2: Not Just an Ordinary Flower

2: Not Just an Ordinary Flower

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens

Not Just an Ordinary Flower

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.

~Judy Garland

I could feel the panic stirring in my gut, the tears forming in one big mass at the back of my throat. It was Sunday night, and that meant school was coming. It would arrive first in the form of my blaring alarm that would wake me before the sun crept through my blinds. Then it would take the shape of a garish yellow bus that I could see coming between the houses from across the street — the bus that would carry me into enemy territory.

School itself wasn’t my enemy. No, the enemy existed in the crowds of kids who didn’t care about me, the teachers with too many students to pay me much attention, the students who left me to play alone on the playground. I would walk through the halls of the school as my “peers” bumped me, passing by in their cliques, and I would be alone.

At the end of the year in health class, we played a game where we taped pieces of paper onto our backs and ran around the room, writing something nice about each person in the class on the paper. When we were done, I looked at what people had said about me: “Nice,” “Smart,” “Smart,” and “Nice.” Three that said “Funny” were mixed in with one that said “Cool” — probably from one of the other unpopular kids or the teacher.

For years after, I let that define me. “Hello, I’m the smart, nice wallflower. If only you knew that there was so much more to me” was what I would often think when I met people who would pass me by.

My dad once told me, “What other people do or say about you tells you more about them than yourself.” I would repeat that to my friends who came to me for comfort and advice. I hoped it comforted them the way it did me.

The more I quoted my dad’s words to myself, the more I realized what he meant. The kids at school might call me ugly, they might ignore me or use me, but their words and their actions did not have to make me into someone I was not. Instead of feeling sorry for myself or being angry at them, I could choose to forgive them and recognize that being mean was their way of making themselves feel better. I learned to pity them, because often when people are bullies or when they are rude or manipulative, it is because of their own insecurities. What they said and did still hurt, but recognizing that they wounded me as a result of their own pain made it easier to take the focus off myself and onto them. Even though loving my enemies was hard, it was the right thing to do.

One time, my dad and I were driving in the car, and I was telling him about my latest school trials. I told him that I felt like no one liked me because they didn’t know me. I knew I was quiet, but I also knew that there was a part of me that just wanted to break out of my shell and be the outgoing, fun-loving girl I used to be.

Dad leaned over to me and said, “You remember in Disney’s Aladdin when Genie turns into a bee and buzzes into Aladdin’s ear while he’s talking to Jasmine on the balcony? What does he say? ‘Just beeee yourself.’ Right?”

I smiled and nodded, giggling bashfully. I really wanted to “beeee myself” — I just didn’t know how! What was my true identity? Was I a wallflower? Or was I a rose? What made me who I was? Should I really let the bad things that happened at school define me?

My trials at school began a journey for me. Destination? True identity. I always knew that I was more than just a wallflower. While there is certainly nothing wrong with being nice and smart, I know now that I am designed to bloom and be more than just an ordinary flower.

~Stephanie Warner

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