by Alyssa Ahn
February 22, 2021
There was this day, I remember. Actually, there are a lot of those days. Days when my body tenses as soon as I wake up, and I just know it isn’t going to be a good day. These are the days when I sleep through my alarm. My eyelids pop open, and I desperately dive out of bed. I rush to the bathroom, glance at my contact lens case, check my watch, adjust my mask, sigh, and rush out. And my glasses press heavier onto my skin. Those are days when things don’t go my way.
I dash through the kitchen with a heavy backpack crushing my shoulders. I smell those delicious crispy Costco croissants before shutting the door. I run to school on those days. I run like a prowling, snarling monster is chasing me — I run like the person who dies in horror movies. I run because I’m running for my life. I know that oversleeping leads to getting to school late, which leads to failing tests, which leads to bad grades. But that’s not why I run.
Some people walk. When they’re late, they stroll in, acting casual, saving face. I can’t save face on those days — on those days, it feels like pieces of the world are cracking off, falling bit by bit; it feels like my face is fragmented, eroding into dust, and I’m alone. I do walk into class. I act calm, keep my head down, and don’t bring others down with me — I walk into class quietly. As long as I’m still running to school, still trying, things are okay.
On some of the days when things don’t go my way, I try to get up, and I try to run to school. But sometimes, as I get closer to the parking lot, I pause for a moment and ask, “Why am I doing this? Why am I trying — what’s the point?” And then I remember.
I remember the people who I see on those days. People who always smile when they see me and tentatively nod in my direction — I see you, and I smile back with real warmth. I remember the BUA who saw me as a girl in eighth grade. They smiled and shook my hand and said, “I’m pleased to finally meet you.” They accepted me, and I grinned when I got the box and hugged The Odyssey.
When everyone has almost gone to their second class of the day, I bounce up, smile and thank my teacher, wipe my desk, collect my things, and step toward the door. My friend waits for me. She smiles and greets me. When I walk into the next classroom, the whole room is always too bright. There are people slumped in chairs and people slumped on the floor. But when class starts and a familiar, grinning face projected on the board waves at us, we all smile. We have fun, and I laugh.
I remember the person who always walks with me to get tested and waits for me in between classes and smiles when they see me. I’m grateful for the people who see me. One gesture of kindness is all it takes to start making those days better. When I’m having a bad day, or when I’m thinking about those days when I do things wrong, when things go wrong, I remember the kindnesses — and those true kindnesses and courtesies are why I run to school. So I try to give back every day with a little extra kindness to myself and to others. Because being kind is who I am; because I have to remember who I am to experience truly happy days.