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School Playgrounds Dredge Up My Past Insecurities

Photograph by Getty Images

It wasn't until the first day of preschool, when looking around, that I heard this voice in my head say, "Nobody here likes you, you are the outsider." No, I don't have multiple personalities. Clearly, I have issues, and one of them has been me trying so hard not to project onto my children my own insecurities about what happened to me at school while growing up.

My oldest is eight and we’ve been “back in school” now for five years, yet I’m still struggling to be an adult and not listen to the young, insecure me.

I moved around lot growing up. I was always the new kid. I admired strong knit communities and envied children who had known each other since preschool. I was threatened that one girl would beat me up on every single one of my last three moves; those threats began during the move when I was in fifth grade and had grown breasts.

To deflect unwanted attention from the girls who wanted to beat me up, I wore sports bras and sweatshirts, gained some weight, kept my nose in books in the hallways and also tried very hard to appease everyone I met.

Until finally what would happen, literally every time, is the girl would say she actually thought I was cool and the threat was lifted. No punches thrown, and I normally had found my group of nice, goofy girls to hang with.

I remember with disgust after moving to a new school, my last move, I was nominated (over the loud-speaker) for best personality or something like that. I remember thinking that I was merely a tabula rasa, something for these people to project their opinions onto. I had shown none of my personality. I had only mastered the art of fitting in, so that no one would throw a punch or dislike me.

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My own kids are now attending a reformed Judaic school, where voicing your opinion is seen as a good thing. I love watching opinionated women throw their opinions around. I’m watching them and learning.

And there’s something about being at school and feeling broody where I just want to tap into Ally Sheedy’s character in the “Breakfast Club.”

The voice that I hear, that I struggle with, is that I don’t belong or that the community is so set in stone, I’m not welcome here. Thankfully I live in transient Los Angeles, so the cards of three generations going back that deep are not that stacked. Lots of people are new. I try to remind myself that.

Some days I just feel broody. And there’s something about being at school and feeling broody where I just want to tap into Ally Sheedy’s character in the “Breakfast Club.” Hide beneath dark bangs and black eyeliner. I don’t want or need to talk. Fuck you.

Then I remind myself to at least plaster a pleasant look on my face and remind myself the world is not out to get me. Everyone is fighting a fight, so they say.

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I’m sure this will just become more challenging as my kids get older and face more social issues, which will cause me to take deep, deep breaths. Those problems will surely arise. But, for now, I just need to remind myself I’m welcome at school, I’m not re-living my youth and, yes, everyone in LA seems to be searching for community.

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