You are a new immigrant from India to the United States; someone who only knows the English alphabet, numbers, names of animals, names of fruits, and names of vegetables when you enter second grade. It’s hard to make friends when you refer to glue as floor. It’s impossible to play with others during recess when you don’t know what “tag” means or the rules of playing tether-ball. It took you years, but you finally learn that the tether-ball is not meant to be a maypole substitute. In third grade, you try out for the volleyball team, without knowing how to really play the game. Your classmates see you as someone they can’t be friends with—especially because it puts their other friendships at risk. Some kids are nice to you, others ignore you, and some trick you to get out of trouble themselves. There is a new Vietnamese kid who knows even less English than you; he has friends and does not miss any chance at pushing you or yelling at you in his language.
In the last two years of elementary school, you have learned how to get on the Honor Roll. You have learned every corner of the school field because this is where you spend your recess, talking to the wind and dandelions. You sing to yourself and weave webs of dreams and stories. You make one friend in fourth grade, until she finds other friends. When your friend shows up to school in a cast, you’re the only one who sits in the library with her during lunch and recesses, playing Mancala and trying your best to make sure she doesn’t feel sad about her temporary disability. Her cast is off in three weeks and you’re back to the wildflowers, trees, and stretches of grass on campus.
Middle school introduces you to many new friends from other schools—you fit in with a group of girls who motivate you by example to do even better in your school work. You rely on these girls when you study and when you need someone to browse the library bookshelves with you. You lose them all upon graduation from middle school. All of them are going to high schools in Cupertino or private high schools to secure entry into good colleges.
In high school, you are not the smartest, but one of them. The teachers admire you for your diligence, honesty, and maturity; nobody worries about you because they all know you will make your way to success. Your friends change daily. There are some friends and teachers who encourage your writing. You begin to focus on writing and getting into a good college, perhaps leaving your friends out of the focus for the most part.
You make one true friend in college and find your family pushing you forward. They love you. Possibly forever. They never really understand though why you write. You are careful that when you write about them, you don’t let them see it. They might be upset at having their secrets on your papers for others’ eyes. You strengthen yourself to begin opening up on the page. But you’re scared that you might lose the only people who have cared for you without shunning you through your journey so far. You’re fearful of losing the respect you’ve earned through your academic, musical, and religious excellence. You’re afraid that just like the friends you were never able to hold onto in the past, the ones who have become your world now might break ties too. You’re terrified of writing yourself into a beautiful glass coffin.