Definitely not my best piece of work but hey, I was tired.
There it was: my first step into a new school. I had been excited. I had relished the new start. I thought this experience would make me a better person.
Now, here I was. I took my first steps into the playground. The kids scattered and ignored me. In an instant, my good spirits evaporated. I suddenly felt lonely and vulnerable and worried that the other kids would see me and notice this. I took a few more steps into the playground. I was trying to look confident but aware that I was failing miserably. Some kids stopped momentarily, looked at the new kid, then went on with what they were doing, as if I did not matter. They all knew each other. They were set in their ways. They did not need a new friend. I wished I could have disappeared right then and there. But I could not; I had a whole day to get through, which would be followed by a whole school year. It seemed hopeless. I wanted to summon the courage to turn the hapless situation around, but I found nothing inside me but the emptiness of uncertainty. At least the start of school would provide me with something to do to ease the agony.
I walked inside the classroom and sat down at a table in the middle of the room. I was one of the first students who arrived. Soon, kids came swarming into the class in groups. I felt dispirited seeing my new classmates set into their friendship groups. Making new friends now seemed like more of an even dire task than before. The tables around me were filled with bright energetic kids chatting loudly with one another. All of the tables, except for mine. One boy came into the classroom late. I saw him looking at the empty table that I was sitting at. He then scanned the rest of the room for tables with kids that he preferred to sit with. This killed me. Seeing that there were not any vacant seats, he approached to my table and sat reluctantly next to me.
I had lots of friends at my school. I found myself missing it, and missing them. I wished I had some of these friends with me now. The lesson provided a distraction from my loneliness. But I could not concentrate. My mind wandered back to my predicament. But then my thoughts took a u-turn. I felt an urge to turn the situation around. I had been popular before, I could do it again, I told myself. Recess and lunchtime would be the times to do it. At my old school I had led and organised many schoolyard games. Now, the best I could probably manage was to attempt to join in. That’s what I would do, join in. If they get to know me, they will have a chance to like me.
The bell rang, commencing recess. I glanced at the kids that were playing in the playground at a distance. Then, my eyes averted to the kids that were playing basketball at the courts ahead. Part of me was wanting to ask and join them, but the other part was making me feel worried that I might be rejected, again. If I did not try, they will not get to know me, and if they did not get to know me, they will not get the chance to like me.
I stepped onto the basketball courts. I saw some of the kids momentarily stop and look at me. I could feel the radiating tension of the uneasy looks that I was given. My face was red hot with a mixture of nervousness and worry. Finally, I came up to them and asked whether I could join them. The boy with the ball looked uneasily towards his friends. His friends gave him a concerning look back. I suddenly felt my hopes frittering away, when all of a sudden the boy threw ball in my direction. I did not react in time. The ball hit me straight onto my flimsy chest. I repelled backwards and landed on my bottom. In an instant, the basketball court erupted with laughter. My eyes burned and strained with embarrassment and humiliation. The tears could not have been restrained any longer as I got up and ran away. I could see my teacher watching the incident from the corner of my eye, but the last thing I wanted right now was to talk to anyone, so I ran to the nearest toilet block and locked myself inside a cubicle sobbing with misery.
Days and weeks of loneliness and vulnerability came and gone. In class nobody wanted to sit with me, and nobody did. During recess and lunchtime, the girls I walked past would scatter and ignore and the boys that I walked by would scorn and laugh. It seemed hopeless. Everything in life seemed like it was crashing to a devastating end.
I did love poems, however. I found myself reading and writing poems all day during school to distract me from my loneliness. Reading poems shifted my mind to the depths of my imagination and separated me away from the worries and concerns of reality. This was why when my teacher introduced the class to this poem, I finally saw a silver lining in the mist of dark clouds that I was in. I opened the sheet of the paper that was laid on my table, and read the first few lines quietly to myself.
‘Out of the night that covers me
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.’
I felt every word of these four lines, and a wave of hope sparked within me. Suddenly, it all made sense. It was necessary that I showed might in the face of hardship and adversity. I needed to show courage in the face of haplessness and needed to hold on to my own dignity despite the indignities life places before me. All of which are the messages that this poem is conveying. In an instant, I had good spirits, and was even more determined than ever to turn this situation around.
The bell rang for lunchtime. I did not manage to finish reading the poem, which was quite upsetting since it was one of the best poems I had ever read so far. It did not matter now, however. I took my first steps onto the basketball court. An uneasy sense of déjà vu crept within me. There were the same boys that I encountered three weeks ago here now. At first, I was contemplating backing out; however, I remembered those powerful, inspiring words from that poem “Invictus”. Courage and might would get me over the line this time. I just had to trust myself.
“Can I play?”
In an instant, sneering and laughter came from all directions. I kept my eye on the ball and sure enough, the ball came flying towards me. Fast. This time, I was ready. I caught the ball and held it with a firm two-handed grip. Suddenly, the laughing stopped. All around me, the kids started to gasp in astonishment. I aimed to the hoop, and took a shot. The ball flew through the air in a perfect arc and landed in the bottom of the net, through the basket with a whizzing “Swish!” There was an eerie silence for the five seconds that followed. Then, one of the boys walked slowly towards me. Initially he gave me a stern look. Then suddenly his face lit up with delight, gently handed me the basketball and told the other boys that there has been a new member to their team: me! Finally, success! My heart filled with satisfying content and joy. Before I knew it, I was running lengths of the court with other kids that soon would be my new friends. I felt something sharp in my pocket and took it out. It was a piece of paper, with a couple of words on it. I was about to throw it away when I noticed it was the handwriting of my teacher:
‘I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.’
I looked up and there she was at a distance, looking right at me. She smiled, turned around, and slowly began to walk away.