I remember my first day of school in IICS: 11 January 2012. I was a very timid and introverted person. However, as quiet as I was, I was very observant. I remember walking into the 11.4 classroom for the first time and looking intently into every single soul’s face. With every face I saw, I began to form expectations of the future relationship I would have with each person and although it seemed like every face caught my attention, there was one face that stood out above all others so much so that it was the only face which I had put a name to when I walked home from school that day.
This face stood out for reasons I may never be able to articulate. Maybe it was his warm smile that he put on when he greeted me for the first time which made me feel somewhat at ease. Maybe it was the fact that he only spoke to me to ask for my name the entire day, no more, no less. Maybe it was even the fact that his name is so similar to the name of the first person who greeted me on my first day in a previous school. I will never know for sure exactly why.
His face gave me a little bit of hope, but there were still blurred lines in my vision, signalling that I did not quite yet pick up a sense of belonging. However, my first sense of belonging came about on the third day of school.
That morning, the person who usually sat in the seat to my left was not in school and for whatever reason, all the seats in the rows behind me were full. Three seconds before the first bell of the day sounded, a dashing young man rushed into the classroom just in time for homeroom period. He would have sat with his usual group of friends in the back of the classroom but that day, he did not have a choice, he had to sit in one of the two empty seats in the first row and he chose the empty one next to me.
I remained silent and listened attentively to the morning devotion being delivered as I tried to glue my eyes to my Bible so that I could not see that other people were staring at my peculiar ways. I seemed extremely introverted and anti-social; that was indeed what I was trying to seem like. I acted like that to prevent any negative first impressions of myself. I thought I managed to fly under the radar until the boy who just sat down in the seat next to me looked over and called out my name. He saw that I had a badminton racket and saw what my choice of Physical Education class was. He seemed surprised. He asked me why badminton and not some other sport that’s more popular like basketball or soccer. I gave an answer: I wanted to try something new. Little did he know that to me, all sports were new.
After Physical Education class which happened to be the first one of the day, we returned to the classroom and proceeded with regular lessons. The boy next to be seemed to keep looking to the back of the classroom trying to communicate with his friends. However, an equal number of times, he turned his head to look at me, who was quiet and seemingly tense, and asked me a random thing or two.
We came to the last subject of the day: Mathematics. The teacher came in and asked us to do exercises from our textbook. I began to work on them and got them done in no time because the topic just so happened to be my forte. Meanwhile, the boy sitting next to me seemed to struggle a lot. As he did occasionally throughout the day, he took a glance at me but this time he saw me just sitting there and staring into space out of boredom. He was surprised with how I was done with my work. He quickly picked up my thing for Mathematics and asked for help on the first question.
As that eighty-minute class period went on, he asked me for more and more help and took less and less glances at his friends at the back. With every question which I helped him with, he picked up the momentum and did more and more questions. At a certain point, he was definitely far ahead of the progress of the rest of the students in the class.
The dismissal bell was about to ring in about three and a half minutes. Seeing this, all the students in the class started packing up their things. As we all counted down the seconds leading up to the bell, the boy sitting next to me turned to me for the last time on that day and said “I think I’ve become far more diligent sitting next to you today. I think I’ll sit with you again next week. Thanks for everything today, bro!”.
In that moment, for the first time in the school, I felt a true sense of belonging. Someone had just acknowledged the fact that I had a role to play in the school and that I was contributing something to the people there. He was the first person to establish my presence in the school.
In life, we do things that are significant: things that we do in the hopes of changing lives. Then there are other things which we do that we are fully aware are insignificant: things that we do most usually for the sake of doing something. There are also things we do subconsciously. But there are these things that happen because they happened and because we happened. There are these events that take place as a result of seemingly random circumstances. These events that occur can either tear people apart or bring them closer together. One can’t control circumstances and something subconscious is something which one can’t really control. But some people can ride the waves and then make a sudden spin around and end things off nicely, adding the special touch which inevitably brings people closer together as if they had planned everything out from the beginning. Every event that occurs is an opportunity presenting itself to introduce a mutual sense of belonging.
That day, I came home with a new-found sense of belonging, especially to a person who has gone on to become a hero in my life and gone on inspire me: Calvin Njotowidjojo.