The value of a smile

Walking down the hallway was the most intimidating part of ninth grade. To stop myself from accidentally making eye contact, I would look down at the passing floor tiles. The idea of being welcoming, friendly, and approachable was not one I or the other freshmen lived by. Classes in the early days of ninth grade were therefore pretty quiet. Rarely would anyone risk saying anything unless they had a really good reason to.

In time, small connections formed between other students, making each class period slightly more comfortable. In geometry with Mr. Lapiska, my phone went off, blaring a unique ringtone that a student sitting across from me told me he recognized and appreciated. In English I, Mrs. Dunham had students create vocab quiz partnerships, forcing me to make a new friend. Friendships grew with lab partners in biology with Ms. Katz when we shared data. Through extracurriculars like swim team, I met—and became close with—even more people. In the hallways I increasingly saw fewer strangers and more friends. For this reason I decided to start looking up from the floor tiles and smile at the friendly passersby.

I didn’t realize how impactful that decision would be. The idea of being welcoming, friendly, and approachable felt much more feasible to live by than before. By being slightly more sociable with fellow high schoolers I realized how astonishing it was that literally hundreds of blank faces I used to see in the hallway were no longer meaningless bodies. Instead they include Ben who is a hip-hop head, Aaron who is a programmer, Severine who is a photographer, Gabby who is a trombonist, Lucas who is a tennis player, and Aurélie who is French. As a freshman at Princeton High School, one of the things I hated the most was the overwhelming number of students I didn’t know. As a junior, forming friendships is by far my favorite aspect of this school.