I know how you feel, love. I can see it all over your face. I can feel it in every letter of your texts. I know how hard this is for you. Because believe it or not, I’ve been there, too.
In fact, I’m surprised it took this long for it to happen. And part of me even knew you’d be the first to go. Parts of me felt your pang before you even knew it was possible to feel this way. But I shoved those thoughts away and told myself this group of girls will be different. The truth is, though, girls are girls.
It’s sad that this happens year after year, generation after generation. What’s happening to you now is so much quieter than what I did to others, and what was done to me. And believe it or not, what’s happening to you now is so much better than what’s happening to many other girls your age all over the country. It seems like every grown woman has a war story about how they survived their friend groups in junior high and high school. People have written books about it. Others have made movies about it. Because what happens in your friend groups in junior high and high school will literally scar you for the rest of your life.
The difference between your story and mine is that you’ve been with the same kids from the time you were in first grade. You don’t have other options. It’s just these kids.
I moved around a lot, so by the time I got to middle school, many of my new friends had those established groups of friends who were their go-tos. I can’t say it’s easy being in a new place with new kids. You’ve got to find where you fit in. But once I found where I fit in, or where I thought I wanted to fit in, things got ugly.
And I’m not proud to say it, but I was part of the chaos. The group of girls I hung out with declared war on each other and people who had been friends for many, many years, turned against one another until we were all in tears. The group would decide to exclude one person, making them feel like they explode and then disappear forever, and then accept them back into the group the next week when they decided to alienate someone else.
I hated being the one who would be tackled in the hallway while a girl beat on my breastbone with her middle finger knuckle. I wanted to scream when I sat in a classroom and another girl refused to answer a question because I was the one to answer a question directly before her. I hated going into the cafeteria, looking at all the students, not knowing where I could sit because of all the rumors that were spread around about me.
At the time, that’s what I hated, but now that I’m 36 years old, many of the scars I still struggle with are the ones ingrained in me because I just used a girl just because I wanted a ride to school, not because I wanted to hang out with her. I regret walking down the highway with a group of my friends to tell someone’s boyfriend to break up with her just because we didn’t like her. I regret pinning my teammates against each other during summer basketball just because I wanted to be the best basketball player. And the list goes on and on.
When you’re a kid, you think the worst part of life is being left out. When you’re an adult you know that the worst part of life is being the one who leaves someone else out.
I think that when you’re 36, you also know that when you’re 15, there’s not a whole lot in the world that makes sense. You’re somewhere in between being a child who just wants to be held by her mom while watching a movie and an adult who wants to just leave town to find people who are more like you. You’re trying on new clothes, your age allows you to do things that you weren’t able to do before, you want to be around people who are “like” you, but the truth is that none of you will really know who you are until you’re much older.
I’ve seen you make many changes in the way you think, talk, dress and act over the last four years. And, although it’s from a distance, I’ve seen your friends change too. Kids think about who has similar interests and personalities, and choose those people to be their friends. Many kids change their interests and personalities just to fit it. And I’m glad that you haven’t. Although there are days when I’m not sure where you are, I’m glad I still see most of you there.
I just hope you remain in one piece until this ride is over. I can’t tell you when it’ll end. If yearly and generational patterns hold true, I’m guessing this rollercoaster will be over in a couple weeks. I’m guessing that your friends will not only acknowledge you again, but they will also find a way to embrace you again.
The thing is though, it’s hard for kids to embrace someone else for who they are because they can’t even embrace themselves yet. Some kids know that they want to dress a certain way or party a certain way or drive a certain way, but it’s not until you’re away from the cattle herd of high school that you really begin to experience who you are. Our being, although grown and developed by the time we are 20 years old, is still internally evolving throughout the rest of our lives.
Kids struggle with conforming just to fit in, and you know what? Adults do, too. We drive a car or put on a suit or get all wrapped up in social media because that’s who we think we should be to impress or get the likes of others. I pray that someday, even today, you will realize that your worth does not come with someone else talking to you or liking your post or asking you to a dance, but in you just enjoying you. When you get to this point, it won’t be about whether you get asked out to dinner, but you’ll get excited about sharing yourself with others on your own terms and learning about others on their terms.There will come a time in your life, maybe when you’re 36, maybe when you’re 50, maybe when you’re 25, you’re going to say “Fuck it” and just be you because the weight of what the world wants you to be is just too much to bare.
I can’t tell you that the world is going to become a better place for girls. When I was young, it was tearing someone else apart. Today it seems like it’s okay to just exclude someone as much as possible because that way you’re not “bullying.” But the effect is still the same. Girls still make each other feel small.
I do believe this, though (although you can’t see it yet): at some point you are going to find someone or maybe a group of people you really click with. Maybe you’ll be friends forever or maybe you’ll be friends for a short amount of time, but the people you really want to be around are people who make you feel like who you are is someone who is interesting. Maybe you’ll share the same interests, but more than likely you will not. True friendships aren’t made on interests, though.
True friendships flourish when you can look at someone else and say, “We are different, but I support you and you support me.” True friendships are those which say, “I know we may hit hard times, but I’ve always got you and you’ve always got me.” True friendships are the ones where you can look at someone else and say, “no matter what we are walking down these roads together.”
I’m not sure these are things you find in high school or even childhood friendships. When I was in junior high, my track coach told me that my friends in middle school and high school wouldn’t be the same people I shared life with in college or adulthood. I thought she was stupid. But I only keep up with people from this time in my life becauseI of this social media world, which was not a thing in 1992. Lifelong relationships are few and far between, but we hold onto the myth of it.
The only relationships that really last a lifetime are those with your parents and siblings. And while I know that it does not ease the pain that you are in right now, I know that these relationships will not fill the void that you feel right now, they are the relationships that will get you through your life. I am always here for you. I am always thinking about you. I know you better than anyone else in this world.
Just hold on, love. Don’t close yourself off and become callous because that choice will affect and haunt you for the rest of your life. Instead, focus on all the plans you have made for your life, focus on the people who love you (because there are a lot of us out there), focus on your studies and your cupcakes and on continuing to just be open to people. Because I know you. I know you’re shy and anxious, but you’re not mean. You have to know that there are people who love you and really enjoy having you in this world.
And as for this time in your life, know this; it sucks. I can’t think of one woman who would volunteer to go back to where you are right now. Except me. I would go back and not make people feel the way you feel right now. I would be who I am today and just invite everyone to do everything, I wouldn’t judge anyone for anything and I’d be a really good, compassionate listener. You’ve got one up on me, kiddo. You don’t have a mean bone in your body. So, I know you’re not going to live with the regrets that I live with.