First Day of School

I’ve been preoccupied this past week with an orientation camp I made myself sign up for and guess what? It ain’t as bad as I’d expected it to be. In fact, I made some new friends (surprise!) and am already swelling with some school pride, yo! Well, we all know that pre-school days can be the best days of your life, but all these have to fade away into mundaneness (that even a word?) once lessons begin. As a precursor to the upcoming days of misery, the university held orientation ceremonies to make us feel welcomed and settled in and ready to restart that rusty motor under our skulls. I was pretty darn excited about it, because hey, I can meet people who love books and reading and weirdos, right?

Naw. I followed the ridiculously well-dressed crowd out of the convention hall and down countless corridors and flights of stairs to find myself in a black room. I don’t know about the rest, but I was feeling horrendously awkward and out of place. I didn’t speak a word to the guy and girl beside me and my really bad cough (yes, I shouted myself silly during the camp) didn’t help either. I wheezed all through a professor’s speech, trying my best to keep it under control with an entire bottle of water. It didn’t help. I was so flustered and embarrassed, I probably shrunk half my height. If I’d thought the mingling session during lunch would help ease the awkwardness, I was once again mistaken. People began grouping together and having mini conversations. I could see two distinct groups of people – the scholar group and the stylish group. I felt so alone.

In the end, three people did approach me to ask for my name and my previous school, but the conversations didn’t last long. Call me paranoid, but I felt shunned. I detected a girl’s judgmental gaze upon my face during a routine scanning of the crowd. I tried my best to identify a group where I could possibly fit in, but couldn’t. Either there was something on my face or my shyness had gotten the better of me.

I made a quick escape once I had the chance (also because I had to pee badly). After making sure the toilet crowd outside had cleared, I emerged from the cubicle, feeling sorry for myself. I adjusted the bag on my shoulder and pressed on the tap. I squirted some soap into my palm and began rubbing. Better to find pleasure in maintaining good hygiene, I thought. When I was done washing my hands, I took a customary glance upwards to neaten up my hair. What I saw nearly caused an audible sound of horror to escape my mouth. My straight black locks were speckled here and there with big white flakes. I knew why nobody wanted to talk to me immediately.

Guys, it wasn’t dandruff, nor a contagious skin disease. It was my sunburned scalp healing. My nose was almost done with moulting, but way up there, it had only just begun. Needless to say, I was mortified. I picked off a few pieces of dead scalp skin and observed the little holes in them, where the hair used to grow out from. It was interesting, yet I couldn’t shake off the feeling of horror I’d just experienced. Resigned to my unfortunate predicament, I headed back to look for my roommate who helped me pick out the rest of the wretched pieces while listening to me lamenting about my unsuccessful friend-making attempt.

I learnt a lot about myself and others that day. I know I am still socially inept when it comes to group mingling. I know I am highly judgmental about people I’ve just met. As for the others, I know they are mindful about the friends they make and one of the first things you’ll be judged on is your appearance, like it or not.

I now know how important it is to have great friends who wouldn’t throw me aside because I looked like I’d contracted some skin disease (three cheers for roommie). I’ll try talking to people again when classes begin on Tuesday. No one has that great a memory… right? In the meantime, please use sunblock on your scalp and quarantine yourself for at least a week after going to the beach.

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