This I Believe: I Believe In Switching Seats

May 25, 2017

Essayist Lilly Caldwell.
Credit Emily Reddy / WPSU

I believe in switching seats.

When I was in 5th grade I was great at switching seats. I sat at different lunch tables every day. I hung out with people older than me. I hung out with people my age. I had tons of friends. But I didn’t have any I was super close with. That all changed when I reached 6th grade. Starting the second semester, I was only at one lunch table; I only sat in one seat. I was part of something called "Super Squad."

Our group did everything together. We would go to the mall, go downtown, have sleepovers at each other’s house, hang out at the school dance. It felt like we were sharing an identity.

Super squad gave me a way to belong, but it also showed me the difficulties of middle school. Gossip. Clinging. Exclusion. I paid attention to the people in my group but didn’t spend time with any of my other friends.

The person I’d been in 5th grade had turned invisible, and a new version of me appeared. I had forgotten who I used to be.  I wasn’t the girl who sat with everyone anymore.

Toward the end of that school year, I felt a small shift. One member of the group left, and she left a small hole. Over the summer I started to feel things changing even more. When the next school year started, another member left the group because she wanted to branch out. She made the hole even bigger. One day after getting out of the lunch line, I stood there with my tray. I thought to myself, “What am I doing?” I went to my table, but after sitting down for a few minutes listening to people’s plans for that weekend, and what they were gossiping about, I realized I wanted something different. I got up and headed to a different table. I went to the table straight across from where I was sitting. I was ready to make a change.

But when I sat down, someone asked me why I was sitting at there. I realized they were doing the same thing I had done to others in 6th grade. When someone sat with us, we would try to exclude them. And now the same thing was happening to me. That was when I realized it’s important to switch seats.

Sometimes, when you’re part of a group, a bubble can grow around you. It separates you from everyone else, and you don’t notice when different people join you. You can get so caught up in your friendships and routines that you miss out on meeting new people.

But when you try sitting somewhere new for a day it breaks the bubble around you. You experience a new perspective and are pushed out of your comfort zone. You become more aware of the people around you. When new people try and sit with you, you welcome them instead of pretending they’re not there.

I believe in switching seats.

Lilly Caldwell is a 7th grader at Delta Middle School.