by Angela Lloyd
Moving to Junior High school opens Angela’s eyes to a society and culture that she had been living in (Caracas, Venezuela), and yet one from which she was separate. Angela’s story tells a universal truth: we think we are the only ones telling ourselves “ We do not belong here.” That statement is what we have in common.
For a print friendly version of the transcript, click here: 1966 Caracas
- Were there times at school when you felt out of place?
- Who helped you and what specifically did they do? What kinds of things did you do to help yourself?
- How could you help others at your school, workplace, place of worship, neighborhood and so on feel that they belong?
- Crossing Cultures
- Education and Life Lessons
- Family and Childhood
- Living and Traveling Abroad
Hello my name is Angela…Lloyd. And I have a story for you called The Story We Tell Ourselves.
I grew up in Caracas, Venezuela. And in 1966 I was ready to enter junior high school which means that I was changing schools. I want to tell you a little about the elementary school I went to. It was called the British School. And remember I was in Caracas, Venezuela donde habla español, huh? [Where we speak Spanish, huh?]
So my friends at school were English, Dutch and American children and my teachers were from England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales. This means that our math was done in pounds, shillings and pence not in bolívars, reales, maravedis… No? It was pound shillings and pence — English money currency. Our in — our history was the British history. Kings and queens in England. And our handwriting was very round and up and down with fountain pens and ink. Our environment at the British school was very sweet, very safe, very beautiful. A big campus. Hmm.
So it was time to go to junior high and it was a very different change. Maybe that’s happened to you too? Yeah?
I went to an American junior high school. It was called La Coste Jana. And I want to tell you about the day that I got dressed to go to my first day of junior high that morning at home.
I had chosen my dress. It was an empire wasted dress with red and white checks on one shoulder and red and white polka dots on the other shoulder. And an empire waist and gray skirt all the way down to the middle of my calves. Remember the length of my dress, alright?
I had Hush Puppy shoes and I had white ankle socks. Had started wearing braces and I had a pixie haircut. I had also decided to trim my own bangs that morning. So my bangs were very short; shorter than I had anticipated. When I left for school that morning I thought I looked really nice and felt good about how I looked. The bangs were a little short.
I drove in the car with my mom and my brothers and cousin. And we got to the campus of the school. It had a lawn out in front of the three houses that made up the school. And out on the lawn were all the girls who were going to be my new classmates. And the young men, the boys. The girls, ladies and gentlemen, had long black hair with miniskirts. Leather miniskirts. Boots up over their knees. High heel black boots . Beautiful glossy black hair. I looked around the grass and I thought these girls look like they have jobs. They look like they work in a bank. And I look down at my dress and my shoes and my white ankle socks. And I thought, how is it I
look like I’m going to kindergarten. My clothes say first grade something. Aye yai yai. I looked around and I tell…this is the story I told myself.
There is no place for me in this place. I do not fit.
Well fast-forward 30 years hmm. And I was talking with a friend, a man named Todd Burley. He’s a therapist and he grew up in Bogotá in Colombia. And I was telling this story to him and he said, “Angela did you, did you know that on that morning you were walking into a whole new culture. You were actually entering the culture of where you had been living for 12-13 years already?”
I had never thought of it that way and he was so right. I was meeting for the first time the true
culture of the place where I’d been growing up. And here it was on full display. These beautiful young girls, these young men who were from that country, from that place dressed in the way they wanted to be to show who they were. And it was the same for me. And that’s the difference between what was true and the story I told myself.
I’m the one who said you don’t fit here. Nobody said that to me. I said it to myself. So I just want to say that I’m so grateful for being able to have that time at that school because I want you to know that I did find friends. They were also American girls. Also travelers. One was an army brat. Her daddy was in the army. Another girl was the daughter of the Canadian ambassador and she had traveled too. We pulled ourselves close to each other and we wrote a dictionary of a vocabulary. We wrote a code with an alphabet so we could write to each other and no one would know what we were saying. But we pulled ourselves close to each other and we made it through. And just as I imagined lots of people do.
So this is what I know. Everybody who goes to junior high I think everyone is saying we don’t
belong here. We don’t fit. I think that’s true. I really do. And guess what? You will make it through. I did make it through and when I went to high school I went to an all-girls boarding school where I love my teachers I made lots of friends and I was able to be free and grow into who I am. [Giggles softly.]