I have been thinking a lot about what has shaped me as a person. In the past I have had discussions with several people about what has happened to us in the past that has defined us and made us who we are. In my history, I am lucky enough to remember many occasions where I was hurt or encouraged or cast aside in very public or private ways. I would like to talk about one of the more early occasions in my life, I was in first grade in this particular story.
At 7 years old I was very impressionable and very cocky. I used to think I was everything. I thought everyone listened to me and everyone cared about what I had to say. What do you expect, I was 7... Little did I know, I was sorely mistaken.
At 7 years old I was attending a summer camp at the local YMCA. I had been going there for a couple years so I was completely comfortable with all my peers, and had come up as an informal leader of our group. This position didn’t actually exist and therefore held no actual benefits or responsibilities but I took it very seriously.
My dad dropped me off at the YMCA today as he did every day of every summer for many years. As he checked into the reception desk I ran left down the hall and threw open the double doors to the meeting room. The room was bustling with activity. My best friend Paul was over to the right on a bench drawing with my other best friend JP and a few other kids. The far right wall housed all the cubby holes where we stashed out lunches until noon. Along the left wall were the windows to the street and cabinets for storage. The back wall, straight ahead, was stacked with milk crates 5 feet high, all turned on their sides for easy access to the toys inside. In the middle of the back wall was the meeting rug. It was surrounded with milk crates on three sides, almost like a cage for the wild and crazy kids.
“Hey guys!” I said as I saddled up next to Paul and JP.
“Hey Jim, what’s goin on?” Paul asked without looking up from his drawing.
“Nothing. Whatcha drawing?”
“It’s a Peterbuilt!” He said confidently as he smiled and held up his drawing.
JP chimed in. “Dude you always draw trucks.”
“So.” Paul snapped back.
Now my parents always told me never to answer anything with just the word “so”. They always told me it was disrespectful and annoying, but I never listened, it seemed like a perfectly good reply in most cases.
Just then the leader, Mrs. Sarny, spoke up. “Alright kids quiet please!” She was ignored. “Everyone! Quiet!” Still nothing. She placed her finger on the tip of her nose and it quickly spread throughout the group. There was a known rule that the last person to put their finger on their nose wouldn’t get and snacks for the day, food rules all.
I was the first person at my table to hear her and placed my finger on my nose. “Hey guys look look!” I motioned to my friends. Everyone quickly put their fingers on their nose and there was no odd man out this time.
“Ok, I need you all to go sit on the rug so we can get started.” Everyone quickly and quietly scurried over to the rug and sat in our groups of friends. When we all got settled the leaders took attendance and told us what today had in store. "Ok we are all going on a nature walk today!" We all cheered since it meant being outside for part of the day. "In fact, the nature walk starts right now!" Everyone quickly got up and rushed over to the door, laughing and cheering all the way.
As the unofficial leader, I quickly got the the front of the line to lead the group outside. Right as we started out we were stopped by an approaching family here to drop of their son for his first day. The leaders started talking to his parents and I went over to welcome him.
"Hi, I'm, James!" I said enthusiastically.
"My name's Sean!"
Sean quickly fell back to about the middle of the pack as we started off again. We walked across the large field and down a wide path into the woods. My unofficial job as unofficial leader of the group was to warn everyone of horse poop on the path, and tell them when to breath through their mouth so they don't have to smell it. It sounds like a ridiculous thing to care about but for me it was awesome. People actually respected me for it and if I was busy talking to someone and missed announcing an upcoming mushy pile, they jokingly yelled at me for not warning them.
It was on this day, however, that my world was turned upside down forever. My typical announcement of "Hey guys there's horse poop on the left! Everyone breath through your mouth!" was quickly challenged. No sooner then I made that announcement did Sean step up beside me.
"No no, it's bad for you to breath that in through your mouth! You have to use your nose so your nose can block all the bad stuff!" Kid logic.
My world was challenged. We got in a mini argument over this but I finally settled on: he was an idiot and I was right and I'm not arguing anymore. But since we were coming up on the horse pasture area there was a lot more horse poop to warn the group about.
When the next pile came up, pretending that the last argument never happened, I made my announcement "Hey guys there's horse poop on the left! Everyone breath through your mouth!" However, Sean wasn't having it.
Right after I finished my statement, Sean made an announcement of his own. "Everyone, there's horse manure on the left! Breath through your nose!" He said that like I wasn't even there. I looked back quickly to see the whole group following his command.
When the next pile came around I made my announcement again and, standing right next to me, Sean made his. A couple people quickly replied "Thanks Sean!"
My world crumbled.
What may seem trivial now was a major setback for me. Sean became a regular and quickly took my place as the unofficial leader of the group. I was devastated. From that point on Sean lead the group outside and warned everyone about upcoming piles of horse poop and I fell to the back of the group. Because of all of this trivial stuff I have been afraid to speak in front of people especially when it comes to sharing my ideas. The last thing I want to happen is to be shot down and humiliated so publicly again.