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Barrier By Taylor Sani Hendley

Growing up, I moved from Columbia, South Carolina to Atlanta, Georgia. The two places were like fire and ice for me: extremely different. In Columbia, I may have felt like the black sheep sometimes, but my environment felt safe and loving. All the schools I’d been to in Columbia were majorly white, and when I started middle school in Georgia, the school was large, loud, and distorted. On my first day of school, I ran into my first problem. I apparently “talked white,” which was called out by one of my new classmates. I was frustrated, ashamed, and confused on how I could “talk white” since I wasn’t told this in my old schools. Everyone around me talked in mainly slang and cursed, which was different for me. Being the talkative and strong person I thought I was, I responded with a rather rude response. From that day on I realized if you let people say things to you without a response, they would walk all over you.  
Every day was the same until I met my best friend, Ava. She was mixed, but didn’t have the problems I had with the other students and would always defend me. I was noisy and talkative, which added on to the fact that everyone judged me for “talking white” and soon because I was skinny. I felt like there was a barrier between me and the other kids that I couldn’t see. I can take credit for half the drama I was in, but I also didn’t take it well when people told me I needed to eat bread or called me white. It was like there was a sign on me that said, “I'M DIFFERENT, YOU SHOULD JUDGE ME.” I started to change myself and try to act more like them, but the skinny girl who “talked white” always stuck with me. I hated being told that I was something that I wasn’t.  
I once got into a big conflict that broke everything in me. I hated myself, I thought I was ugly, I had no friends other than Ava and I often felt she was only my friend because she felt bad for me, so at times, I would be rude for no reason. Everything about that me was insecure and had no self-love at all. I was always wondering what was wrong with me or where I went wrong. I saw myself as an outcast.  
The next year my mom took me to a new school, the school I attend now. I was fed up with being walked over and feeling bad for myself. At my new school, which was smaller and more similar to private schools I attended, I gave up on trying to fit in and undergoing the weights of trying to be someone I wasn’t. The experiences I had in the sixth grade environment taught me that who I was, was okay no matter what anyone else thought. At this point, I disregarded what anyone said and never let it hurt me.  
With this new me, I felt that I released so much weight off my shoulders. At the same time, I realized that even with me not caring about what others thought I became insensitive and disregarded other people's feelings. I soon realized this and still work to change it and be more thoughtful of other people’s feelings, but I used to care more about other people’s feelings than mine which was why I was taken advantage of, so it’s hard for me to be very considerate. Looking at the world through my eyes and no one else's, without being judged for it, everything feels better and I'm always happier.

© Taylor Sani Hendley. 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.