I was eight years old and my family had just moved. On the first day at my new school, my teacher, Mrs. Diangelo, assigned me a buddy named Carolyn. She hung out with me at recess and lunch, and even walked to the place where I was supposed to meet my mom after school. My classmates thought it was cool that I lived right across the street in the house with the giant oak trees hanging over it. I was the first visually impaired student to attend the school, so they were curious and eager to help instead of seeing it as a reason to be mean. If I had any negative experiences associated with being the new kid, I don’t remember them. Being new meant being special, and what eight-year-old girl doesn’t get into that?
Flash forward many years and I was once again the new kid. Well, I wasn’t exactly a kid anymore, and I had actually moved back to the city I grew up in from age eight on, but I had just left the place that doubled as my support system—a community where I “grew up” in many ways—so a part of me felt like a third-grader at a new school. This time around, sad circumstances prompted the move. Moving meant leaving the church where everyone knew me as a singer and a writer who also led one of the small groups at Bible study and taught writing workshops. It meant saying goodbye to the place where I felt . . . well . . . popular and cool for the first time since showing up in Mrs. Diangelo’s class, and the people who had just seem me through a very difficult time. Now, when I walked into church no one knew me. They had no idea that I sang, wrote professionally, or had so many friends back in Reno that I was falling behind on keeping in touch with everyone. Those I met also had no idea what brought me back. I was just me, the new kid.
Then one day it hit, that in some ways, this could be a very good thing. The truth is I often struggled with wrapping my worth up in what I did. I often caught myself living as if my friends would forget I existed or think less of me if I wasn’t doing something impressive like singing a solo or writing a book. And then there was the ugly stuff that led to the move—the things that everyone back home knew about and so few knew the details of here. Suddenly if felt nice to walk into a Bible study with a friend and be introduced as just me. Those in the groups seemed perfectly okay with my generic answers to “So what brought you here?” When my friend mentioned that I was a writer, I felt no pressure inside to try to wow anyone. When this friend sent me a link to an announcement that the Easter choir season was about to start, knowing how much I loved to sing and missed choir and worship team, I shocked myself by deciding to wait until next year. Not that I didn’t wrestle with it, and still don’t struggle with the “Who am I now?” questions, but God is showing me that sometimes it is best to just be the new kid for a while.