With prom season in the air and Instagram feeds full of prom-posals, I've been thinking back to my high school days. I remember having a blast freshman year, experiencing a new school with my friends who came with me from junior high. We started diving into subjects that we had all been fascinated about like art, writing, different languages, etc. I didn't have a boyfriend, but I was really happy. Of course I had crushes, but I was too afraid to do anything about it. I had extreme freshman-syndrome and was extremely self-conscious when it came to relationships. Unfortunately, I let that get the best of me, and I felt that being in a relationship meant that I would be accepted and somehow be cooler than I was when I was single.
I wish I knew how untrue that idea would turn out to be. When I had a boyfriend going into sophomore year, I started to lose my friends. Some would stick around, but others were sick of being the third wheel, and I couldn't blame them. I was totally absorbed in my relationship. I lost focus in school; I was so distracted by my appearance, and I was neurotic about what people might be saying about me. Nevertheless, I stayed involved. I joined a varsity sport, sang in an extra-curricular choir, and participated in other clubs. Having a boyfriend became a fact of life though, and it began to sadly define who I was.
For a year and six months, my identity seemed to be merged into my relationship. I went to dances with my boyfriend, did a sport with my boyfriend, sang in a choir with my boyfriend, and spent every weekend with him. At this point only a handful of people wanted to be around me because I was so typical. There was nothing interesting about me. Once that relationship ended, I was ready to be on my own again, but I found that I was still emotionally damaged. The relationship ended on bad terms, and I was really bitter and self-deprecating about it. I wanted someone to like me again and reassure me that all guys weren't the same. That was when I made one of the best choices. I went to a dance with two of my friends, and we had a great time. I danced with a lot of different people, instead of being jealously guarded. I let my hair down instead of checking that it stayed in tact every five minutes. The weeks that followed were hard, but I felt free, until I decided to date again.
The next relationship lasted almost a year, so I was technically dating for over half of my high school career. I only went to two dances with friends instead of with my boyfriend. I was a bit of a traditionalist, and I found comfort in having a boyfriend that could put a label on me and take ownership over the parts of my life that I didn't have figured out. In both relationships, I had the same dizzying sensation of spinning out of control. I felt like I had no influence over what happened to me while I was dating. I trusted my boyfriend thinking that they had my best interests at heart. I didn't stop to think that high school is not a time to be selfless. As bad as it sounds, I wish I would have been more selfish and taken the hard path instead of falling into the arms of the guys that were conveniently waiting for me to fail.
Of course I can't put blame on anyone but myself, but I can't say that these relationships didn't ruin friendships. They closed doors instead of opening up opportunities. I felt that I had to be serious right away, and that being someone's girlfriend is a serious commitment. I didn't fathom that my boyfriend wasn't thinking the same way. In fact, most people don't think that way in high school, and I wish I hadn't. I let myself get caught up in societal norms and expectations. I watched too many romcoms where the leads are 30 year-old actors playing teenagers.
Everyone says that dating is good experience, and I agree. However, I wish I would have spent time in high school focusing on myself instead of making my boyfriends happy. I know I can't go back and change anything, but I would say to others that being single is not un-cool. It's time to treat yourself the way you want someone else to treat you.
The moment I started defining myself by the relationships I was in was the moment life became predictable. Again I find myself in a long term relationship, how hypocritical. Yet, the feelings I used to have--the isolation, the trapped feeling, and the stress of being perfect--are not there anymore. I no longer think of myself as somebody's girlfriend because it does not define me. Instead I like to say that I have a partner, someone that I communicate with openly instead of me pretending to be someone that I'm not, and that makes all the difference for me.