Thirteen is known for being an impressionable age. I had no idea just how accurate that was at the time. I was thirteen and a half when I learned a lot about this world. I learned that things were rough for everyone. I learned that we all see the same sunset. The book that has had the biggest impact on me was The Outsiders.
I was different when I was younger than I am now. I imagine everyone changes, maybe just not as much as I did. Everyone has their insecurities, however I hid mine, and myself, from the world. I went to school and talked to my friends like I had a thousand times before. That never changed. To everyone else I was fine, normal, myself. The only difference was this time, I didn’t want to. I did not want to go to a school where everyone thought the same except me. I did not want to talk to people who did not understand my thoughts. I felt like everyone was living on the same planet, except me. I was in my own world by myself. Like I was some kind of alien, or outsider. Then one day, it all changed.
It was cold that morning. I remember wearing the same dark gray sweatshirt I did everytime the air turned frigid. I sat at the back of my eighth grade english class. My teacher assigned us homework over a book called The Outsiders. English was my favorite class by far. When I wrote essays, I could put my intense feelings and strange thoughts into words and poems. My teachers found this quite interesting and at times, beautiful. Reading gave me the same escape. I could, at least for a little while, slip into a coma from reality and live in a different world. Most of the time, it was a better world. And this time I realized something. The boys within these pages were different too. The understood what it was like to feel like the world would rather you not exist. They understood me, and I understood them. We lived in different time periods, different locations, as different genders, different families, yet somehow I had never found a person more like me. And that’s when I learned everything.
I learned that there was nothing wrong with who I was. I also learned that the beautiful girls also feel sick at their stomach when they look in the mirror. I learned that the smartest guy in class misses questions on tests too. I learned that we are all trying to get through this thing called life. I learned everything I know now about who I am from that novel. Life is tragic and sometimes you’re going to feel like you don’t belong. But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe you aren’t supposed to. Being yourself isn’t easy. Especially when you are not even sure who you are yet. But I learned on that day, with that book, in that very moment who I was. My smile became genuine and my personality became authentic. I strive everyday to be nothing less than that. This book, this simple book, taught me to understand people, all people. To love abundantly and always remember that we are all humans. And if that isn’t a tremendous impact, I don’t know what is.
Being different never has and never will mean your flawed. Do we all have hamartias? Of course we do. But they are extraordinary and should be embraced instead of hidden. What makes you different is what makes you gold. And S.E. Hinton said it best, “Stay Gold.”