For Better or Worse

December 7, 2008
By Carly Smith, Frederick, MD

I used to think that whoever first said “These years will be the best years of your life” must have never—no matter how impossible it sounds—been a teenager. Yet, as I sit here, pen in hand, I cannot help smiling back at the past few years.

I cannot be the only one, regardless of background, when I say that I did not enjoy high school when I first walked through that front door—the only door out of eight that was actually unlocked—and stumbled through the maze of hallways seemingly alone.

I silently tiptoed into my first class at seven fifteen a.m., fifteen minutes early, and sat awkwardly in the silence. However, I was not the only nervous one in the room at the time; my ninth grade English and journalism teacher must have been calming her nerves—my first period class was her very first class. Looking back, it’s rather amusing how scared I was and my teacher might have been. If she had not been such a great teacher and inspiring person I might not have immersed myself so greatly in her journalism class one semester later. Once I received my own monthly column, known as The Insomniac Gamer, I wanted to do even more. I began helping with editing, realizing that I might want to be a Copy Editor, in addition to learning and writing even more. My pen flew across the paper effortlessly—even though few could read my small scrawls I call words—and I loved it! I realized that I write for the same reason that I breathe: if I didn’t, I would die.

Writing kept me sane during the rough couple of years sitting in small desks, walking through crowded hallways, failing physics tests, and listening to lies from people I thought I could trust. If I didn’t have a creative soul, the latter may have killed me. Small desks were merely an annoyance. Walking through the main hallway, while painful and frightening, motivated me to explore the school and find alternate routes. Failing physics tests in the ninth grade depressed me to no end, yet it taught me the necessity of studying and that even I have my weak spots. With the help of my family and friends I was able to survive the little things that made me want to sleep the day away and miss school.

Yes, I could survive the troubles that stressed my body and my mind, yet I could not protect myself—at least for a few years—from my emotions and attachments.

How did a girl who should have been my friend blind me so easily? Maybe it was because she played the part well. Perhaps it was my own naivety. A combination of the two is even more likely. I was a young, foolish eleven-year-old when we met and she fed off of me like a leech for four more years. Spending the first two years of high school with her gave me the feeling that I was a prisoner. I lost my freedom—I generally did what she told me. After all, whenever I stood independently with my own opinion a fight, rather than a disagreement, was inevitable. Negativity would follow, sucking away my patience and my optimism. Negativity truly breeds additional negativity. I would lash out at those directly around me, my words dealing harsh blows to my family. This word vomit would only stop when I tucked my tail between my legs and apologized to the dark cloud that rained over my sunny days to make her feel better. I felt that I had to lie to her to keep her happy simply so I could pretend to be pleasant.

Our façades—mine being the smile on my face and hers being the loyalty she gave me—were destined to weaken and break. It should have been no surprise when they did.

I think it’s depressing that I couldn’t say no to her until the people around me saw how quickly I was transforming into someone I didn’t want to be. It’s also pitiful that I couldn’t call off our friendship to her face. I wish I had. Maybe the aftermath would have been easier to endure; maybe it would have been worse. Useless speculation is wasted on us.

Sitting in front of the computer, I tried to keep my dinner inside my stomach. My parents would have been less than pleased with pasta on the keyboard. Breathing in deeply, I convinced myself I was going to give myself what I wanted. This “take-take-take” relationship she had with me was over. With my fingers wavering slightly on the mouse, I opened my instant messaging service and clicked on her name. I began cordially, not wanting to seem cruel. I didn’t want to hurt her, just for us to go or separate ways. When I finally brought it up, she was no different than usual: overdramatic, self-pitying, and ridiculous. I said what needed to be said and then signed off.

I had not expected what was stirring underneath the surface. The following six months were wrought with more betrayal at the hand of my best friend, who believed my ex-friend’s lies. My grades almost slipped and I preferred my own company in the comfort and silence of my room. My best friend was my notebook. My characters kept me sane while I struggled internally, in secret. My remaining true friends kept me smiling, but I didn’t want to let any of them know how much I was faltering until school was over for summer vacation. Those few friends are some of the most kindhearted people I have met to this day.

That summer changed me inside. I believe music plays an important role in many people’s lives. Countless songs reassured me that I was not the only one suffering. They helped me stay on my feet. In August of 2007 a great friend invited me to a huge concert. The day-long event breathed adrenaline into me. I jumped up and down. I thrusted my fist in the air to the tempo of the music. I screamed the lyrics louder than I ever thought I could. An anvil seemed to detach itself from my shoulders. I could be myself again and love myself for no other reason than for being who I am.

I write this with confidence in myself: I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for someone I am not. Of course I still try to please others, but that’s because I truly wish to do so. I enjoy making people smile.

I do not think I would be the positive person I am today at nearly eighteen years of age if I had not been through those struggles during the first few years of high school. I would not change anything and I hope that I can convince others my age to feel the same way. What happened to us in the past shaped who we are today.

High school is a learning experience. Naturally, we come here to learn, but we learn much more than dates, formulas, and grammar rules. We learn about human nature firsthand and as painful as it might have been, we can only look forward, learning from our mistakes as we go along.

I’m grateful for these years in high school, even if I did not care for the uncomfortable desks, crowded hallways, difficult tests, and manipulative people I met.

The world outside of these classrooms is harsh and we must be prepared for the hard times. We graduating seniors will not be cuddled and protected and we should not expect everything to come so easily.

When it comes to the past, change nothing; regret nothing. High school taught me to live my life how I see fit. I will reach into the clouds and seize my dreams with my own hands. No one can stop me. With determined eyes I can look at you and say, “These years have been the best years of my life so far.”

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