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Jules-Needleman

The Imaginary Box

I was different in third grade. Some of my classmates thought antagonizing me was cool; they used it as a badge of social acceptance. I saw many of them as complicit when they witnessed my antagonization. While it only happened occasionally, it stuck with me. What I’ve found to be true is that the people who found antagonizing me fun or enjoyable just didn’t understand me.

As the antagonization continued, I began to show more and more of myself. I dressed in leggings under my jeans; I wore a flowered undershirt under my larger, long-sleeved t-shirt. Of course, it didn’t stop anything, as nobody could see the articles of clothing. None of my friends even knew. Even though it satisfied my conscience, it just wasn’t enough to make my conscience, or myself, actually happy. So I began to shy away from anything viewed as traditionally masculine. I was stuck in a gray area of sorts.

In this gray area, I made many discoveries about myself. I learned things both trivial and meaningful. Not only that, but I also learned about integrity. It was the theme of the year when I was in second grade, so I knew something about it. But, in that gray area, I learned integrity wasn’t just on the outside, but it is possible to be truthful to yourself as well.

I proposed a hypothetical question to myself: What if you didn’t shut yourself away in an imaginary box of sorts? This question sparked some very deep thinking. It also brought up other questions: Are you going to tell anyone? If so, how? What will people say, and what will they think? Will my friends be mad because I didn’t tell them earlier?

My mind swarmed with these questions for the next two weeks. One by one, the answers became apparent to me. All of them, except for one: Will my friends be mad? Countless scenarios ran through my mind; many of them were of my friends turning their backs on me and walking away, their chins held high. Now, looking back on it, it seems quite stupid, but it almost made me not want to step out of the imaginary box. Nevertheless, I did step out, but it was a gradual process. It started with me telling my best friend that I am actually a girl.

It seemed as though I had only put my finger out of that box, but I soon realized that it was more like my head and torso. It certainly felt like a risk to me, even though I knew she would keep it a secret until I was ready to announce it to the grade. I was scared and unsure of what was ahead.

My parents knew that I was a girl even before I officially came out. I dressed in traditionally “feminine” clothes the entire summer of 2015. Then, that very same summer, I told my parents that I wanted to come out to the entire grade.

On the first day of fourth grade, my anxiety levels were very high, higher than usual. On that day, my mind was perturbing me with more scenarios, even stranger and more unlikely ones, at that. All I was thinking about was how everybody would react. Until, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I whipped around, but before I could see the person that the hand belonged to, I was pulled into a hug, one that was warm and welcoming, a hug that made me feel safe and happy.

I made the announcement to the whole grade almost as soon as the school day started. After I made the announcement, I felt lighter, like a huge proverbial weight was lifted from my shoulders. I was happy that I confronted myself; if I hadn’t, I have no idea where I’d be today. Truthfulness and integrity are an integral part of everyday life. It just goes to show, if issues, whether they be monumental or trivial, are ignored for too long, they can build up, until one is left with a sizable quandary with an uncertain outcome. One is left with not only a crossroads with two lanes, but a crossroads with a thousand lanes, and more often than not, the path one chooses leads to more quandaries. Those quandaries lead to their own respective crossroads, culminating with a downward spiral. However, if one knows oneself, and is truthful to oneself, then peace and happiness are within reach.

Read more: Student Voices Project 2018

Jules Needleman, Grade 6, Greene Street Friends School


Posted in: Student Voice Project 2018, Student Voices Project, What Are Quaker Values Anyway?

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