I had a choice to make. My high school has an annual alumni breakfast for the class that just graduated the previous school year the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Although going to the event seemed futile because there was no reason to relive the past even if every student in my senior class wasn’t mean.
The 2008-2009 School Year.
During my freshman year, my friend David suggested that our group should all meet up on the weekend to hang out and help me feel less disenfranchised from everyone. My friend Julia was indifferent to it. Maeve was also as “enthusiastic” as Julia was when I suggested David’s idea to her. She said I should just hang out with my new senior friends. That was rather cavalier of her since she never had to eat lunch in the hallway in front of the library because she was too ashamed to by sit by herself in the Student Center. It wouldn’t have been too much to ask for Maeve and all of my other former friends to consider things from my perspective.
I guess I could have made an effort and tried to reach out to my old friends, but I was too flabbergasted at the whole situation. If they didn’t make an effort to take David’s suggestion to hangout on the weekend, then I doubted they would have even cared that I felt cast aside and ignored.
One of the worst aspects of drifting away from my old friends was that they weren’t malicious people. Yes, they were indifferent to David’s suggestion about meeting up one weekend. But they weren’t mean either. They were just oblivious, and moved on with their lives like I didn’t matter. I would have loved for them to explain how they could rationalize turning their backs on me without trying to remain friends.
It would have been nice though if someone would have warned me that the friends that you’ve known since elementary school and middle school might suddenly drift away and that you would have to make new friends. But that would have been too easy for the universe.
Beginning of May 2012.
Four years passed by faster than I could have imagined. Before I knew it, seniors only had two weeks before leaving for their internships. My old friends (David, Maeve, Lynn, Mackenzie, and Julia) were sitting down in the school hallway with a couple of the new people that were added to the group. I couldn’t help but be envious of the new people that my previous friends were now acquainted with. It wasn’t right that I was replaced. It was kind of funny how their happiness was juxtaposed against my anger. It was unfathomable how they sat there having a great time while I endured four years of agony. All I wanted to do was to tell my former friends what they did was wrong and that they should have been ashamed of themselves. Unfortunately, the words escaped me.
Making new friends might be inevitable, but there’s nothing wrong with keeping in touch with the friends that you already have. It’s not right for people to feel disposable and be left behind.
I “somewhat” stayed in touch with David and Maeve, but I lost touch with my friends Lynn, Julia, and Mackenzie. Although staying connected to David and Maeve was nice, it didn’t change how I was disconnected from my old group of friends.
June 1, 2012.
Senior Prom (which was several weeks after senior internships had begun) was as harsh as my four years of high school were since I spent the night at home watching my favorite television shows on DVD. I wished I went to Senior Prom the year before when I was a junior since I was friends with some kids in the grade ahead of me. But that would have entailed me being someone’s date, which would have been awkward.
I understood people would never be 100 percent normal. But it still would have been nice to have one common high school experience since regret over not fitting in would haunt me for the rest of my life. I never experienced what school dances, sports games, or any other high school events were like since going to them alone would have made my situation worse.
June 22, 2012.
West Conn’s O’Neill Center in Danbury was where the graduation was held, and back graduation caps and gowns engulfed the place. I didn’t pay much attention since it was awful to have an empty feeling about the last four years. I didn’t choose to have high school be the way it was, as I didn’t pretend to be perfect, but I went along with being superficially polite. And that didn’t get me anywhere in high school even though it did for other people. The only aspect that felt relevant at graduation was the valedictorian saying that everyone would soon be off to bigger and better things (I wanted nothing more than to become a published writer ASAP).
Good riddance to high school! I didn’t expect it to be some perfect utopian world. But it wasn’t too much to ask for it to be tolerable and to be proven wrong, and see that most people are kind. That wasn’t the case. The people that care were the exception to the rule.
November 21, 2012.
In the end, I didn’t go to the alumni breakfast.
I knew whom I would keep in touch with, but I wanted to move on with my life. I shouldn’t have had to pretend to be nice to people I didn’t want to be around. That would have been superficial, and I didn’t want to be a phony.
Everyone talks about how bullying is a problem that must be dealt with, but nobody is aware of the students that are blatantly cast aside and ignored. The reality is most people will never know how it feels to be an outsider. They will also probably assume it is somebody’s own fault if someone doesn’t fit in, and might even suggest joining a club. Getting more involved with school activities might be a well-intentioned idea. However, the concept is still naïve. Grouping people together based on a common interest doesn’t mean they’ll automatically become best friends.
They might as well put up barbed wire around high schools, and put jail cells in inside them. But advertising that high school is like prison wouldn’t service the school’s image.
I walked down the hallways every day, and was just one student in a sea of many students, wanting nothing more than to feel included. The only constant was that students sported the latest designer fashion from American Eagle to Abercrombie and Fitch. People pretended to be cordial and polite even though it was superficial since the real truth lied in the subtlety. Most people didn’t care about whether you were having a good or bad day. I understood why people make small talk, but that was pointless. It was hard to believe that everyone was as fine as they claimed to be.
People might say high school doesn’t have to define a person’s life. And that might be correct. Although that would never change how I had a gap in my life of what was supposed to be a great time. Sure, pain might inspire my writing. But creative fodder isn’t “free.” I would always have the memories of crying myself to sleep over wanting to feel included/accepted forever etched in my mind.
The thing is though, the old mantra, “life isn’t fair” may be true, but it doesn’t excuse how high school will always be hell for some people.
Image Credit: CC BY 2.5, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10880123
Chris Bedell‘s previous publishing credits include essays on the online magazine Thought Catalog, fiction on Crab Fat Literary Magazine, Pidgeonholes Magazine, Abbreviate Journal, Quail Bell Magazine, and Short-Story.me while creative nonfiction has appeared on Sprout Magazine and Inklette Magazine. More recently, the writing podcast-The Drunken Odyssey featured his hybrid creative nonfiction piece. He will graduate with a B.A. in Creative Writing in May of 2016.