I think when you’re little you wake up and think all of these things about the world. You think it’s kind, endearing, and welcomes you with open arms. You think your parents will stay happy forever, you think your friends are the best, there’s nothing you would change. Life is good. Life is carefree, you can’t imagine it ever not being that way.
Then one day, things get harder. You become a little more observant. You realize that there’s more to life than the playground. Being hurt isn’t just falling off the swing set anymore, it’s when you don’t get invited to one of your best friends’ birthday parities. Or the boy in your class who didn’t pick you as his friend for the free lunch with your teacher. You remember the time you curled your hair for the first time and wore a dress. You remember your teacher asking you why you looked so dolled up today. You remember being embarrassed for the first time about your crush on that boy who didn’t feel the same way. It’s when you learned life wasn’t always fair. It’s when comparison started to begin and you really realized what inequality meant.
But life went on. You observed more things. Instead of elementary school drama, it turned into middle school. You feel like you’re a step behind everyone. The girls become pretty, but you still have your braces and acne. You start to lose confidence. The boys on the bus call you names; they make up rumors. You didn’t even know what those words meant, but you’re starting to learn. The clicks start to form; you find yourself lost in people. You realize what awkward small talk is. You realize that not everyone is a true friend. You drift from the people who used to be your best friends, and attempt to make new ones.
Classes feel harder, you start to learn what stress is. Life isn’t so easy anymore, it isn’t just a playground. The teachers get grouchy; they start making premade assumptions before they even meet you. You look at other girls and wonder why you don’t look that way too. Clothes become important. That bright yellow Juicy Couture tracksuit doesn’t cut it anymore; you need a new pair of Abercrombie jeans. Don’t mind the price, it’s style. You don’t want to look different, do you? You walk around the halls, talking about the same things. “That new girl is so mean.” “Yeah I know, I think so too,” no you don’t, you don’t even know her. What #1 says, is what #2 believes. Your opinion is irrelevant; you must follow everyone else’s.
Middle school ends, you join a new and bigger world called high school. This is the place you’ve dreamed of. You think your opinion will be heard, you’re mostly right. You think the boys will grow up and you’ll meet someone nice, maybe that’s true. You think that you’ll start fresh here. It’ll be easy. Dear God, it’s not.
Your freshman year of high school, everything is exciting. The classes are new; you’ve developed a new sense of freedom here. There’s more expected out of you, but you think you can do it. You notice girls changing. Abercrombie jeans are ridiculous now, are you 14? No, I’m 15. Well, now it’s True Religion, can you ever keep up?
Things like Homecoming Court become prevalent. Those who get elected are supposedly the most admired in the school, at least that’s what you thought. You shortly realize it’s all just a popularity contest. You thought high school was more than that, you thought personality would start to be valued. Nope, still just looks. The guys get excited at football games while watching the dancers; you always watch in the stands behind. Jealousy creeps up. Why can’t I be that girl? Cause you’re not.
You find a group of friends; you think they’re pretty solid. Little do you know, a year from now everything will change. You experiment now, you meet the older guys. You walk around the school in hopes of someone older admiring you. Little do you understand, it’s never for the right reasons. They invite you to parties, but you’re still to scared to try anything new. You admire the older girls; they seem like they have their shit together. Oh my God, no they don’t. You meet a boy, you date. He was nice, but too boring. You get confused. You find someone else. Too bad you didn’t break up with him yet.
You start your sophomore year. You’re that girl that gets elected on to court; you think life is pretty good right now. Except the fact that you’re confused as hell, have no idea what you’re doing, and there’s a kid playing tricks on your mind every day. He tells you he loves you, he asks you for a picture. You ponder the thought because you think this is how high school works. So you do it. Nothing bad happens, but you feel like an idiot. Always will too. How could you do that to yourself?
That guy who said he loved you introduced you to new things, he said you should take a shot. You did it. You find yourself in a deeper hole than ever. There’s no way out now. The shots become a frequent weekend activity, your friends have open houses. The girls who haven’t done these things think you’re going insane. They spread rumors, or really were they? You walk around with your head down. You plug your headphones in. “I just have to get through the day,” becomes a common mentality. Your boyfriend gets worried, you’re worried too. You don’t tell him though; you want to sort things out. Or do you?
Your boyfriend breaks up with you. You think life hates you. Everyone’s out to get you, this is the worst time in your life. Trust me, you’ll be proved once again that that isn’t true. You turn rebellious; just because you want to hide how really sad you actually are. You start to think you aren’t good enough; the first thing you look at is your body. You’re so fat, Jesus, 120 pounds. What are you?
You stop eating for awhile. You’re breaking out on a daily basis and hiding in your room. The good news is, you’re down to 111. You feel healthy again, at least for awhile. Boys start to look at you. Single and skinny; two things you think guys really like. Too bad the only one you wanted didn’t like you too. You start to eat again.
You’re quite sad how things have ended up, you really don’t want to be anywhere. You’re not wanted. You show up still, have to maintain an image. God, if they only knew what was hiding behind those eyes of yours. If they only knew…Junior year begins, you started to take birth control because of your anxiety and acne. You gained like 10 pounds. You basically wanna shove your head in a pillow for the rest of your life. No one thinks you gained weight, but you can feel it. Soon, you get off that pill and lose it within two weeks. Things are better, right?
You’re snapchatting that boy you met at the end of summer; you think he’s perfect. Nothing like any of the guys you’ve met before, he’s nice. You put yourself in his brain. You make him get to know you, but he didn’t really want to at first. You were just a friend, maybe with some benefits. He loved someone else; you were just a distraction.
You give him an ultimatum; you start to realize your worth. You’re more of a person than you ever were before. He doesn’t love her anymore, he wants you. You get to know him, never know if it’s what you want, but you decide to really give it a chance. You cut that guy off from freshman year, it’s time to grow up. You go on dates, real ones; you even ask him to plan them. It’s all about the impressions. If I can be this cool, sane, and pretty girl, will he learn to like me? You avoid the touchy subjects at all costs, he can’t know the real you.
You get closer. He actually is pretty neat. He’s got some baggage, but you were always a fixer upper. You like the challenge. He distracts you. He convinces you that life is great, only if you’re with him though. The separation anxiety will start to kick in. For the most part, junior year is great. You quit that God awful therapy for your panic attacks, and saw a psychiatrist. She couldn’t believe you made it without meds. Your anxiety is shortly (somewhat) relieved. You have a boyfriend you love. You distance yourself from the drama of your friends, and pop in whenever you want to.
Then you go to prom for the first time. The best night of your life, right? You look perfect. You’ve never been more excited. You have a blast at pictures, then you get on the bus. Your anxiousness and social anxiety kicks in. He wonders why you won’t dance. You host the after party. It’s a catastrophe. It reminds you why you stopped hanging out with your friends in the first place. They always act like intoxicated idiots.
You pull through junior year. You take the ACT, you still suck, but you’re okay. You say, “I love you,” for the first time and actually mean it. You’ve never felt this way before. You’re so scared for him to leave for college; your happy place will disappear. You’re lucky though, you’ll have the summer to prepare. Just kidding, that’s bullshit.
The summer is spent with him, him, and more him. You loved most of it, besides the topic of college. You didn’t do anything too risky, but you felt pretty good. You were in a good spot with most of your friends. Everything was okay. The last weeks before school approach, you’re gone almost all of them. You spend time with your family, and his. You hear some good, and some bad news. You sit through one of the most difficult talks of your life and don’t understand why your faith has never been more challenged.
He leaves for college. You make dinner for the first time night before, you say your goodbyes. “It’s only 20 minutes away,” they said. I never knew how far that would feel until it actually happened. There are moments of clarity, and some with none at all. You visit often, but he wants to be alone. He’s a college kid, that’s what college kids do.
You try to get used to the partying, the confusion, the unknown. It’s so much harder than you ever thought, you feel like you’re breaking. A two way street isn’t two when the other isn’t compromising. School sucks. You hate your classes; senior year was supposed to be fun. You never see any of your friends, and you hate football games. There’s nothing to do in this city. Just when you think the fighting, sadness, and security issues could any worse. You find out she got sicker.
Your boyfriend’s mom; who you quickly learned to love after months of trying to impress. She had cancer, a shitty case of it too. Your heart starts to hurt. The helplessness kicks in. She’s had it for four years, but now she’s on hospice. Things have taken a turn for the worse.
You’re there for him, and his whole family. You can’t even imagine the toll on their hearts. This whole situation is just a testament of faith. Can they do it? Can you do it? What can you do? You stick around. Your first two weekends of senior year are spent with him and his family, struggling to find ways to support.
You give hugs, write cards, give food, but nothing seems to ease the pain. You’re struggling too, God, why this family? The first weekend’s spent filled with goodbyes. You try to hug the pain out of them, but you can still see it in their eyes. You’re trying to hold it together, but it’s so hard. You remember the few, but always meaningful comments she made to you. You’ll always love the color light pink on you, it’ll remind you of her. She thought you looked beautiful in it.
He’s mad all the time. At you, at himself, at the world. Can you do anything right? You feel like the bad guy, but all you’re trying to do is be there. You have to say goodbye; all you can mutter is “you’re an amazing woman.” “I was,” she said, if she only knew what we were all thinking. She’d become the inspiration of your life in a matter of months. So strong, so courageous, 6 kids? How can you manage all of this with 6 kids? She is an amazing woman, always was. Never stopped.
She passes the next day. Could life honestly throw me one hurdle, come at me please. You want to make everything better; you can’t. Just be there when you can. Next weekend, the arrangements begin. The wake, the funeral. Don’t even want to get into specifics. She was a beautiful woman, that’s all I can say. She also raised hell of a family, you can’t even imagine. Her passing will continuously break my heart in the days to come.
You see the impact she made on everyone; especially her children. How will they carry on? You feel this need to be there, but you know you won’t be forever. This, by far, will be the biggest challenge you’ve faced.
So, senior year. Things should be great, but they’re really just not. You sit and wonder why God does the things he does. You question why you of all people are the one in this situation, and how to do a better job in it without losing your mind. You don’t know how to save him in fear of losing yourself. The wait for college acceptances begins, and the anxiousness and fear hovers over you. Every. Single. Day.
How will it end? I don’t know.