Towards the beginning of my freshman year of high school, we read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck in my English class. Ordinarily, we would read the chapters at home as homework, but on this particular day we were on the last chapter, so my teacher decided to read it in class. As I did with many of the books I read, I had become very emotionally invested in it. I related the characters and their dreams to my own life, and the line between my own far off dreams and George and Lenny’s dream to own a cute farm in the countryside soon became blurry.
I was already aware that Of Mice and Men did not have a conventional ending, due to comments I heard about it being a sad book, but I wasn’t about to let go of my happy ending just yet. I sat down in my seat and pulled out my book to follow along with my teacher as she read, believing that whatever ending there was, it was just a book… right?
And then it came. That dreadful part of the book I still tear up just thinking about today. I’ll try to refrain from giving any spoilers, but if you’ve read the book, you know what I’m talking about. To sum it up, it was in no way the “dreams do come true” ending I had consumed in most of the books I had read before then. As my mind processed what exactly this meant for my own dreams, I felt a drop of water slowly fall down my cheek. And then more. I prayed no one else would notice and I would just stop crying soon, until my classmate asked in a warry voice “are you okay?”.
“No” I replied, not really knowing what else to say, as it was quite obvious I was indeed, not okay. This caused other heads to turn until my whole table was looking from me to one another, confused about how a teenage girl could take a short story about two middle-aged men so seriously.
And then came the double whammy, as I no longer just felt disappointment, but embarrassment. I immediately got out of my chair and ran out of the classroom. My intention was to go wait it out in the bathroom, but, of course, freshman me did not know where the bathrooms were in the high school, so I ended up walking aimlessly through the hallways avoiding judgemental looks.
This was in no way how I imagined my start to high school. I imagined my teachers would learn how devoted I was to what we were learning through my essays, not my tears, and I hoped my peers would recognize me as their friend, not “the girl who cried reading Of Mice and Men.” But as I reflect on this moment four years later, I cannot think of a better introduction to the high school experience.
Embarrassing moments have always had a way of finding me, and high school was no exception. Although Of Mice and Men may be my most climactic embarrassing story from high school, there were many unfortunate situations to come after that. After many years of being subject to these situations, they stopped having as much of the terrifying effect they used to. Instead, they became stories I would take note of to laugh about with my friends later. To be completely honest, crying during the ending of Of Mice and Men is now a fond memory of mine. It was the first time I fell in love with–a book we were assigned in class–and I learned a lot from both that book and that moment.
So, some advice for anyone reading this: stop viewing embarrassing moments through a negative lens. Just think of it as content for the memoir you’re going to write when you’re famous, or the funny scene from an indie movie where you’re the main character. These scenarios sound silly, but this is honestly all an embarrassing moment is. Now I’m aware that embarrassment is an emotion, and, therefore, not exactly controllable. I definitely still get embarrassed, but sometimes you just need to remember it’s not the end of the world. High school is full of beautifully awkward moments and mistakes that help you develop as a person. Give that obviously wrong answer in class. High five that kid that was actually waving to his friend. This is prime content, my friend. It’ll be painfully cringey at first, but, before you know it, the frivolous moments in your life will no longer hold you back and you can focus on being unapologetically yourself.