It was one of the last days of the sixth grade and Rebecca Katz ’15 and I were in the bathroom of our elementary school waiting to be picked up to go to the Harvard-Westlake seventh Grade Barbeque. I can perfectly remember the thrill I felt; getting accepted to Harvard-Westlake was my first dream come true. We leaned up against the wall and talked about how excited we were to be going to one of the most prestigious schools in the country.
“Do you think the classes will be too hard for us?”
“What if the girls are all mean there”
“Maybe we’ll meet our future husbands.”
“I hope the pool is heated”
“This is middle school, the big leagues, you know?”
“These people will be our classmates for the next six years, I have to make a good impression.”
“Do you think people will think I’m weird?”
“I can’t believe this is happening.”
“Maybe we should change our names.”
That was the day Rebecca decided to go by Becca and I decided to go by Nikky because we felt a need to reinvent ourselves. I was afraid “Nikta” would be too different and no one would be friends with a girl whose name they couldn’t pronounce. I think like most prepubescent incoming middle schoolers, I was afraid of being myself. This conversation happened exactly six years ago.
Flash forward to the end of my senior year. I don’t think I’ve met my future husband here (though maybe I have and I just don’t know it yet) but I still sometimes introduce myself as Nikky. It has become more of a convenience thing and less of a “fearing-I’m-different” thing. However, I didn’t realize just how comfortable I’ve grown in my own skin until this past Saturday, when a classmate of mine came up to me and wistfully told me how much he admired how unapologetically “me” I and how I don’t seem to ever be afraid of expressing myself. It suddenly hit me how drastically my mindset has changed since I was in that bathroom, scared to be myself.
I wish I could pinpoint exactly what it was that let me know it was okay to be different, to truly be yourself so I could tell underclassmen do to that exact thing and voila: you’re set. It would make sense that as I grew older, I became more confident in myself, but I genuinely feel indebted to this school. It was a culmination of all my experiences on the past six years here at Harvard-Westlake, especially the last three years at the Upper School, that encouraged me to, pardon my French, f*** the haters.
In a few short months, I’ll have to start introducing myself again to a whole new class and I have no hesitation to say, “hi, I’m Nikta”