Today, I learned that I rank fifteenth in my graduating class. With that revelation comes a certain degree of regret, that I did not try harder, study longer, take easy courses to boost my GPA rather than difficult ones to boost my degree of knowledge. It occurs to me now that, had I done so, I could have been in contention for one of the top spots. As it now stands, fourteen of my peers are better than me, when at most it should only be a handful. But as the song goes, "Try not to think about what might have been, 'cause that was then and we have taken different roads. We can't go back again, there's no use giving in, and there's no way to know what might've been." In the hour since I learned of my place in high school academic society, I've done what I can to take those words to heart. Concentrating on one's past decisions and wishing for the power to change them does nothing for one's state of mind.

But that's not what I'm talking about.

I want to talk about a different part of my day.

You'd think that teachers would have a somewhat higher morality level than most of the bottom-feeders they instruct. Students move in herds, love only those that are the same as them and are at the very least indifferent towards those they do not love. As there is no other student the same as I in this school, I consequently have no method to be loved. But I'm not talking about love. The accumulation of adults in charge of the school would presumably result in one grown-up clique - that is how they are seen, after all. Seeing is different from knowing, however, and I know that such is not the case. I was surprised, and slightly disillusioned, today when I realized the divisions such colleagues erect between them. Even the supposedly united departments are split, cutting off from the rest those I feel I might try to love. Perhaps it might reflect the same split I encounter with the younger generation, but that does not matter. I did not cause this one; I do not rule the world.

One of the herd I was speaking to today outwardly disparaged a fellow teacher's way of thinking, mocking something I'd said that reflected that, in a tone that afforded me to guess such a thought is unwelcome. I am not trying to further such divisions by speaking of them. I'm just trying to decide just what it was today that disgusted me so.

I ended my time at school today with a proclamation. I'm running away. I'm gone. I am not coming back here tomorrow to face the same things I've seen here every day and couldn't do anything about.

Because people love to make changes. To themselves and to others as well. It gives them a feeling of power over the planet, a sense of accomplishment that boosts their self-esteem and makes them happy, in an overtly smug kind of way. When one makes a change, or even prevents a change from occurring (as the act of doing so does still elicit a slight difference from yesterday), one is overcoming a person, place, situation, or idea. Thus, there are two factors in such a fight. The loser is forgotten, and the winner gets applause or a medal or an encouraging pat on the head.

Having ascertained the root of such joy, the question then becomes, How does one become unhappy?

That, simply, would be the failure to make an effect. Any at all. Competing with status quo, tradition, the powers that be, and failing in the attempt, ultimately having to be reminded of and constantly face that defeat every day. While the winners walk around arm-in-arm, forgetting they even won in the first place.

And what did I want to change? I say I because I admit, I am that quixotic soul. I'm the one going up against the small town mindset, the teachers, the administrators, the students, those contemporaries of mine that drive me up a wall. I want them to listen to me. But their aural skills are severely lacking, reminiscent of the deaf person that turns away from another without even realizing they were being spoken to.

My junior year in high school, I made the great error of inviting a sophomore to the prom. Actually, that wasn't the error, as precedents had been set decades prior to that fateful April day. No, the problem wasn't with my date's class. She was a she. And so am I.

She tried to buy her ticket from Ms. R- on a Friday. I was absent from school, but had informed the ticket sellers that I was taking my friend Calia so they'd know it was permissible to sell her one. Ms. R- refused. The principal was fetched. He claimed he'd have to check the "Prom Rule Book", according to a still angry and embarrassed Calia as she recounted the tale later that evening. We didn't understand what the problem was - we were going as friends, she was the little sister I never had, I only wanted her to have a good time. What was so wrong that the administration of a high school in the year 2002 felt they had to act like this?

Twice the following week, Calia was again denied her ticket. I looked up the phone number of the ACLU; my mother, the number of her lawyer. She called the principal at some point during those five days and threatened a discrimination lawsuit, which I believe is what caused him to concede. When we approached him, again, asking if I could bring Calia to the prom, he replied, "Tell Ms. R- I said you could."

At that, I grabbed Calia's wrist and marched her straight to Ms. R-'s office, glad that this would be over and done with so I could go back to observing the world in peace. We told her what the principal said. Asked for the ticket. Calia brought out her money - I get so sad when that image comes to mind, of a hopeful kid with braided hair, removing from her pocket a handful of ten wadded-up ones and one wrinkled five, simply because of the look on her face when Ms. R- refused once more.

Yes, despite the support of the principal behind us, that still wasn't enough. I was polite to her, though. I couldn't stop the heat rising in my cheeks or the indignant tears in my eyes or the way my lips pursed together, but my words were civil. We two students left the office. I sent Calia to her class and promised her I would fix all. I sent myself to find the principal and, upon doing so, sent him to personally inform Ms. R- that Calia was "allowed" a ticket. So that I wouldn't sabotage his argument with my presence, I waited for him in the lobby.

I didn't wait long. He returned, said I could get the ticket now, but before I go, let him say a few words. According to him, I am not allowed to show emotions when dealing with people; when I see injustice I'm not to display anger at it. I'm also not to advertise the fact that I'm taking Calia to the prom, as it's an affair meant for upperclassmen, and we can't have other people getting the idea from me to inundate the place with 15-year-olds (though it's happened every year since proms were invented, no one's noticed till now).

I made it my quest to tell the story to as many people as I possibly could until it got back to the principal and I could have time to gather my thoughts enough to rain down fire and brimstone on him in the form of a verbal tirade. My civil disobedience assured me that this would not happen again, to someone else.

This time I set a precedent. I made a change. It was nice. But not common.

I've noticed that different people are different people to different people. Such an observation necessitates clarification. What I mean is: to the first boy that loved me, I am a mature woman, and the stereotypical "one that got away." To my maternal grandmother, I am the Heir of Galicia. In my ninth-grade English teacher's world, I am a bright-yet-ignorant kid with an attitude problem. In my brother's world I'm a brat. Each person sees me in a different way. And as for who's right - they all are. Each of those people is an individual. They each know a different side of me, based on what they are able to see and what I choose to show them.

Andre Gide said in The Immoralist, "Don't you realize that our own eyes magnify and exaggerate whatever they happen to see - that we make anyone become what we claim he is?"

So, I am someone to everyone based on what they think I am. I am a unique multi-faceted individual, after all, just like everybody else. However, I don't think they all know I am a person beyond who they know. I have a hard time when someone looks at me the way they did ten years ago. Yes, I'm still that person, but I'm not the same. I've changed, but the people looking haven't noticed.

A year ago, I attended a young leaders conference in Washington DC. All alone, with four hundred other people. I knew no one, no one knew me, but in the space of six days we were required to know each other. In the end, they didn't know me better than anyone back home. But they knew me. For once I had the freedom to act outside the boundaries established to keep people from seeing me any differently than they had before. I had been sitting inside a box, and now I could to jumping jacks.

When I got home I realized that I had wanted to shed those two thousand different people that I was and just be who I am. No more attempts to be witty around the ex-love, just be natural. Talk to my brother just as much as I tease him. Tell that teacher about my 720 verbal SAT score, so that he congratulates me instead of telling me off for being snotty.

But that couldn't happen, it can't happen, and without some guidance from the hand of both Providence and George W. Bush, it won't happen. For a long time I'd been unhappy with the microcosm that is this town. The feeling became acute when I returned from DC. That desire for change is there inside me still, and I try to give it life through small steps, like ignoring the herd mentality, and larger steps, like fighting for my right to a prom date. If I had been at the very top of my class, people might have looked at me differently. Or maybe not. Changes are hard to make. Getting them to see the changes is harder.