A Letter To My High School Friends

A Letter To My High School Friends

Whether we knew each other for a second or a lifetime, this is for you.

Dear Friends,

Our rooms have been emptied, our cars packed, and our time to depart for our next four-year journey has come. While we are supposed to feel excited, we cannot help but be overwhelmed by the vortex of emotions surrounding us: all the nervousness, anxiety, fear, and, of course, the inevitable homesickness. The comments made by our parents and relatives such as, "Your college years are the best years of your life!" fail to ease our pain of leaving everyone behind. No matter what, we are bound to be stressed about starting a new chapter, but maybe that's not an "incoming freshman" experience, and maybe it's just a "life" experience. And out of every life decision, saying goodbye will be the hardest thing I ever have to do.

Thank you for being in my life, no matter how long you were in it. As we all know, not every friendship is bound to last a lifetime. All our friendships have individually served as a support for what we needed at that time, during that year, in this moment. The friend group I assumed would last forever on the first day of freshman year was necessary because it allowed me to make the choices to meet the best friends that I graduated with four years later. Every friendship provided a lesson and should be remembered as a part of my story, no matter how amazing, horrendous, long, or short. From high school, our friends have scattered across multiple groups and cliques, which gave us the most realistic perspective of the different people we are bound to meet in life. Or maybe your friends all came from one singular group, which only strengthened your relationship with each other over the years. Maybe that is what truly makes it hard to leave them in these next few weeks. Because they have become more than your friends, but they are your family.

It has been hard trying to wrap my head around the reality that soon I will be in a new place, surrounded by hundreds of people I do not know. The anxiety of starting over simply bothers me, and it's not because I, in any way, hate social interactions, but because I have to start over. People no longer "know my face"; they have not seen me in the hallways after school. They have never been in a classroom environment with me. They don't know anything about my journey, about the places that have changed my life, about the incredible things I've seen, and about the people I've met. No, all they know is that they live in my residence hall, or they have seen me in the background of their History class. To which, I have to start all over with a simple, "Hi, my name is...", and eventually, the rest of my story will be known.

But, friends, these are the memories that I cherish forever, and if you were there with me, I will never forget. They are not only stories to be heard or things that have happened to me in the past, but they are who I am now. They embody what I truly love and embrace in this world, and I assure you I will carry them with me for the rest of my life.

Thank you for the conversations that have forever changed me. In my last two years of high school, I've encountered some of the most intelligent people with the most important questions. Our philosophical discussions started as the final bell ring, and sometimes even went on for over two hours, when our moms desperately calling us in a panic shouting, "Where are you?" but your only answer was, "But Mom, what even is truth?" These are the conversations that not every average high-school student partakes in, and what made me so fascinated by it all was the fact that I wasn't alone. So to my friends with a love for knowledge, cheers to you. You give me hope for the progress we can make in our own lifetime.

Thank you to the people staying home. I can only imagine how hard it must feel to see everyone away from home sometimes. The reverse homesickness that you feel in the gut of your stomach whispers, "I wish I had my own dorm" as your friends frantically choose a bed comforter in Bed, Bath & Beyond. But, you should allow yourself to explore your home-not just your home address- in an entirely different way, and like everyone else, with new people. Your experiences are slightly different, but the college experience itself depends solely on the individual, not the location. I assure you, Thanksgiving will be here sooner than we both expect. And when we hug for what seems like the longest time next November, I will feel like I never left. The friendships I have made away from home have not replaced you; those memories away at school have perfectly found a place right next to ours, and they will continue to be there.

Thank you to the people traveling farther away from home: Although you will be more distanced from everyone else on the Snap Map, our journey together will not end simply because you are a plane ride's distance away. Instead of "daily hangouts", our times together will transform into fun-filled weekends and road trips with events planned to the brim and stories that will last for days. And suddenly, we will realize together, the distance never mattered in the first place, and that it took a special friend to realize that what truly mattered were the efforts we put in to make it work. I promise you I will be booking more flights in the near future, and of course, you will surely receive a huge hug at Thanksgiving.

I know you will all do great things. And I wish you all the luck. This isn't "Goodbye", friends, it's a "See you later".

Cover Image Credit: Juliana Cosenza

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Why Do We Hurt Each Other?

recognize what you are doing, and stop it. stop it before it kills someone.
Belle B
Belle B

Note: names and other details have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

It’s no secret that gossip kills. You can turn on the news any day of the week and see another tragic story of a bullied teenager who took his own life. You probably know what’s like to be on the other side of gossip, yourself. It’s not pretty. While gossip and rumors are not reserved by a particular sex, girls tend to take the whispers to an extreme. I’ve known many people in my life that have been affected by the hurtful words of their friends, and I’d like to tell you about them. By understanding the impact your words can have on others, maybe we can change. I hope we can change.

I was once a star
Shining bright
You pulled me out of the sky
Stole all my light, why? Why?

I once knew a girl, in middle school, named Joanne. Joanne was sweet, but no one gave her the time of day. She’d raise her hand in class and everyone would stare at her until she put it back down. She’d eat lunch by herself, in the corner of the cafeteria where no one could see her. She smiled at everyone who passed her in the hallways, and she’d help anyone with their homework, if they asked. But, no one ever asked. No one wanted the help of the girl with glasses and braces. Not even me.

I never paid attention to Joanne, and I never stopped any of the other kids from hurting her. I let it happen, not thinking of any consequences or anything that could have possibly gone wrong. Soon, when I got to high school, I forgot about Joanne. I didn’t think anything of her.

Joanne killed herself a year later, jumping off the bridge into the Chicago River. I sure wished I’d thought of her, then.

I was once a boat
Sailing off to sea
You dragged me back to the shore
Changing my course, why?
Why me? Why you gotta pick on me?

My junior year of high school, there was a boy named Charlie. Charlie had so many friends, I was often envious. He was on the school hockey team, he had an amazing girlfriend, and he always knew how to have a good time. No one looks at the star athlete when they think of a victim—I know I never did. I never knew that Charlie was afraid to go into his team’s locker room, because he knew if he did then his teammates—arguably the boys who were supposed to be his brothers—they would give him Hell. They'd whisper to each other, wondering what he was doing that night, who he was seeing. They'd tell him that his side-shot needed work, even though he'd practiced it for hours the night before. They'd say he needed to be more of a team player, even though he was the only one who actively asked how each player was doing that day. And when he finally did something right, they wouldn't even acknowledge him.

Did they not see the hurt in his eyes when they shit on him like that? Could they not see that every little remark, every joke, caused him pain? I didn’t. I didn't realize that without physical bruises that there could still be an injury. When I looked at Charlie, I saw the cool guy at the table. I saw him with his arm around his girlfriend and thought he was lucky.

That same year, Charlie slit his wrists in the bathtub of his mother’s house. I didn’t think he was so lucky after that.

And I don't know where I'm going
But when I get there I can say that I have been the kindest me
That I could be
Can you say the same?

You’re starting to notice a trend, I hope. Joanne and Charlie weren’t the only ones that have been so adversely affected by the hurtful words of others. I’m sure you know many more, unfortunately. There have been many instances of violence in the recent past, and we’ve gotten too used to it. We forget that even though words are small, they make a big impact. No, words are not the same as a person releasing an AR-15 on an unsuspecting high school, or a nuclear war across the sea. I might even challenge you by saying words are worse. Words shape our entire lives; how we think, how we act, who we are. Words are the basis of existence.

I was once a tree
Rising from the ground
Winter Spring Summer or Fall
I still grew tall till you cut me down
Are you really happy now?

My last story doesn’t have an ending yet. It features a girl I still know, in fact, a girl I am quite good friends with, named Taylor. Taylor is a strong leader; an important figure in my community. She takes charge, and she devotes herself to every task she commits to. People look up to her; they respect her. However, with respect comes torment. Taylor cannot walk into the room without all eyes turning to her, watching her. Taylor cannot hang out with someone in public without the world wondering, “who is that? Is she dating that person? Does she love that person? Are they just friends?”

Taylor’s life is the lives of everyone else, and it hurts her. A person’s right to privacy is her lifeline. When she loses that, she loses her sanity. It’s like being a celebrity without the fame and fortune, and it kills just the same.

Taylor is still alive. She is still a leader. She still holds the respect of everyone she meets. But, Taylor is reaching her breaking point. When she has to avoid certain places in her community because she knows that people in there will talk; when she has to have secret meetings with her friends because otherwise the world will erupt; when she cannot be with someone she may love because everyone and their mother will have something to say about it, that is when this gets out of control. What if Taylor decides that enough is enough, like Joanne, like Charlie? Would that stop the gossip? I never want to find out.

Now I'm a shooting star
Can't catch me
Tried to pull me out of the sky
Steal all my light, but look
It's not dimming

I want to know why we feel the need to talk about the people around us. I’m not saying I’m better than everyone; good god I’ve been known to thrive on gossip. I’m trying to stop, I know it’s hard. It doesn’t even occur to me as gossip anymore, just discussion. Is that the problem? Do we not know what we’re doing? We need to. Maybe if the people who hurt Joanne and Charlie would have stopped if someone took them aside and said, “hey, this is wrong. This hurts people and you need to stop.” Sometimes things get lost in translation and social norms, so much so that we don’t even realize when we have a problem.

If you have a problem, talk about it. If you see something, do something about it. Don’t let the world tell you what’s right. You tell you what’s right. It starts with you.

(Lyrics are from “I Can Say” by Olivia Millerschin)

Cover Image Credit: Joshua Earle
Belle B
Belle B

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To My Best Friend Vita, Thank You For Keeping Me Somewhat Sane

No matter the decisions we make, we have an unspoken rule: as long as you are happy, I am happy for you.

My dearest friend Vita,

This article is dedicated to you because it is solely about you.

The funny part about our friendship is that we knew who the other person was for about a year and never really said much to each other. It wasn’t until sophomore year that you and I started talking more and becoming very close. I can’t remember the exact day we became best friends, but it didn’t take long.

We honestly bonded over 6-second videos, courtesy of Vine. Our favorite is Cody Ko. We can recite the whole 16-minute compilation video on YouTube. We spent many nights sitting on a broken futon at 11 pm watching Vine.

Other nights we passed out waiting for Jeff’s pizza, fully clothed, shoes on and everything. The next morning, we woke up to three texts and two missed calls from the Jeff’s pizza guy… sorry about that. You and I also have a disgustingly large appetite for sushi. We are talking two or three rolls a person. Thank you for always being down to stay in, watch vine, and eat sushi!!

Another thing that is so interesting about you, Vita, is that you have the ability to tell me seven stories within one story. You can so easily begin a story and then branch off into another, and then another story from that one just so everything makes sense to me.

You also have such a way of telling me stories I have already heard countless times. But I will never stop you from telling me them over and over because I know they are mostly stories you love.

We have also had our fights, though. Now the bad thing about this is we are both hard-headed and we both are passive-aggressive. Passive-aggressiveness boils me to the bone, so when you do that, I want to kill you. But I would never do that because I need someone to talk to about my problems.

Though we argue and get under each other's skin occasionally, I’m glad we can always find a way to overcome it.

The biggest part of our friendship is the emotional support we give each other. We have been through some very tough times in college, and having someone to lean on is so important. Life is hard and can be unpredictable. You and I have had our share of shady, annoying, and frustrating issues.

Whenever either of us is in a dilemma, we have always practiced tough love. The truth hurts to hear, but we gotta say it to each other. No matter the decisions we make, we have an unspoken rule: as long as you are happy, I am happy for you. Thank you for being there through all the tears and the yelling and the frustration and never leaving or giving up on me.

Thank you for always encouraging me. Thank you for telling me when my outfit is ugly. Thank you for keeping me in check.

Thank you for being my forever best friend.

Love, Mir

Cover Image Credit: Miranda Howe

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