Here’s what it’s really like when you’re always the New Kid

I’ve moved eight times. Half of those moves were in the span of two years. It’s hard to explain why I’ve moved so much; the reason is different each time. Sometimes it is to move closer to family, sometimes to be closer to where my dad works. Sometimes, it’s for other reasons that I disagree with.

When the announcement of a new move happens though, it’s usually out of the blue. I get home from school one day, or my parents will take the family out for dinner. My mom says, “Guess what!” and I know it’s going to be big. “We’re moving!” she says. When I was young, I was excited. Life was simpler. As I grew older, I learned to hate those words and they fill me with dread.

“Not again,” I think. I remember all of the previous moves. I remember my famiilar experiences of being the New Kid.

No matter how many times I change scenery, I still haven’t found a way to prepare myself for being thrown into a new environment. Culture shock sets in quickly, especially on the first night when I’m expected to fall asleep in an unfamiliar, empty-walled room as if it were my real home.

I wake up in the morning and have to get dressed for school — because apparently that’s what normal functioning humans do. But what do I wear? Am I going to stand out like a fool if I wear this band t-shirt instead of a flannel? I can’t know until I step outside, which I’m not about to do in my pajamas.

And then, even if I do pick the “right” outfit and totally look like I fit in, what about the more important parts of fitting in and making new friends? Will they like me? Will they care? People take notice of me, and before I can stammer out my own name, I’m introduced to 10 people at once. “Wait, I can’t memorize names that fast! Slow down, please,” I beg in my head.

But that’s what it’s like being the New Kid.

As the New Kid, I’m bombarded with questions.

“Do you like it here?” Um, I don’t know, I just arrived.

“Where are you from?” Do you mean where I was born, where I lived last, or where I lived the longest?

“Have you met so-and-so yet?” Maybe, for a split second at least.

Once the initial question phase is over, I finally get a chance to take a look around. Groups of friends are formed in comfortable circles. They laugh together and put their hands on each other’s shoulders. I become wildly jealous, even though I know it’s not good to be. These people have had time to get comfortable with each other, while I have to start from scratch, trying to push myself into an already-established group. They don’t understand the silent struggle I’m going through as they are having fun.

For a while, I’m stuck juggling my new life and old life, unwilling to give up on the old. I become attached to objects like a simple glass decoration, or to my Grandparents’ house when I visit, because at least those have remained constant through the years.

But slowly, I explore this new place and learn about its own quirks that make it unique. I make myself comfortable and make new friends. Sometimes.

Every once in a while, I remember that I haven’t spent years with new friends, and that I will probably move unexpectedly any time now. Sometimes I don’t even unpack my moving boxes, because many times I’ve stayed in a new place for only a few months. The longest I’ve stayed somewhere was just over five years, but that was when I was little. Sometimes, I don’t know if it’s even worth it to make friends in a new place. I know I’ll go through another painful goodbye soon anyway. I don’t bother to memorize landmarks to find my way around. It may sound silly to miss landmarks, but it’s happened. Maybe it’s the memories attached to those landmarks that I really miss.

No matter what, this is sure: When I leave, it’s easy to see how I’ve grown since arriving. How the people and places have affected me. I wonder what kind of mark I’ve left on the place. That’s the life of the perpetual New Kid though.

(Image via Paramount Pictures.)

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