I stood, fixed in place, blood roaring in my ears, when I realized what I had done.
I thought how this was not a very good way to make a first impression.
It was my first day of eighth grade. For most adolescent girls, the first day of eighth grade is unremarkable. A return to the monotony of middle school. To the same place and faces left behind the previous May. One more year of familiarity before the grand landscape of high school loomed. Not so for me. Two months before my first day, my family left behind the comfort of our familiar life in Western Pennsylvania, and drove south towards our new home in Jacksonville, Florida.
So for me, eighth grade was the beginning of a brand new chapter.
I woke up early the morning of my first day, my mind racing with barely concealed panic as I thought about all the things that could go wrong. My uniform skirt was too long. I had the wrong shoes. I was going to miss the bus. I had never taken a bus to school before. I didn't know how to take a bus. Who would I sit with at lunch?
But more than anything, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to find my classes. See, this wasn't just a school. This was a campus. It wasn't enough to just learn one building. I had to learn six different buildings. Seven if I took art, so I decided to never take art. All day long, my classes would zig-zag across campus, and I was expected to remember where I needed to be and when. I copied my schedule into the front cover of all of my notebooks, but my habitual organizational skills didn't have their usual calming effect. I was going to get lost. I just knew it.
But with no choice in the matter, I went to school and forged ahead with my day.
Maybe orientation did the trick, or my memory was better than I thought, but my nightmare scenario never came to fruition. I managed to find my locker, and all six of my classrooms. I zig-zagged with the best of them, and was on time all day.
I didn't have anyone to sit with at lunch, but I thought that there would be other days for worrying about that. Because today, I was worried about getting lost. Not existentially lost - there would be time enough for that too - but rather actually physically lost. And I didn't.
When the bell rang signaling that it was time to switch for the last period of the day, I gathered my books and headed towards the gym for eighth period PE, ready to give myself a big pat on the back for my remarkable navigation skills. But as I made my way there, I realized I was expected to change into the regulation gym uniform, and I didn't know where the locker rooms were.
The orientation tour had included the gym, obviously, but the tour guide never mentioned where to change.
No reason to panic, I thought. There were lots of people headed in my general direction. I assumed they had PE too, and walked with the crowd towards a door around the side of the gigantic gym. I breathed a sigh of relief as I followed everyone into what was most certainly the locker room, and glanced down at my watch to make sure I was still on time.
"What are you doing in here?"
I heard the shocked voice as I stepped over the threshold.
I looked up and found that I was, indeed, standing in the locker room.
The boy's locker room.