I was born in Lima, Peru. But due to my dad’s transfer (He was in the military), my family and I had to move to his hometown, Arequipa. In Arequipa, I attended a private school named “Lord Byron”; this school is the most known one in the city, mainly because of how students can be and how students must learn English and French throughout their time there. And that is how I learned speaking, reading, and writing English and, at some point, French.
Ever since my first day (In my first year too) of school, I became best friends with my best friend, Roxana. Roxana and I were and still are inseparable. I made a lot of friends too, but perhaps there is no one as close to me as Roxana. My school days in Lord Byron were so long and so different from my actual school days in Jupiter High School.
To start with, our regular school day started at 7:30am and did not finish until 4:00pm. In class, we could not get a pass to go to the bathroom (And locker) or eat a snack… We could not even drink water! During lunch time, we could not bring our own lunch from home; the cooks took care of our food, but I could not skip lunch… I was forced to eat what they cooked, even if I did not like it. There are times when my parents (And siblings) wonder why I am “so picky with the food”, the answer is always the same, that is what Lord Byron did to me.
In Lord Byron, we always had shows for Mother’s Day (May), Patriotic Feasts (July), Lord Byron’s Anniversary (October) and Christmas/End of the School Year (December). In those shows, all students from all classes had to dance. We would have dance rehearsals and had to rent costumes. I usually was in the very back of the stage, where normally people do not bother to look at… Perhaps this also is one of the reasons why I have low self-esteem. But by then, I did not mind much… That is, until the bullying happened.
Around two days after the dance rehearsals for the Mother’s Day show began, Roxana and I were called to the principal’s office (Who happened to also be the owner of the school, and the grandmother of a girl in my class). I do not really remember what exactly she said in the beginning; what I do remember though, were the following words: “The costume for your assigned dance… It is tight for the body and a little higher than the knee. What can I say? I personally would not like to put you two in the stage knowing that you are, well… Fat. And you, Sarabet (My middle name), you also are short. I mean, it is up to you if you want to participate or not but again, I would not do it if I were you”.
I remember the whole room was silent after that, and since no one else seemed to say something in response, she kept going.
“What we can do though, is that you both may enroll in a gym and here at school, I will ask the cooks to not give you a huge amount of food. As a matter of fact, Ms. Gina (Basically her right hand, she was a Spanish teacher. She just happened to be there. She constantly picked on me when she was my teacher two years before just because I did not do my homework once). “She will go with you two right now to the cafeteria so starting today, you will not eat much. And hopefully you guys will look amazing for when the Patriotic Feasts dance rehearsals begin. Other than that, you are good to go.”
And just like that, next thing I knew is that I was right next to Roxana, who seemed totally fine, walking behind Ms. Gina to the cafeteria. Once we got there, she took care of telling the cooks what was “the plan”. I remember all (Or at least most) of them looking at us up and down. And again, Roxana did not seem bothered or annoyed at all.
I never felt so small, and not necessarily in height, but more like… Everyone was around me, and they were too good for me, while I was not worth a look. But I prohibited myself to cry, I always was good at hiding that anyway… And although I was close to explode, I managed to ‘keep calm’. It was then that two or three days later, an upper-class girl stopped me and asked if I was all right. I said that I felt fine and when I asked her why, it took all of my will to not scream what a liar the principal was. Apparently, the principal called all girls that were not considered ‘skinny’ and told them a less rude version of what she said to Roxana and me. She also added drama to it by saying that while she told us all that crap. I was crying like my life depended on it. And obviously, those that did not know the truth believed that lie.
I will not describe everything else that happened but I will say that it was living hell… Literally, and not because of my fellow class students, but because of the principal and the cooks.
It was then around June, probably two weeks after my birthday that my sister, who moved to the United States in 2007 and my mom were talking on the phone and to be honest, I did not pay attention to what they were saying. Although later on, both of my parents and I sat down in our living room and began their speech: “Carla (My sister) moved to the United States in 2007, then Sergio (My brother) left to France in 2009… The question is, where will you go? We are not trying to say that you have to move to another country or anything, but we know what you are going through at school. You seem stressed, you barely sleep now, you go to the gym and literally knock yourself out there, but you do not seem happy. So we were talking to your sister, and we are asking you how would you like the idea of living in the United States?”
At first, I thought it was a joke. That they were not serious but then I realized they were dead serious and without thinking much of how my friends will react, I said “Yes please!”. I did not tell anyone about it, specially not Roxana. She probably would have literally killed me if she knew by then. I then decided to quit on the gym, and focus on my school work. If that was going to be my last year in that strict prison that I called school, at least I was going to leave a good impression. Maybe not the best, but at least one that was good enough.
So, it happened! I kept studying, messing up my sleeping schedule, and doing what I had to do in order to achieve great results. Yeah, the bullying from the principal kept going and somehow I managed to be on the very front at the Patriotic Feasts show, but I was counting the days to get the heck out of there. Then, in late November the dance rehearsals for the Christmas/End of the School Year began and I said I would not be part of this last dance. The ‘director’ of that dance, did not care at all so… Let’s just say that he shoved me off. I could not care less. When my class teacher, Ms. Jimena, asked me why I was not going to be dancing I was not sure if I should tell her the truth, so I simply responded by saying “My parents and I are going to travel before Christmas, we are going to visit my sister and my mom bought our plane tickets for the same day of the show.” She smiled and said she was happy for me. Which I thanked her.
Everything was going great, too great to be honest… The principal did not make any comments that I decided to skip the show, which was kinda surprising and bad at the same time. Something was going to be up, and it probably would affect me. Turns out, that when I went to the capital, Lima, so the next day I can be on my way to Miami, the principal demanded that if anyone was absent after the last final test, that student will have an F for every day he or she misses. I was absent 3 days after the last final test, which meant I had 3 Fs for all of my classes. This almost cost me to go back in January for Summer School, but luckily, I still passed all my classes and I was able to sit down and just shake those memories off. I was free, I finally was in the United States of America. Where no principal will cut me off for being short, not skinny, not blonde, not blue-eyed, nothing. No one here knew me or my story, just my family. And that is something I was thankful for.
Then, in January 2014 I came to Jupiter High School (Jupiter, FL) to continue my education. After all, I did not graduate from Lord Byron. And although in Lord Byron I was a Sophomore, in the United States the educational system was completely different, so I began the second semester in Jupiter High School as a Freshman. And in that short time that I was Freshman, I met my friends that I could die for, my teachers who are always helping me out and make coming to school worth it! Maybe it is odd to hear a 17-year-old teenager say that she likes school, but I just loved it here! It was obvious that I found my actual home!
I will not deny that I was so nervous to begin a new school life, specially in another country, where the language is different, and the culture is variated. After all, my self-esteem was low, REALLY low; I tried not give it mind, because as I mentioned before, the principal and the cooks of Lord Byron were not here to give me a hard time. But what she said, and the looks they gave me; they made me doubt myself. I was scared. Scared of not having any friends, scared of not being accepted, scared of being judged, scared of being rejected…
But how funny life can be, the people I met at Jupiter High School are a big part of me. My first best friends ever since Freshman year, Evin and Stephen, are like my big brothers that look after me and vice versa. Then I kept meeting amazing people who are now my friends too! And the same happened with my dating life. In Lord Byron, they made me believe that no one would ever like to date me because of my physique. But in the US, that idea turned 360 degrees! Because when I lost hope on dating, and thought that I was not good enough, my current boyfriend came to my life and changed that way of thinking. And although maybe he is not perfect, he is just too perfect for me… Literally.
My life in here is not perfect, just like everyone else I have good days and bad days. But that does not stop me from loving America and enjoy every single day I spend here like it was the last one.