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“You’re in the wrong line, Melody!” my former classmate shouted across the blacktop. Heads turned and people stared, and my blushing cheeks complemented my hot pink shirt. I felt embarrassed and proud at the same time. On a hot September day in 2001, I skipped second grade. Was this a foolish choice or a smart move? I say everything in life happens for a reason, so I am sure it was the right decision, easy or not.
I was an early walker, talker, and reader. By kindergarten, I played Mozart sonatas on the piano and helped fourth-graders with their math. My handwriting was messy merely because my hand could not keep up with my brain. In first grade I was miles ahead of my classmates, so my parents and school officials agreed that I should skip second grade. On the first day of third grade, when all my friends formed lines on the blacktop behind their second-grade teachers, I gave a shy smile and nervously approached the crowd of unfamiliar third-grade faces. I was tempted to run away and shrink into the shadows.
Several months later, I moved to my current hometown of Palos Verdes, California. The story about my age spread quickly; here, skipping a grade is about as common as a high school hosting the Olympics. I started to become embarrassed about the fact that I was a year or two younger. I was determined to keep my age a secret in middle school, but on the first day of sixth grade, my P.E. teacher made us organize by birth year to determine our required times for the mile. Not surprisingly, I was the only student in the 1994 group, and this caused much confusion among my classmates. “Why are you so young?” “I was that age in fourth grade!” These words mortified me, but regardless of my embarrassment, I still managed to have a successful middle school career, complete with a high GPA and a position as a tutor for ELD students.
The stigma worsened in high school. I was the youngest of 2,400 students, but I faced my fear of people finding out my secret and ran for class president. Despite the fact that I was adapting to people knowing my age, new obstacles kept coming my way. I started having to shamefully admit that I was not old enough to obtain my driver’s license and turn down invitations to see R-rated movie in theaters because of my age. When new people find out that I skipped a grade and the reason why, I can tell that their opinions of me automatically revert to assuming that I am a genius. I still timidly slide my hand over forms that require writing my birth year for fear that someone near me will see.
While skipping a grade has presented a lot of difficulties, it has also shaped me into a stronger person. I am very tolerant of people with different backgrounds because I can relate. I work better in difficult circumstances because I am used to being constantly challenged, and I value my friends who defend me against people who ridicule my age. I am also very proud of the fact that, year after year, I have been able to adjust to new classes and new groups of people. Facing such an obstacle has caused me to acquire great people skills to compensate, so I am now a very socially adequate person. My friends say that I should not worry about my age at all, because I am still at the same — or higher — maturity level of everyone in my grade.
I admit that I am scared for college. I fear the moment when my roommate finds out how young I am, that first impression that I cannot reverse. I will always be the young one; that is something I cannot change. However, over the years I have learned that age is just a number, and it does not define a person. Only their individual contributions to society can do that.
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