimes I was expected to be the teacher’s pet, or the refuser of homework. Very quickly this form of “acting” proved more complicated than memorizing a few lines. Till eventually I decided…it wasn’t worth it. I’ll sit down, do the work, get good grades and show my own sassy self when necessary. I’ll simply go back to keeping to myself. I won’t care a lick what they thought of me. If…only. While I did keep to myself, and buckled down to do the work, I was once again the recipient of their pity. I was the lonely girl that everyone felt sorry for but only the “goodhearted” ones would bother to try to connect with. Even the friend I made in sixth grade seemed more interested in spending time with the more rumbustious boys. Which led to the question, if someone who seemed the most like me could find a comfortable place in a group, why couldn’t I? Why did it seem so much easier for everyone else to interact with each other, while my social skills made Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory look like captain charisma, no matter how hard I tried? Maybe they were right about me and I’m simply…not normal. These doubts would follow me through high school. If someone seemed remotely nice to me, I would—leech on that possible friendship in the irrational fear that if I seemed too quiet or boring or weird then they would simply see me as the charity case, like everyone else. The one to tolerate, the one to pity. The person I was 9th-11th grade was in a word: disgusting. Nothing but an amalgamation of insecurities and self-doubt, while putting up a facade of sarcasm and indifference. I couldn’t fit in being myself, and I couldn’t stand the person I became to try. Then in 12th grade,this year, it all became clear. My brother and I found a Facebook article, “10 myths about introverts debunked” I knew the word introvert, but I had assumed it only meant “shy” which applied to me anyway. But this article started to explain how some introverts react in certain situations and why. Suddenly my thoughts and actions had a scientific reasoning. I don’t enjoy large crowds and loud parties because I’m hyper-sensitive to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Which leads to over stimulation—not just being anti-social as I’ve been accused of. Looking deeper into this has allowed me to look in hindsight at what was “wrong” with me. I’m an introvert, a common social orientation, who has spent most of her years being pressured to be an extrovert, (a scientific impossibility). It’s expected of us to be “open” and “social” but the truth of the matter is, that’s just not how my brain works. But I’ve been led to believe that’s what I should be. Which made my school years incredibly frustrating and stressful for me.I feel I can breath now that I’ve graduated. I know that the outside world will still expect me to be something I’m not, but now I can face it with my head held high. The world can judge me, label me, and scorn me—but it will never get me to apologize for being who I am. They preach to us “be yourself.” and if anyone doesn’t like it when I do just that…then I pity them.