Just Smile
Julianne. Age 13. Doylestown, PA

“BEEP, BEEP, BEEP—“ Angrily, my alarm clock buzzed at me, bellowing for me to get out of bed. Of course, the shouts were useless, as I had already been awake for hours—a perfect contradiction to the other Mondays yet to come. I was already dressed with my brand new backpack packed neatly with everything in its specific, ordered place, almost down to a predetermined longitude and latitude. One hour before I should have started packing down to the predetermined longitudes and latitudes.
One more hour of sitting on the edge of my perfectly made bed, in my perfectly cleaned room, taking perfectly timed breaths—about two-and-a-half seconds each. Though, I broke this pattern with about a five second deep breath. I’d have to face the truth sooner or later… I was going to school.

For the first time. I was very nervous.

I had been home schooled for the past five years, and this was the year I went to public school, in a school bus, with actual people.

I reluctantly pressed snooze on my alarm clock.

* * * * *

Heart racing, I remembered that I was told to sit next to my little brother on the bus—it was his first year too—but he ignored me and sat down next to his friends. I sat alone, feeling very uncomfortable. The drive should have taken a total of two minutes from my house to the school, but there were other kids to procure, so it took about twenty. I heard the bus and the conversations of the other kids going back to school once again, their voices echoing through my panicky brain, bouncing back and forth like ping pong balls and making me feel sick. At least the view was resplendent—bright green trees zooming past us like race cars, and the sun illuminating the sky a baby pink.

Faster than I would have guessed, the bus pulled into the school’s lot. My brother darted out of the bus like a bullet, as if he had been doing this for years, even though he was a novice. I started to feel dizzy.

After I uttered a feeble “T-Thank-you,” to the bus driver, my new shoes clicked on the chilly September pavement. I had arrived, and I realized I had no idea where I was supposed to go. Thankfully, I saw teachers on the horizon.

I tried asking about six teachers, “Um, do you know where Mrs. Kayser’s room is?” but I felt so dazed and sick that their voices sounded faraway, like they were underwater. It took some real guesswork to find my correct room.

I held my breath as I slowly, carefully, creaked open the door, trying not to make a noise, in fear of what could be behind it. This was it. This was the moment. My very first experience with the infamous concept of public school. I shifted my feet from side to side, and (uselessly) tried to calm my panic. What could happen? What would happen? The pit in my stomach worsened as I stepped in the room.

To my surprise, I was greeted with wide smiles.

I felt myself smile too.

* * * * *

“BEEP, BEEP, BEEP—” Angrily, my alarm clock buzzed at me, bellowing for me to get out of bed. Of course, I slept for another ten minutes after snoozing the clock, feeling bored with my now regular routine. After waking, I threw my bed sheets upon the piles of unwashed clothes, all crumpled and messy. My now old backpack’s books, jammed next to miscellaneous trinkets and garbage, were uneven and damaged. When I looked in the mirror, big dark circles under my eyes were obvious.

But, just as I had for all the many, many days previously, I smiled my perfect smile—almost down to its predetermined longitude and latitude.

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