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November 30, 2010
By , Merrick, NY
I would like to think that my brother’s unhappiness was abrupt, out of the blue, but honestly, I couldn’t tell you; all I know is that at the age of thirteen, the summer before my senior year, my brother tried to kill himself. I don’t know the details, I don’t know the why. All I know is that one typical August evening, I received a phone call that will forever stay in my memory, forcing me to come to terms with the idea that my movie-esque portrayal of a high school life was suddenly not so picture perfect and not so simple. While my brother was living in his own world, obviously consumed by demons that far surpassed my knowledge of his life, I too was living in a place secluded from those around me. My life consisted of many more clichés, complete with football games, cheerleading practice, and group study sessions; more or less, I was living the stereotypical teenage dream. If I had to choose a moment that made me question my test drive as Ms. High School, it would be thinking that the person I had kicked under the table at dinner three nights prior could so easily vanish.
I’m not sure as to how exactly I involved myself so wholeheartedly into my high school life, but in one way or another, I slowly spent the first three years assimilating and compromising, giving in to the pressures and problems of adolescence. I immersed myself into the pettiness of high school, finding pleasure in my obvious physical changes, and my less- obvious mental ones. As a naïve freshman, I made the decision that I would have an average teenage experience; I wanted nothing more than to find my place in the crowd and coast my way through high school. I found the right clubs, the right friends, and consciously worked to turn myself into someone who was both accepted and appreciated by my peers. In the end, truthfully, I was happy. I had friends, academics, and my life functioned superficially enough that I was able to enjoy myself without worrying about the consequences of giving up a part of myself; my biggest worries consisted of the grades I received, the parties I attended, and the people I
surrounded myself with. I had everything I thought I wanted, and in one moment, one phone call, everything seemed to change. Underneath it all, I’m sure I had begun questioning my motives, begun to rethink my audition as the archetypal high school student, but after that news, the substance that normalcy-posed-as-happiness held was no longer so stable. I could no longer accept coasting. My tryout as the picture of high school bliss, that person without any significant worries, did not fit the individual I was anymore, and I needed to find a personal role that accompanied my life in a more fitting way. Self-compromise was no longer an option for me.
As my brother received the help he needed, I started slipping from my former character, unable to keep myself focused on the people and problems I had previously been so fixated on. Few knew what was going on in my personal life; all they saw was me pulling away from the constantly happy and constantly in-control girl they had come to know. The idea of losing someone that I love to his own discontent had made me question my attempts at happiness, and had forced me to reconsider my role as the face of adolescence. The character I so successfully played for three years does not seem worthwhile anymore, and I now choose to put my efforts into finding my true niche, not one that I cherry-pick. There was nothing wrong with my trying high school on for size, and while I wish I did not have to learn it in such a harsh manner, I am glad that I now know that I have the capability to handle my life with or without the safety net of suburban high school. I am growing up and growing past the person I thought I needed to be; I now have the opportunity to discover the person my future will allow me to become.





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