There was a time when I stopped caring about school and my grades, and what the consequences would be when the report card came. Instead, I cared more about being popular and accepted, which lead to being handed a tough lesson that I never thought I’d recover from.

This all started in grade three when I realized that competing for a boy’s attention took more than being nice. I had to work harder at being noticed. This lead to discovering that I needed to get accepted into the group of popular girls, who were successful at getting attention from the boys in my grade.

Initiation at the Love Hill

My effort finally paid off when one day I was invited to the “love hill.” This was the ultimate invitation to be initiated into the popular girls group. A popular guy wanted to kiss me! I was finally noticed.

In case you’re wondering, the “love hill” is merely a grassy hill on the playground. On one side, out of sight from the teachers, was a spot worn down to the dirt, were the girl would lie on her back at an angle and wait for the boy who chose her, to arrive.

Of course, there would be others around holding my shoulders down so I wouldn’t squirm and chicken out when the boy tried to kiss me. Being in this spot on the hill was only dreamed of, that’s until that dream came true and an overwhelming feeling of anxiousness made me fearful of what was to come. After all, I was only eight years old.

When the time finally came, he leaned in and kissed me quickly. Then the boys would be victorious and the girls would giggle. That was the “love hill” experience.

After this took place, I was fully accepted into the group. The pressure was now on to maintain this status of being “cool.”

Unfortunately, the consequence of being cool and noticed was falling grades and trips to the Principle’s office.

The Consequence Became Real

I recall vividly one evening, near the end of the fifth grade, sitting on the large, beige floral chair in our living room with my mom and dad sitting across from me. Here I cried as they delivered the news that I’d be held back a year. The first thought was that I would no longer be a part of the popular girls’ group. Something I worked so hard to achieve and now ripped away from me. “But my friends!” I yelled at them. I was so angry and resentful.

The first day of my second year of grade five was devastating. I felt this massive discomfort that everyone who looked at me judged me and saw me as a loser. No longer was I that popular girl.

I was made to adjust to a new way of being. I had to, if I was going to survive the consequences of my bad choices.

Good Choices come with Rewards and Challenges

To my surprise, I was soon befriended by many of my new classmates. And as I made some effort, my teacher become supportive and encouraged me to improve. The pressure was off and I was able to just be me.

That second year in grade five I was the president of the class, and a mentor to some of my classmates. Those roles naturally came about because I was nice. I was popular for the right reasons.

There were times though, when the popular girls would try to drag me back into that old, negative way of being. They would approach me while playing soccer, call me to the sidelines and entice me to join them again. And when I refused they began to tease me and belittle me. But I had a taste of both sides, and liked where I was.

Support is there when We Try

For the longest time there was that reminder deeply engrained in me that I was a failure. That I was a loser. As I continued to create experiences where I persevered and succeeded, that feeling began to dissipate.

If it wasn’t for that day when my parents had the courage to tell their little girl that she had to repeat grade five, I wouldn’t have learned this tough lesson. When we make some effort, there are many others—teachers, friends, and family—out there to offer their support and help us succeed. They see something in us that we’re not aware of. Something better than we can imagine in that moment. The only thing we have to do is try.

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