A time of discovery, growth, and new experiences. No, not puberty, but middle school. For me, middle school was the time where I began to understand my morals and what kind of a person I wanted to be seen as. It was also the time where I started to comprehend how different these things were from the people I was surrounding myself with.
Finding a solid group of friends is difficult at any age, so being a prepubescent, confused girl in junior high did not make it any easier. I never truly felt as though I belonged in one clique, so much to the extent that I labeled myself a "floater" between groups. I wasn't explicitly associated with the "popular" group, or the smart group, or the loners. I didn't belong with the tomboys, or the video gamers, or any other clique. I would bounce from one group to the next in search of people who I fit best with. After spending a year being a floater, I eventually found my way in one I was partially considered in all along.
Being a hormonal tween surrounded by, well, other hormonal tweens, there was bound to be some arguments. However, every girl in middle school has friend drama, so for the first year, I thought nothing of the small arguments and disagreements between my friends. Yet, I slowly started noticing that they were becoming more frequent and the insults were becoming more unforgiving. Night after night, my fragile self-esteem would slowly fall apart. Still, I kept forgiving and forgetting, because as my preconceived notions told me, friends fight. It's normal, I thought. Throughout those four years, I felt isolated, barely getting by.
As high school came along, every kid kept hearing about how difficult it is to maintain the friendships you had in eighth grade, how eventually you become distant with all of your old friends. Believing this, I started high school with an open mind, in search of new surroundings. However, my middle school friends had a slightly different perspective on the situation. They all thought we should stick together, not expand or separate.
Despite their own ideas, I managed to find myself in a closer, smaller group of friends that I was really enjoying spending time with, freshman year. This ended up consisting of new and old friends. Unfortunately, even this group wasn't safe from the toxicity, eventually fading out and leaving me back at square one. Freshman year became a really intense and difficult year for me, excluding all the friend issues that were constantly circulating around. Nevertheless, I pushed through, yet again feeling though I was just getting by.
I went about sophomore year the same as before: with a few close friendships that seemed to always to ultimately get damaged and become distant. I felt extremely defeated and discouraged. It felt as though I was watching a movie over and over again, expecting a different outcome each time. I came to multiple conclusions throughout the year, expecting a different outcome each time, leading me to multiple conclusions about my friends. I began to realize that I wasn't being seen in the way I wanted people to see me.
The messages and impressions that these girls broadcasted to others weren't what I wanted associated with me, and I had realized this now. Throughout lunch, I would sit in silence with these people around me I called my friends, listening to their conversations, wondering how we could think so differently.
Too frequently did my tears fall, and I was having a difficult time thinking of a solution for the situation I was in. Consequently, I made the decision to distance myself from them. I spent my lunches in the library, or at other peoples' tables. My intentions were never to create a negative environment between myself and the other members of the group, but I knew that distancing myself would create tension. Individual friends would approach me, worried about where our friendships stood and what reasoning I had for detaching from the group. It felt as though they were more concerned with the terms our friendship was on rather than trying to fix the issues I expressed.
As the school year ended and summer began, I steadily saw a change in some of the girls' perspectives and actions. Similar to when the temperature outside changes so drastically as the sun hides behind the clouds. It's quite possible I created this in my head, perhaps because I wanted so badly for them to change the way they were acting. I knew that if I was not feeling right about how I was being treated, I wouldn't let it slip away and become unimportant. I wanted to make sure that if I involved myself in the group again, I would be cautious as to how our friendships continued.
I allowed myself to spend more time with them again, making sure things would be different this time around. Although the issues were never thoroughly resolved, I would like to believe that my noticeable separation from the group, a group that had been close for years, caused the realization that something wasn't working, and that something had to change.
Even attempting to describe their thinking process at times is quite difficult. Perhaps it's because they had their own masked issues that they needed to cope with in negative ways, I'm not entirely sure. Being that we had spent virtually our entire lives together as friends, we were all particularly comfortable with one another. Because of this, at times, it seemed as though the idea that one of our friends leaving our group was unimaginable and not likely to occur, which led to the idea that anything said or done would be forgiven.
As one could imagine, this sort of thinking would never lead to a healthy, long term friendship. Of course, I still had to have positive memories with these girls in order for me to stay close with them all these years, and somehow the passive remarks and comments seemed to become less noticeable as I spent more time with them again.
The idea of straying from friends you have had all your life is rather saddening, so deciding to partially remove myself from the group was a very intense decision for me. From the beginning, I felt as though my views differed from my friends', and that, dare I say it, I had possibly matured faster than they had. I was so unaware of how unhealthy my friendships were, and I was blinded by how badly I wanted these girls to realize I was hurting. Maybe I wanted their approval, or maybe I simply felt alone.