"Where are you going?"
That was the last text I sent to my boyfriend in high school before I realized that I had to end things. It was six hours after that message was sent that he finally responded. Unfortunately, 11:26 p.m. was too late to save our relationship. The ambiguity, high emotions, and general neuroticism that trademarked a classic high school relationship had tipped the scale into overbearing and dangerous territory.
Our general back and forth quips became vicious, and I knew that it was time to move on. Knowing this, however, didn't make it any less painful. To put it lightly, I was a mess. All I could do for months was think about the moments we had together — our first kiss, the long talks in our cars, staring at the Seattle skyline from the back windows of his house and adventuring to the outer edges of our small, suburban bubble. I was less heartbroken that I was losing my first boyfriend (who I knew deep down I didn't really love at all) and more upset I was losing another friend. I hadn't been able to separate the two in high school, so this felt like a double-whammy.
I'm going to be transparent and admit that I really didn't have a lot of friends from high school. I had plenty of amazing people outside of my school (ones that I still go home and see) but in terms of the friends I made from classes, I kind of struck out. I had never moved, and continued on the same track throughout my entire time living in Bellevue. This meant that I knew the kids in my grade for fourteen straight years.
I don't know about you, but knowing the same 500 people for your whole life is exhausting. You tend to label people and stigmatize them pretty quickly — before you realize that they are doing the same thing to you. The fact that my high school was so extremely cliquey also did not help my chances.
With the few people I did get to know, our relationships would fade so quickly that I didn't have the chance to turn around and realize how I might be having a hand in our downfall before it was too late. By the time I got to senior year, I waited in my car till the last possible moment before the bell, went home to eat lunch with my mom every day, and skipped every possible school event. I wanted to participate in high school so badly, but the pain I experienced from feeling so disconnected made it almost impossible. In the end, there was no prom for me, no grad night, and no senior goodbye. I had to seal this aspect of my life, drop-kick it into the Puget Sound, and pray that I would never feel isolation like this again. I was ready to leave, grow, and have the relationships I knew I deserved. It was time for the fresh start that going out of state promised me.
When I tell my current friends details of my destructive and toxic high school relationships, they cannot believe me. I knew all along that I was just in an unfortunate situation, and that I was capable of having real friends. I know that I am a loyal, caring, outgoing person and that there are people with similar traits and values that I would meet at college. I was so eager to find these people that I would literally never say no to a party, extra-curricular, or sorority event. I wanted to prove my past wrong.
To put it shortly, I'm obviously really glad I did. In a way, I beat my emotional baggage and making the friendships I have now has permitted me to let go of some of my past and live apart from my emotional crutches (a.k.a my dog, who I miss very much). Instead of crying over how I wasn't invited, I get to cry over how I am invited to too many things. It's an interesting feeling to have — missing almost no one from home and throwing your whole life into your world at school when a lot of kids are doing quite the opposite. Because I was leaving nothing behind, I was truly able to soar. The door to my past slammed shut, and instead of feeling trapped, I kicked the door in front of me wide open. I was determined.
I think it's safe to say that I would run to the end of the world for the friends I have made in college. My close group of friends is the most caring, deserving, wholesome group of people I have ever met. I know this because even when they annoy me, I love them deeply anyways. I don't feel insecure that they are going to wake up one day and hate me, which I felt about the majority of my friends in high school. I know that when push comes to shove, they will be there for me, and I will do the same for them. Even my other friends and loose acquaintances are reliable — always have a smile for me, always stop to talk and check in. The people I have met at Wisconsin have fueled my self-belief. To say the least, it is uplifting.
I am aware that everyone has their individual experiences at school when it comes to people. Maybe my experience is intensified because I love human connection so much (cough, psychology major, cough). Maybe I'm a little suffocating, and I have to recognize when I'm being too intense. I'm learning to forgive myself for these things though because I am realizing now that if I hadn't survived my teenage years the way I had, I never would have set the bar so low and tried so hard to meet people in college. The standards may have been on the floor when I walked into my freshman year, but by design, the people surrounding me have exceeded it in leaps and bounds. So thank you to my old high school friends who are no longer in my life — you were a burden at the moment, but a lesson in the end.