In the mid 1990’s there was a girl in the fourth grade. She went to school everyday with her peers and friends from her neighborhood. She loved riding the school bus, because it was a long ride, and she could spend that time hanging out with her friends. She and her friends didn’t have enough seniority, to pick the prime seats of the bus; the back.
There were a few sixth graders who got on the bus a few stops earlier that would get the prized back seats, and reserve them for their friends. The girl didn’t mind being in the middle of the bus, it wasn’t too bad of a spot. Her and her neighborhood pals would cluster together to tell jokes, dance to the radio, and of course, play the occasional prank. The middle of the bus afforded them the luxury of staying clear from the sixth-graders’ territory, while still being far back enough from the bus driver to not get into too much trouble.
The only drawback from sitting in the middle of the bus, was the runway-like aisle that she had to walk up and down everyday. As soon as you got on the bus, or stood up to get off the bus, you were basically the center of attention. All the riding students would observe and assess what you were wearing, how you looked, and the biggest thing; analyze your school gear.
The girl had a regular large sized backpack, but the rising trend was the trendy mini backpack. When the fad first started, the girl paid it no mind, she liked her backpack, it carried her folder and books comfortably. As the days passed, she noticed that she was the only girl on the bus, and nearly the entire school without a mini backpack. One day, after school, she came home to her mother and asked,
“Mom, can you please buy me one of those new mini backpacks?”
Her mother replied, “I’ll look for one for you sweetheart.”
The girl was beaming the next day, and shared with her closest friend that her mom would be getting her a new backpack. When the girl came home from school one day, her mother had a bag in the kitchen and handed it to her. When the girl reached into the bag, she pulled out a beautiful shiny silver mini backpack. The girl started dancing and jumping around, she was so happy about her new backpack. Later that evening, she transferred all of her belongings into the backpack. She laid it out carefully, on top of her folder, and fell asleep knowing she was well prepared for her school bus catwalk.
The morning couldn’t come fast enough, the girl got on the bus with her friends, and sat down in their usual space. Out the blue, the girl heard a shrill voice from the back of the bus, “Eww, that backpack is so ugly!” One of the the sixth grade girls yelled. The girl, looked back and didn’t respond, but she felt herself inwardly melting as she turned forward in her seat. How humiliating! She quickly began to think about why the sixth grade girl would say that about her backpack. The girl quickly glanced at everyone else’s backpack, she saw a denim, green, maroon, brown and black backpack; not one silver.
She arrived at school and went about the day as usual, except, she tucked her backpack far underneath her desk, instead of on the back of her chair. When she got on the bus to ride home, she tried to be one of the first to get on, as to avoid another walk of shame. As she got to her bus stop she quickly placed her shiny silver backpack on her shoulders and did her best speed walk off the bus. She wanted to run home, but she didn’t want to leave her friends behind. As she started walking with her group of friends, the bus started back up. All of a sudden she heard a loud clicking sound, the sixth grade girl let down her window as the girl walked by and yelled, in her highest pitch, “Silver is not the color!”
The girl didn’t respond, but all of her friends saw the hurt in her eyes. They all tried to comfort her by offering kind words and compliments about her new backpack, but the girl didn’t believe them. She was crushed, the backpack wasn’t what she hoped it would be. She thought it would put her on a cool level, that she wouldn’t be the odd girl out.
When she finally made it to her house, her eyes were full of tears. Her mother greeted her and asked what was wrong. The girl didn’t want to talk about it, and part of her was upset with her mother for picking such a strange color. The girl walked upstairs to her room to cry. She tried to think of ways to fix her new problem while she sat alone in her room.
She walked downstairs to the kitchen where her mother was. “Mom, may I use a marker to color my backpack?”
Her mother looked at her puzzlingly, “No, that won’t look good.”
The girl went on the rest of the day with dread about the sixth grader on the bus.
To her dismay, the next couple of days went on unchanged, she’d get on the bus with her silver backpack, the six grader girl would sneer and tease, the girl would come home crying without saying why.
“Silver’s not the color!” Played on repeat in her head.
It was almost the end of the week, and the girl got off the bus at the end of the day only to hear those dreaded words– SILVER IS NOT THE COLOR. This time, for added charm, the six grader added on, “your backpack sucks!” Something about those three words. The girl decided she could take no more. She scrambled off of the school bus, leaving her friends behind she ran home as fast as she could. By the time her mother greeted her at the door, she was out of breath, cheeks flushed, and eyes pouring tears. As soon as her mother asked what was wrong, she began sobbing and pressed her face into her mother as she hugged her tightly.
Her mother calmly walked her into the kitchen and gently said, “Don’t cry. It’s going to be alright. Tell me what’s wrong.”
The girl left all reservations behind, she loudly blurted out, “The sixth grader on the bus keeps saying my backpack is ugly, that silver is not the color and that my backpack sucks.”
She continued, “Everyone else has nice colors like black, green, maroon, and denim- colored backpacks, but mine is silver.”
Her mother lovingly looked her in the face and said, “I love you. I would never give you anything that was of no value. Nothing about you is ugly or sucky. That sixth grader is mad because she’s jealous that her backpack isn’t as nice as yours. Silver is the color, because it’s your color. Don’t let her make you feel bad that yours is different, that just means you’re special.”
The girl wiped her tears, did her homework, and looked forward to the next day of school. She finally realized, silver was the color.
The girl walked on the bus confidently, with her best aisle strut and went to her seat. The sixth grader squawked, “silver’s not the color!” The girl turned, smiled, and said “You’re just mad because your backpack is so plain.”
The sixth grader dropped her jaw, but said nothing else on the way to school. On the way home the girl was getting off the bus, she heard the click of the window, the sixth grader said “your backpack is so ugly!”
The girl looked back at her, smiled again, and said, “No it’s not.”
After 20 years, it’s amazing how one experience turned into a life-long lesson that will remain relevant; always love and accept yourself. And just in case you’re wondering the girl with the silver backpack was me.
I wasn’t always the most popular, the best dressed, or even the most well liked, but I learned how to love me. That mini silver backpack gave me wings, magic, power. I undoubtedly know it doesn’t matter how different I am as long as I am me, that is the most special thing I can be. This is where I sparked my shine.
What is a life long lesson of yours? What experiences helped to develop your personal shine? I’d love to hear from you!