We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

← Back to all stories
Photo ofGavin Gidman

I have experienced drastic changes in personality from elementary school to middle school. Since the end of 6th grade, I have been the kid in the back of the room with few friends, the quiet, socially awkward guy who dislikes public speaking or any confrontations. This situation changed later. Sixth grade was new to me, and I wasn’t comfortable with the new environment. I was very self-conscious about who I was and what people thought about me. Every time I had to stand up in front of the class to give a presentation, I would get nervous and make mistakes, making the situation worse. Thinking back, I’m not fond of my younger self.  All of this changed throughout middle school. At the start of 7th grade, I was not very happy. I arrived with a fixed, emotionless attitude. This detachment from social life did help with my classes; I never got below 90%. Although my attitude was beneficial to academics, it negatively impacted my mental state. I was getting overwhelmed by school and life. I became the ‘smart kid who seemed like they had everything under control,’ but in reality, I was go- ing insane and getting extremely overwhelmed. I kept everything to myself and felt as if I was never happy, nor had a break, and was going down a dark tunnel of delusion. Every time I tried to think my way through it, I would spiral even further down into the bottomless abyss of my mind. I had destructive thoughts that fortunately dissipated. My mind was a metaphorical graph, always getting closer to the edge, but never reaching zero. I was on the verge of giving up with everything altogether when, over the horizon, my savior came into view: humor.  It is very depressing to consider that each day, I would look at memes, jokes, or anything that would make me remotely happy. I would isolate myself. Because of this, I developed a sense of dark humor and started to rely on this and other jokes to be happy. With this new “clown” persona, I started making new friends as well as discussing jokes and other fun topics.  Then came the 8th grade, the last year of middle school. I was mentally “done” with everything at that point and started to tell jokes continuously. My friends and I used this humor to shield ourselves from the horror that is “real life” and as a way to process and filter our thoughts to stay mentally healthy. It may seem like I was just going further into an unclear path of delusion, but this worked. I wasn’t thinking about real life and the struggles I was going through; I seemed to be happier and was. I was outgoing, and my confidence grew exponentially. I could express myself freely without hesitation. After two years, I transformed. Instead of being timid, nervous, shy, and introverted, I was outgoing and careless as to what people thought. Undoubtedly, I was much less irritable and replaced this with humor. I could make every person in the room laugh and distract them from think- ing about real-life struggles.  My final realization that I changed was during a challenging disease out- break simulation. Students were assigned a role. After a stressful simulation, students were directed to the cafeteria for debriefing. One person from each group had to go up in front of the entire 8th grade and distinguished guests and present what was learned during the simulation. No one from my group volunteered, so I did. To this day, I am still proud of my “speech” because I did an outstanding job. I’m not one to brag, but I did the best out of all the speakers. I spoke in front of that considerable audience flawlessly and ended up going home, feeling proud. I am content with my new self and how I’ve changed. 

© Gavin Gidman. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.