Whenever someone speaks in front of our student body or is shown up on a video screen before daily chapel, one of two things usually happens. Friends usually holler and hoot with joy instead of listening to the message. In contrast, everyone might remain silent, causing an sense of awkwardness to wash over the room.
Last year, I decided to run for student senate. My goal was to be a bright light on campus by helping those struggling with mental health, disabilities, and loneliness. These ambitions were great and things I still hope for my university to implement.
However, I was not the right person to run for student government. With barely any friends on campus and no involvement in extracurricular activities, I stuck out as a misfit in the video package about the candidates running for senate. As fellow students watched us talk, they yelled out encouragement and approval of every person running for student government.
Well, everyone candidate except for me. Just as I feared, the room of over 1,000 students was deathly quiet when my face appeared on the screen. Afterward, I wanted to find a dark place to hide. Who in their right mind would vote for a nobody like me?
Needless to say, the students did not elect me to student government. Less than 100 voted for me which was over 100 less than the next lowest candidate. However, every one of those little votes counted. Some people had decided to take a chance on me, the unknown girl.
Thinking back on this situation still causes pain. I wanted to be a difference maker and bringer of truth. Instead, people viewed me as an unpopular kid who was not one of their close friends. What was one good reason that they should vote for me?
This year, I have been in numerous school activities: speech team, theater, writing for the newspaper, editing the newspaper website, staying overnight with friends, going to school events, being an officer of Sigma Tau Delta International Honors Society, starting up and being a member of a disabilities appreciation club, etc. Popularity will probably always be out of my grasp, but honest and fun relationships are an important part of my life now. No, people do not scream my name, but they do smile when I walk past them on the sidewalk. Some even stop to give me a hug and talk. That means so much more than just being cool or popular.
That being said, several friends finally made one of my dreams come true. After chapel yesterday, a short video of student news played for the students. Most had already left, scurrying off to classes and chatting with friends. However, I lingered, wondering if a short interview that I had done about the new disability club was in this news clip.
A smile crept onto my face despite clenching of my stomach as my face appeared on the big screen. There I was, purple dress and pink jewelry trying to distract from my acne and strange smile. Ugh, I hated how I looked but loved that I was given the privilege to speak out about the new disability appreciation club.
Then from the front room, two guys yelled out at the same time. “Anna Rose! Look, it’s you! I know her! ANNA ROSE!” Flailing arms pointed at the screen before two of my cast members, Cassidy and Aaron, turned around and waved at me.
Blushing, I nodded wordlessly and smiled at my friends. A moment later, they returned their attention to the guys around them and forgot about that moment. I, on the other hand, will always hold that memory close. Someone yelled out my name and cheered me on in front of the student body. Sure, most of the students were gone, but that does not make it any less sweet.
Social anxiety and aspergers make situations with peers extremely stressful. Over the years, I have longed to be popular and cried over numerous rejections. Being the life of the party and funnest person to be with is not who I am. However, that does not mean I have to be alone.
You might feel similar. Being overlooked and dismissed is painful. However, having true friendships and deep relationships is so much more meaningful than popularity. Plus, you never know when someone will yell out your name.