Grade school, Middle school, they’re all the same. Same rejections. The same cliques. Oh, and the stupid people that feed of other’s sadness. I was an outsider for a while there. I was never invited to anything, never did anything, I was always the outsider. So I decided to make High school everything I wanted it to be.
I had friends in high school. Actually, in the beginning, I had *plenty* of friends, and they were all outsiders too. We all knew each other’s personalities, the quiet one, the smart one, the asshole, the comedian, so on and so forth. We actually had about 15 people in our little group by sophomore year. Most of my friends dragged me to wherever we were going, to the park or a football game or another person’s house. They knew me, and they knew that I was too introverted for my own good. Even in that ‘safe space’ kids still made fun of me. Some mutual friends, mostly, would really chew me out for it. My better friends made more light-hearted jokes, that seemed innocent enough but hurt all the same.
Eventually, like all humans do, we grew apart. Our tight-knit community tapered off, splitting into three smaller, more exclusive groups. Some, like me, didn’t join any group at all and were left to our own devices. There were only three of us, though, and that’s when I started to really feel like I was on the outside looking in. I never minded being alone; I even enjoyed it. As an introvert with depression and anxiety packed in a school where everything is too loud, too bright, too big, too much, being by myself for a little while gave me time to collect myself. The problem came the summer before senior year. By that time, I had been pretty isolated from almost all of my friends for one reason or another. I was proud of myself, even, for cutting out toxic people from my life. I had kept people close to me that didn’t deserve it because I was so terrified of being seen by myself. I didn’t care if I was alone but I cared if other people saw me by myself and what they might think. My newfound loneliness empowered me and I embraced it. Of course, I still missed a lot of my friends that I didn’t intentionally cut off. My friends tried to invite me places, but I kept saying no, and they stopped trying. So, with the burning sun and the freedom to wake up and go to bed as late as I wanted that summer brought, I found myself hanging out only with family members and watching other people’s Snapchat stories of what I could have been doing if I hadn’t lost my friends. With the arrival of my senior year came the dreaded college applications, the countless hours of talk about financials and tuition and out-of-state versus in-state. As I filled out countless apps, I found myself wracking my brain for any kind of extracurricular involvement. It was different completely different from anything I had ever done in my life. Clubs were never my thing, my thing was always just school and home. Who knew all these clubs I had always thought were pointless made such a big impact on my life after high school. I had never been an ‘active member’ in my school’s community in the four years that I attended. I was this awkward mix between a model student and a loner, and for the first time it made me question who I was; I didn’t even fit in with the kids who didn’t fit in.
I wish I could say things changed but they didn’t. As senior year can to an end I walked across the stage and still felt alone. I felt as if I walked with a class where everyone knew of me but no one knew me or why I was a loner. I had worked hard to rebuild the friendships that I’ve lost, but now more than ever I’m glad that I was okay with being alone. I have a better sense of self than a lot of my friends do; I’m okay with cutting people out of my life if they’re toxic, even if that means I’ll be by myself more than I’m used to. I know my experiences would’ve been a lot easier if I had allowed myself to make more friends and be more open with people. But that just wasn’t me or what I wanted to be. I wanted to just have a core group of friends or no friends.