It was at least 98 degrees on my first day of sixth grade as a new Florida panhandle resident. The 100% humidity added bonus heat and sweat.
Within the first hour of arriving at my new school something was amiss. I realized that I was the only student in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades who was wearing short pants! “You can’t wear shorts!” was yelled at me from finger-pointing students. Even teachers looked at me funny and shook their heads.
The icing on the cake was being sent to the principal’s office. We had to call and ask my mom to bring me some long pants. She wasn’t home to answer the phone. I think she had gone to the Piggly Wiggly for groceries. It was a long day filled with embarrassment, ridicule, patience and endurance. Eventually I was able to “dig deep” and forgive my parents for overlooking the fine print in the school handbook. It took a little longer for me to restore my self-esteem in public.
This memory is symbolic of tender middle school years. One time I sneezed so hard that I couldn’t catch all of the “sneeze” in my hands. I came back from the rest room to a snickering room because “sneeze remains” were on my desk. Getting knocked unconscious on the soccer field earned another trip to the principal’s office. But the moment of all moments was the spelling bee.
You see, pleasing people – being thought well of by my parents, teachers and peers – had subtly become one of life’s goals since that first day of 6th grade. I had become a good student too, so the pressure was on for me to win the big 8th grade spelling bee. Silence filled the room full of teachers and students after my first word was called out – “Execute.” I shakily spelled E – X – I – C – U – T – E. “I’m sorry. That is incorrect,” was the gut wrenching response from my favorite English teacher. It was another “short pants” fiasco. Maybe pleasing people wasn’t life’s goal.
What was one of your “short pant” moments? How did this shape your character? Do you seek to please others too much, or are you not worried about what others think?