Coming out of my shell: Painful Partings

A final message from your neighborhood tortoise

Emily Xia

I’m bad at a lot of things.

During first period, I tried to drink water from my open-mouthed water bottle, and  somehow managed to drip water onto my shirt, my lecture notes and my lab partner. Needless to say, he wasn’t very excited.

During lunch, I attempted to eat a delicious serving of my mom’s fried rice. By the time I had finished, there was a pile of rice on the floor, because apparently the distance from the thermos to my mouth is too much for my clumsy hand to handle.

During passing period, I kept stepping on my friend’s poor feet and pushing us towards the left because I am incapable of walking in a straight line like a normal human being.

To be frank, I’m a mess. I’m insecure, indecisive, self-deprecating, awkward, unfocused and a crybaby.

And that’s where you come in, dear reader.

Nine months ago, I first met you — an incoming junior, eager to begin a new chapter of my high school career. That’s when I first lovingly started to place tortoises into the design of  my thin magazine page, and when I decided that I would broadcast all of my faults to the public.

I’m not sure when it exactly happened, but recently I’ve become known as the “turtle girl” to strangers who recognize me in the hallway. It’s tortoise, by the way. But no matter. I guess “tortoise girl” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Now I suppose that being compared to a slow-moving, vegetable-eating reptile is not exactly the most flattering thing in the world, but I’ve grown fond of these often overlooked animals. They give me strength and allow me to make unexpected connections with others. In fact, after writing “Tissue Turmoil,” I was called out of my fourth period class by student advocate Richard Prinz just so he could tell me how much he enjoyed my story. I discovered that with my emotional vulnerability, I could create interpersonal relationships I had never previously thought imaginable.

Putting my life on paper, knowing that my friends, teachers and random people I see on the C building stairs would see and critique everything about me — I must have been either enormously courageous or truly insane. To this day, I’m not exactly sure which category I fall into.

Illustration by Emily Xia

I had spent my entire life running away, unable to confront my insecurities. I waited inside my shell, knowing that as soon as I left, I would be attacked and ridiculed. But writing my column forced me to come face-to-face with my problems, to look at them and decide if I wanted to accept them or change them.

Rather than sitting on the sidelines of life, I pushed myself to get on the stupidly-unfair field and play.

I cried from stress, yelled out of frustration and procrastinated way too much, but one way or another, I got through every difficult week, every hard time and every emotional rollercoaster. By the time you’re reading this, I’ll be done with junior year of high school.

And I don’t admit this that often, but I’m so proud of myself, and I hope that you are too. Because even if you’re disappointed by your circumstances or didn’t perform as well as you hoped this year, you made it to where you are today — and gosh darn, that’s an achievement.

The journey isn’t over; far from it. Although I’ve continuously confronted my emotions and mistakes this year, there’s still a long way to go. Trust me, I’m still god-awful at plenty of things, and one of them just happens to be saying goodbye.

But that’s the challenge, right? Doing things you’re not comfortable with and becoming a better person because of it.

I’m out of my shell and reaching for more. I’ll cherish my tortoise drawings and the lessons I’ve learned, and I hope you will too.

Thanks for everything. See ya!