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Isaiah had never been cool or popular. He was known as strange, the weird kid - the weirdo - and he stuck to himself. The mean girls and popular kids didn't help his shyness, really hurt his self-esteem, and so, after middle school, he was determined to make high school different.
But his first day was scary - new school, new people, and he was still so shy. He set a goal for himself right then. He would overcome his shyness so he could have a chance at being popular. He would join sports teams, get invited to the parties, and would - he hoped - become one of the cool kids. He had envy for them.
So, one day he gathered his strength, pushed down his shyness and ignored his bruised self-esteem, and sat down at the table with all the cool kids.
It was worse than he even imagined. They were all best friends, the jocks and mean girls, the beautiful people - and they just glared at him. They couldn't believe Isaiah, of all people, had the nerve to come and sit with them at their lunch table. After all, he was still known as the weirdo, that had followed him from middle school to high school.
He stayed where he was though, stayed brave, and tried to talk to them, tried to join into their conversations, but they all ignored him - literally turned their backs on him. He ate his lunch, embarrassed and totally alone, even though he was surrounded by those other kids.
But the next day, this girl named Mona - one of the cool kids, in fact, probably the most popular girl at school - came up to Isaiah and asked him if he wanted to hang out with her.
He looked around and over his shoulder, confused and not believing that she was actually talking to him. He didn't trust it, not from this most popular girl in school, who had been so mean to him just the day before in the lunchroom. But she was, and, still confused, Isaiah said yes. "does she like me?"
And so they did, and they started hanging out together all the time and actually became really close, like best friends spending every day after school together, sharing secrets - always together.
Then they started to hang out with these other two people from that cool and popular crew and the four of them became a really close group. They were inseparable - the four of them now - and beyond popular.
They became the group that everyone wanted to be a part of. They hung out everyday after school, went to the mall, the movies, to each other's houses, to parties and it felt amazing, great, just what he wanted - all the attention, being popular and cool and part of a group.
BUT, even though he had wanted to change, had wished for it, had overcome his shyness and really worked on it, he noticed that he was changing in ways he hadn't imagined or planned for.
He started to become a really mean and awful person - just like Mona and all her friends had been to him, before he joined the group. He was mean to other kids, made fun of them, hurt them and made them feel small. And he realized that that was how he got popular, how he tried to stay popular, and without him knowing it fully, Mona had taught him to do it.
He remembered that Mona had the reputation of also being the meanest girl in the whole school, spreading evil rumors about people and talking behind other kids' backs, drama.
That wasn't really who Isaiah was, not at all, and so one day he just asked her "Why did you want to be my friend?" And she said that she felt sorry for him, and that she wanted to help him become cool and popular instead of the weird, loser, loner.
He was stunned, confused, and hurt, and he told her he needed a major break from her, and their little crew. but especially her. He suddenly realized that the person he was being, or acting like, wasn't really him, not at all, instead it was just a twisted version of Mona.
He found himself again, and things became so much better when he did. He made new friends, that were nice and pure and real - not evil and insecure - and he learned how much more important it was to be true to yourself than it was to be popular or cool to others.
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