- 13 years old
- Omaha, Nebraska
- 42 years old
- Salt Lake City, Utah
- Stay-at-home-mom / Artist
I grew up in a suburb of Omaha, Nebraska. My years in elementary school were years filled with neighborhood bike rides and fireflies. But early on, I knew I was different when I was one of only two kids in my school who had red hair. We didn’t call what the 2 of us put up with ‘bullying’ – it was considered teasing or taunting, and was not taken seriously.
Chants like “Liar, Liar, Hair’s on Fire” and my head being a snow-ball target defined that time for me. In large part, adults were sympathetic and comforting, but most had the attitude that ‘kids will be kids’.
I took solace in a close friendship. It didn’t matter to her that I was ‘different’. This dear friend of mine was perfect in my eyes – beautiful blond hair, great clothes, athletic, funny, confident, and VERY popular. We were inseparable from the 3rd grade to the 7th grade. I found that living in her shadow kept me from being noticed, and that was the way I liked it.
Much changed when Middle School started. Things started to get REALLY awkward: Glasses perched on my nose, pimples erupted, and the bling of braces kept me from ever really smiling…and the red-hair persisted, of course. I retreated even farther behind the ‘perfection’ of my friend.
The worst thing happened when this girl moved to California. I lost my best friend and shield. And then, to my great surprise, the best thing happened. I made a conscious decision to discover my own awesomeness without her there to hide behind.
I slowly began to come out of my shell and take on an identity all my own. This 7th grade photo marks the debut of my new, and improved hair (I had taken a photo of David Bowie with me to the salon), which was the first sign that I wasn’t going to care what anybody was going to think about me anymore.
I have clocked many years now of not worrying what other people think of me and my favorite person to be is myself. I recommend that everyone fly their freak-flag high and proud and enjoy the ride that is life on this wonderful, diverse planet.