Whenever people looked at me last year, a lot of them felt like they knew me from somewhere. But they never knew quite where to place me, so I ended up explaining my entire life story. Yes, I did go to your middle school. I wasn’t here last year because I was in Michigan. No, I lived in Michigan before that too. And yes, moving was hard, but hey–life is what you make it, and I’ve decided not to be sad.
Maybe I’ll just start from the beginning.
I was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I lived in the same house until the summer after my seventh-grade year. At that time my dad, who works for General Motors, got transferred to the Fairfax assembly plant in Kansas City for a one-year assignment.
Our family moved to Prairie Village where I attended 8th grade at Indian Hills. Our house in Ann Arbor was unoccupied since we were only gone for a year and we didn’t bother to rent it out, so when we returned to Ann Arbor after the year was up, we moved back in without much hassle.
I had been under the impression that Kansas City had been a one-year, one-time thing. It was almost like a year-long vacation. I’d met some wonderful people I stayed in touch with and the new experiences had opened my mind beyond the world I knew for twelve years of my life. I learned to have pride in where I came from due to constantly having to defend my home state. So when I got back to Ann Arbor I started appreciating the good things about Michigan.
Freshman year I went to Skyline High School, where I was happier than I ever thought I could be. I was overconfident and oblivious to what people thought of me, basically defining the expression “ignorance is bliss.” I loved every minute of band and learned that, perhaps, honors geometry was not for me. It was the year I became the extreme fan of Michigan sports that I am now, and it was a good year for basketball because Michigan went to the national championship.
After dinner on the night of that disappointing game (we only lost by six points), my dad cleared his throat and said he had found something out at work that day.
Since I’m here at Shawnee Mission East writing this article, you can probably guess what the news was. We were moving back to Prairie Village. And being as happy as I was that year, you can probably also guess that I freaked out.
I don’t remember anything very clearly that happened after I heard. I screamed a lot, and I ran up to my room and came back down to scream some more. There were a lot of tears and desperate protests. We had a very long family discussion after I’d calmed down enough to listen about how my dad was going to have to travel out of the country a lot for work if we stayed in Ann Arbor, and his daily hour-long commute wasn’t something he wanted to do anymore. All of this I could understand, but it didn’t lessen the sting that the whole life I had imagined for myself in this place I loved had been taken from me.
Still, I never really displayed a direct outward protest to moving after my reaction on the night they told me. I lived out the rest of my freshman year with dignity, embracing everything I had the best I could. I held all my anger inside until the evening after school got out, when I caught a ball wrong and twisted my thumb at practice for my summer softball team. It wasn’t serious, but it was swollen, so I sat on the bench for the rest of practice. And during that time, something snapped and I started crying. My teammates all assumed it was because my thumb hurt, and I was too upset to enlighten them. I bawled the whole ride home with my mom, and when we got back home my dad got an ice pack for my thumb. He sat down on the couch with me and I just sobbed, “I don’t want to go, Daddy.”
* * *
There were no more serious meltdowns, and in July we moved into a rental house in Prairie Village. In August I started my sophomore year at East. My brothers took the move much more lightly than I did and adjusted with less difficulty. I, on the other hand, was excessively bitter and resolved not to like East because I thought it would be unfaithful to my old school. I refused to sing the school song. I had friends at school, but it was rare that I ever spent a Friday night outside my basement.
All of first semester I was often inwardly miserable, and let school-related stress get to me much more than it should have. It wasn’t uncommon for me to stay up until midnight or 1 a.m. I enjoyed very few of my classes and had a lot of silly breakdowns over things like chem labs. Considering this year isn’t nearly as bad, I’ve concluded most of my stress was an indirect result of the transition.
You’d never have known any of this, though, because I have this defense mechanism that triggers whenever I’m awkward or unhappy where I basically just go crazy. All year I was loud and giddy and sometimes disruptive, and reactions to my presence varied from mild amusement to exasperation. Honestly, I feel bad for poor Chaffee. Just ask anyone from my EHAP class.
But gradually, things started getting better. There wasn’t a specific moment, but if I had to pick a time when it really turned around, it would be winter break. We went to Ann Arbor for Christmas as usual, and I think the break from school was helpful in itself. But on top of that I got to see family and old friends, and at the end of break my grandma moved to Prairie Village, which made things a lot more like they used to be.
I went back to school feeling revitalized. I began to realize it was okay to have fun at East, and that maybe there was a light at the end of the dark tunnel that was sophomore year.
So junior year, I went into things with a more positive attitude. I joined Harbinger and am a section leader in band. I started actually going out and doing things with my friends. And while I am still crazy and probably always will be, I’ve calmed down enough where I don’t annoy people as easily anymore.
Even after two years, part of me is still bitter and homesick; I won’t deny that. But most of the time, I’m able to ignore it and just enjoy myself. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s being sad. Life is what you make it and if you decide to be stubborn and angry, you aren’t going to be happy. So I make an effort to see the positive effects moving has had on me.
I’ve learned to go through transitions and expand my horizons. I have twice as many friends as I would have if I’d never moved. I’ve had experiences I’ll never forget and wouldn’t trade for anything. Overall, I am a more complete person than I might have been otherwise. I think in the end the whole ordeal has been worth it.
I tend to always take the positive outlook on things, probably because I’m just an insatiably happy person. And I’ve decided not to wallow in whatever bad feelings I have about moving. Because if I could name one overarching thing I’ve taken away from all this, it would be that I’ve learned to be happy no matter what.