The True Meaning of a Book

I walked into the library to hand in the books for the last time at my middle school. I saw two of my close guy friends sitting on the couch as I looked up to say goodbye, tears from the both of them filled their eyes and I was completely taken aback. I'll never forget when one of my friends looked at me and said, "Cassie, I am so sorry it came to this. Please know that we don't want you to leave. It's stupid, they're stupid. Don't listen to the things that they say. Please. We don't want you to move." I gave him a hug, said my goodbyes and walked towards the front office. 

I had had enough. My family had had enough. My mom was allowing me to withdrawal from the school district I had grown up in to move somewhere where I knew no one, all in part to avoiding the "mean girls", their families, and the constant drama that followed. I wish I had kept a journal of the day-to-day interactions that occurred between myself and the "popular group." It wasn't as though we weren't friends, but when you didn't just follow the ring leader and do as she said or said as she did, well, you were a target. I looked at myself as everyone's friend. I wanted to be the mediator, and I remember trying to insert myself into the popular crowd to help "fix things," but then once my services were done being needed there was also something to make fun of me about. 

Here I am in 6th grade. 

My favorite TV star - Hillary Duff aka Lizzie McGuire. If you remember Lizzie, you remember her as her own self, she fixed her hair crazy, she wore crazy outfits, she was just different. I loved that. That was what I felt like I was. I enjoyed doing what I liked, dressing how I liked. I loved school. I loved reading. I loved writing. I also loved sports. I made sure I was friends with more boys than girls, because they just didn't put up with junk. They made sure that our time hanging out was just hanging out, having a good time, playing games, sports, watching movies, not drama or talking about other people. That's what I enjoyed. Which also made it hard for this "group" of girls because when they had a crush on one of the boys, who did they come to? Me. Then when they were dating, I was all of a sudden trying to "take" their boyfriend. It was all ridiculous. It got to the point of parents of this group coming to my mother's work, confronting her at her job (as a school librarian), all because of who I was "dating" in 8th grade (which, let's be real, what was dating in 8th grade - phone calls and my parents taking me to the movie theatre) was who the ringleader wanted to be dating. There were times I should've kept my mouth shut, I was caught in the middle of drama trying to just make everyone be friends, but in the end, I know that my behavior was not wrong. I know that all I wanted was for everyone to love everyone. 
I was really depressed. 
I was crying all the time. 
I would leave basketball practice which was 3rd period and run to my mom's library at the school next door. 
I didn't want to go to school. 
I didn't want to be in the hallway with these people. 
I drowned myself in writing, and reading. 

It wasn't until I read Stargirl by Jerry Spinneli did I really feel like it was okay. 
It was okay to be who I wanted to be. 
It was okay to dress how I wanted to dress. 
It was okay to not be with the in crowd because I would have that small tight knit group of people who would always have my back. 

When I say I was depressed, y'all, it was to a point that even my parents didn't truly understand. I didn't think I deserved anything or anyone. I cried, a lot. I carried Stargirl's story around in my heart for years after that. I still moved. Which was the best decision my parents could have ever agreed to. 

As a young adult I grew up knowing there were going to be other me's out there. Other Stargirl's who needed to be told or reminded it's okay to be different. 
It's okay to not follow the crowd or;
it's okay if you aren't raised by young parents, but your grandparents, but as long as you are happy and you figure out who you are and love that, you will be okay.

I wanted to help those other Stargirl's of the world and teaching was a calling I had always had. Reading was something I always wanted to share with others and I knew I could do that by becoming an educator, by creating those relationships with students that I remember having with a handful of my teachers, and by continuing and sharing my reading life.
I read because it changed my life. 
I keep a copy of Stargirl on my desk at school to remind me of who I was, who I am, and who I need to be for my students. 

There's a book out there for every single person. As an educator, please find those students who need those mirrors, who need those stories to know that they are okay just the way that they are. Middle grades are tricky. Kids are discovering who they are and who they aren't. Reading takes you places, it helps you to see others, but more importantly it helps you to see yourself, and that yourself is the best you can possibly be. 


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