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This last week, one of the “Question of The Day” questions in our Discord server was “What was/is your favorite year of high school?” My first thought was “huh, I don’t even know what happened during which year, it was so long ago.” And then, it dawned on me that I started as a freshman in high school TEN YEARS AGO…an entire DECADE AGO.
Besides realizing how old I am and cringing a bit at the thought of that, that question made me think about high school and just how different life was back then. High school had both its ups and downs for me. I dealt with so many things in high school that felt like they were truly the end of the world. But, I am happy to say I have made it to 24 and not only did I survive high school, I also managed to survive college! But this post isn’t about college, so I will stick to the high school stuff.
I grew up in the tiny town of Salem, Connecticut. Most people assume I mean Salem, Massachusetts because nobody knows where the hell Salem, Connecticut is. My town had one single school in it and it was an elementary school and middle school combined. I was in the same school from kindergarten through 8th grade. Now when I said one school, I meant just that. Salem does not have it’s own high school. Because of this, a majority of us end up at East Lyme High School and we make up a very small percentage at the high school.
I remember being so nervous to start high school. Little small town me who was used to knowing everyone was going to get thrown into a school with a bunch of people I didn’t know. Sure, most of my fellow Salem peeps would be there, but I would still have to meet a lot of new people.
I didn’t know any of the East Lyme people. I didn’t know the dynamic they had and I didn’t know who was popular and who wasn’t. I remember at the beginning of my freshman year, I started dating the most popular boy in our grade (which, I hadn’t known). The popular girls were all talking about me behind my back and saying things like “I can’t believe he is dating some nobody from Salem.” Apparently they had all be trying to date this guy for years and I effortlessly was able to date him when first getting there. Even though we didn’t date long, because that’s how high school relationships tend to be, the fact that people I didn’t even know said those things about me just for dating someone still kind of bothers me to this day.
High school is full of things like that, you know the jealousy and the talking behind others backs. Because of this, I really tried to stick to my very small friend group, most of who were from Salem. I never really felt like I fit in with a lot of the East Lyme people, although I did make friends with a couple of them who became best friends. Sports was one way I was really able to make those friendships. While adult life may have gotten in the way of us staying super tight knit, at the end of the day, we can text each other at any time and it’s like no time has passed.
In my high school, we all had lunch at the same time. That meant as freshman, we would literally sit in the hallway on the ground during lunch (I’m not sure if that’s something that happens at other schools). But to us, that was just normal. The upper classmen were the ones who were privileged enough to get tables. Despite sitting on the floor, we all made the best of it and we had a lot of fun during lunch.
When I think about high school, I really think a lot about sports. I played sports year-round throughout high school and to be completely honest, they kind of consumed my life. I don’t think I would have survived those years of sports sucking up all that time if I didn’t have friends on my teams.
Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy some of the sports. I really liked field hockey. I had only started playing when I was a freshman in high school. I hadn’t even practiced before tryouts. My freshman year I became varsity, and of course, people said things about me like “oh she was only picked because the coach is from Salem” but I really feel that I earned the spot. I later became the captain, although honestly, I don’t think anyone on my team actually voted for me because my team was filled with popular people and I was definitely not one of them. I had always wondered how I had gotten voted in or if my coach had just made me captain because I never fit in with the people my age on my team.
The other sport I did was track. I had never had any intention of running track, but the track coach had recruited me because he saw me beating everyone on the field hockey field during sprints. I remember being a freshman sitting in World History class when this old man I didn’t know came in and said “step into my office…” (aka the hallway) and he said I really should run track. And so I did. But, I hated it. Running for no reason other than to run was the worst, but I was good at it, so I kept doing it because it seemed to make others happy.
High school wasn’t all sports though. I spent a lot of time seeking out attention pretty much in all the wrong places. I had a LOT of boys that were interested in me and I would message them all at the same time. I would lead them on just to get the attention. The attention made me feel good. I wouldn’t say I didn’t have confidence in my looks, but I definitely hated myself a lot. Like a lot a lot. So having all these different guys swoon over me was awesome. I actually had one guy from my crafts class knit me a scarf.
A few of them were serious, but those were ones that very much started as friends and then later turned into other things. I wasn’t really allowed to hangout with people outside of school who were boys so most of these “relationships” were just texting and some I would hangout with in school during lunch of study halls. Even though these relationships of sorts never went anywhere, I still look back on these times really fondly because before anything else, they were my best friends.
When I was a senior, I had my first REAL relationship. In the beginning, things seemed really great. They always do. I was head over heels, partially because I had never had a real relationship. I had never had anything serious and established that lasted long. To be completely honest I thought something was wrong with me, but I also was afraid of being in a relationship prior to this because I was so afraid of getting attached to anyone and having them leave me.
Regardless, I had my first real relationship. He was my first. I loved him and I think he loved me. But sometimes love is not enough. At that age, we are so immature and people do things to hurt others, whether they realize it or not. This boyfriend had always made me feel like shit about my body. I had struggled with an eating disorder since middle school, but this relationship had made it worse, both during it and after it ended. My struggle with anorexia was really heightened from the toxic nature of the relationship.
We ended up breaking up after high school when he went into the navy. But, I would continue to talk to him and be involved with him on and off throughout college. Towards the end of that period, I didn’t have feelings and he did. I think I was just trying to be a friend to him because he seemed to be struggling. He had felt guilty for what he put me through and he was trying to make up for it, but the damage had already been done. His actions in that relationship really harmed my future relationships because it damaged me a bit. I had no trust for many years because of him. Happy to say I have not had contact with him in years because I finally learned how to set boundaries for myself.
While high school was not all bad, I am so glad that I matured and have since worked heavily on my mental health. In high school, I don’t think I really understood much about mental illnesses and it wasn’t until I was in college that I had actually took the steps to work on it. The good news is I really do love myself more now at age 24 than I did when I was in high school. I was able to learn about myself and my depression, anxiety, and my eating disorder through lots of therapy and self-reflection when I got out of high school.
If I had known more about mental health in high school and understood it better, maybe I would have reached out for help sooner. I think high schoolers in this day and age have a much better understanding of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues due to social media. Believe it or not, people were not as open about it on social media as they are now. Although that’s not to say people sharing now aren’t still fighting to end the stigma.
Regardless, I eventually got the help I needed. I am still a work in progress to this day, but looking back on high school, I am so glad I am not the same person. I am so glad I got to know myself and love myself instead of looking for outside validation whether it be from people or social media. Looking back reminds me of just how much I overcame.
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