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153. You can be yourself and still find your people…

The summer before I started high school, my dad got news that we were going to be stationed in Okinawa, Japan. So that May or June, we packed up our entire lives and got on a plane in the United States and got off the plan in Japan. And you know… at first, living there didn’t really seem all that different than living on a military base at home. But I remember these commercials that used to plan on the Armed Forces Network (our English-language tv channel run by the military – they showed stuff that you could watch in the states like popular shows and football games, etc). I remember these commercials because they were just weird to me at first. There was this group of penguins. And then there was another penguin dressed in a Hawaiin shirt. And he was dancing around singing something like “I just gotta be meeee!” at the top of his lungs while the other penguins hung away from him and a menacing looking predator in the background drew closer and closer. It had a weird message at the end, and though I can’t remember exactly what it was, the general gist of it was:

“Hey, sometimes ‘being yourself’ isn’t necessarily the best idea. Don’t put a target on your back and try to behave because you don’t want to attract the wrong kind of attention.'”

We didn’t have commercials like that back in the States. I chalked it up to some weird thing and prepared myself to start high school. In a new country. Where I knew exactly no one and my only introduction to the language up until that point had been the brief nods to it I’d seen as my brothers watched their anime cartoons when they got home from school. I’d googled some weird references I’d seen when I’d join them for the Sailor Moon portion of Toonami, but beyond that, I was lost. I was doubly worried about fitting in and finding my people because it was always something I struggled with. I had (and have) some major body image issues because of my cerebral palsy, and I grew up with the first-hand knowledge that other kids were judgmental assholes, and that 8 times out of 10, the adults around me were worse. So I started at this new school literally expecting to have a hard time from the jump. But then something happened:

I’m in homeroom on the first day, no doubt looking like a deer in headlights, and there’s these two girls sitting in the back. They’re behind me, looking at some Japanese magazine and giggling about something. I’m up front because my vision sucks so sitting in the front was about the only way I could ever see anything. And the teacher insists we go around and introduce ourselves. So I do. And she gets to the back of the room, and one of the girls I’d noticed stands up and smiles at me and says, “Konnichiha. My name is Kayla, too, actually. My mom is Okinawaan and my dad is a contractor. And this is Melanie. Do you want to sit with us at lunch?”

And it was that easy, y’all. I know it’s not always easy, but we bonded over that seemingly insignificant detail, and then suddenly, I’d found my people. It turns out my people were artsy types. Mel and Kayla were both artists. Mel and I took a music composition class together the year we both had to leave the island – and it turns out she wasn’t half bad with composition, either. They introduced me to Mikey, Adam (whom we jokingly referred to as our own personal assassin because for some reason everyone was afraid of him), and several other people who just… simply accepted that I was new to the island and brought me into their fold without batting an eyelash. They accepted me, which also came with volunteering me for crazy adventures and helping me learn my way around the island and the new language and culture we were all dealing with. It was just like that. I didn’t have to change. I didn’t have to worry. I didn’t have to fight that lingering doubt in the back of my head that everything was going to implode.

And I think over the years, I’ve forgotten that a few times and reverted back to this scared girl who is constantly waiting for the second shoe to drop. And in doing so, I’ve made bad choices. Stuck around toxic people because I thought they were friends, for instance. Allowed myself to be treated badly. Forgotten how to stand up… and gotten hurt in the process.

But I’ve learned again from this last year that there is hope, and you can find your people. You just have to be yourself, and the people who can really see your light? They’ll find you. And that’s just amazing. I can’t even begin to explain to you how good it feels. What I do know though is that I will never go back to that place where I had to hide or apologize or worry about being who I was. I deserve better than that. We all do.

Credits:

[Shape]mine
[Head][LeLUTKA]Nova 2.5
[Body][Maitreya]Lara 5.2
[Skin][[ session ]]Astrid (tone 2)
[Hair][Truth]Labyrinth (redheads)
[Hair Flower][G Field]Flower Hair Clip
[Lips][Top1 Salon]HD Excuse Me Lipstick (Nude Pale set)
[Dress][UNA @ Equal10 Event]Paquita

[Pose][Foxcity]from Cutie Pie set
(head position modified slightly w/ Animare)

[Tune][Ruelle ft. Fleurie – Carry You]

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