John

We met our Freshman year, in math class as I recall. We got along really well for a while. We were in the same friend group, had a lot of the same classes (drama included), and were interested in some of the same things. Over the course of the school year, however, things changed. He got distant and ignored me when I spoke. If he asked a question and I answered, he would ask the question again until someone else answered. He ran into me (literally) in the hallway once and didn't say anything. Soon, it became clear that our friendship was coming to an fast end. 

To protect the privacy of those involved, let's call him John Doe. Like I said, John and I were both in drama and had a lot of the same friends. So when it was seemingly revealed that we weren't getting along, the rest of our friends were confused. In talking to a few of them, I learned that John was angry with me, but I couldn't place what I had done. I spent days wondering what on earth had happened to make him treat me differently. Eventually, we talked and everything seemed okay again, until the next couple weeks went by and he, again, wasn't talking to me. I wondered what I had done, what I could do to change things, and blamed myself for how I was being treated. This cycle continued for the remainder of our Freshman year.  By the end of the school year, I'd given up hope of reconciliation. 

Our Sophomore year, everyone in the school went on a weekend retreat, and while on a night hike to see stars, John and I talked and our friendship seemed to resume- for real this time. The next few months were relatively normal, until around October or November (I honestly can't remember anymore). This next part of the story is where I start to look bad, and I was definitely at fault this time. One afternoon after school when we were waiting to be picked up, he mentioned to me that he was starting to like one of our mutual friends. He told me not to tell anyone, and I said I wouldn't. He then said I couldn't even tell my mom, and I said I wouldn't. I have a feeling you can guess what I did when my mom got me and we drove home. 

I also told our mutual friend, and when John found out he, with good reason, got distant once again, from me and her. I apologized, we talked it over, and everything seemed to be okay with us and also with him and the other girl. Soon after this, however, things got worse. He ran (literally... again) into me in the hallway and didn't say anything, he told his friends (that I didn't know very well) things about me that weren't true, and continued to do the things he'd done in the past. It got to the point where a mutual friend of ours actually came up to me and told me that John had told her he was angry with me and didn't ever want to speak to me again. Since I had apologized for messing up four months before and we'd talked it over already, I assumed it was something different. As it turned out, he was still upset about me telling his secret.

My best example for how toxic this friendship was is the time when he told me he was switching schools. This made me think about how I didn't want him leave with us not getting along, and I tried extra hard to be nice to him. As it turned out, he wasn't moving, and when I found out that he'd lied, he broke down into tears and started telling a story about his childhood to explain his behavior. I must admit, this made me angry. I felt manipulated, and I had no idea why the brunt of his rollercoaster behavior was directed towards me. The rumors continued to be spread, John continued to ignore me, and it all got to the point where my mom suggested that I talk to one of my favorite teachers so she was aware of the situation. 

When I went to my teacher to tell her what was happening, her response was "Do you think maybe he likes you?" I swallowed my comments of "why is that the thing to focus on?" and "even if he did, that doesn't excuse his behavior," and simply followed with "No, I don't." Nothing really came from that conversation, in fact I don't think my teacher was paying that much attention anyway. Nothing changed with John by the end of my Sophomore year, and when I moved away I learned that things had actually escalated, even with me being 120 miles away. 

In this friendship, I did mess up. I take complete ownership of that just as much now as I did two years ago. But that slip up that I made still does not excuse the way I was treated before and after. I would go to school with a knot in my stomach because I was worried about which John I would be greeted with- the John I was friends with or the John who, quite frankly, hated me. I haven't told many of our mutual friends this before, but the way I was treated truly did affect me, even after I moved. I would play it off like it was nothing. Like I was totally okay and he could think of me however he wanted because, hey, I wasn't there anymore so why should it matter? But the truth is, knowing that there is someone out there who doesn't like you for reasons that you still aren't totally sure about is difficult. 

I need to make myself clear about something: I do not share this story to throw blame at someone or make it seem like I do everything right, but rather to show that my friendship with John wasn't really a friendship. We had those few good moments, but real friendships don't revolve around one person feeling angry one day and the other worrying that she's never going to make it up or live it down. Real friendships are a give and take. Real friendships include owning up to your mistakes, forgiveness, and trust that after having the hard conversation you won't be thrown under the bus every time you hit a bump in the road. Since moving, I have collected many real friendships. Friendships that don't make feel like I'm constantly walking on eggshells or that I have to apologize for an imagined offense. 

There is a big difference between a friendship that involves a disagreement and ends in a constructive conversation and a friendship that is flat out toxic. My friendship with John was toxic, and it has taken me a while to realize that. This does not mean that he is a toxic person, but rather that he was not a person that I should be friends with. Sometimes people aren't meant to be friends forever, and that's okay. Sometimes friendships go south and there really isn't anything you can do about it. Sometimes you can do all you can to fix something that you've broken, but you can only do so much before giving the other person the chance to accept your apologies, solutions, and even your humanity. And if that person chooses not to accept, then you have to be able to let go. 

Why Switching Schools Was the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me

The first time I remember crying into a journal was March 03rd, 2016. I wrote a lot in the next few months, going through the last months of my Sophomore year and the time I spent at that high school. I told my friends I was moving over the course of a couple weeks. I told one of my best friends via text, another right before the start of World History, and another in the cafeteria, which caused her to throw her pencil case at me. 

I didn't want to move. No, I don't think you understand. I really didn't want to move. I didn't want to start over again, and I didn't want to go to a new school where I literally didn't know a single person. I had never done that before. Every school I'd gone to had at least one person that I knew. So when the first day of my Junior year came around, I stayed in the car until my mom had to force me out. I went to the wrong side of the campus, had a couple eighth graders tell me so, and was late to a couple classes. It was easily not my favorite day. But slowly and surely the year progressed into something beautiful. 

Some of the girls in the class above me took me under their wing and were like the six big sisters I never had. I've said it hundreds of times, but I don't think I can ever thank them enough. When I started at the school I'm at now, I had sunk back into this shy state, which is who I was when I was in elementary school. All of them lifted me up, made me feel smart, and raised my confidence to the highest it's ever been. As the progressed, I found myself being coined "the writer" and "that one girl who likes poetry," and I started using those things to my advantage. My instagram stories became the place I showed the books of poetry I had, and after starting this blog I showed it to a few (very few) people. I had always wanted to be the one who was known for writing and poetry, especially since starting high school, and now I was that person. 

Sometime during my Freshman year, I was texting one of my friends when I said I was pretty sure I wasn't being myself. I said I wanted to be the person who a little quieter, read poetry, and was known for being a writer. When I switched schools, I became that person. Not only did I become who I had wanted to be a couple years earlier, but I felt better about myself. Switching schools was the best thing that ever happened to me because I figured out who I was and who I wanted to be. I had the people to help me do that, and I learned the art of quiet strength. 

I realized a few weeks ago that I'll be switching schools again next year. I'm going to college, so it's a little different, but it's a new school nonetheless. A new school, a new state, a lot of new people. It's scary, but part of me is looking forward to it. If I figured out more of who I was when I switched schools last time, I can only hope that the same will happen this time around. 

The Golden Gate Bridge

I hate bridges. Actually, I'm scared of them. I'm scared of walking across them, driving across them, or anything else that has to do with them. When I'm on a bridge, I start to panic about the possibility of falling off and drowning in the car that has submerged under the water. This fear, however, does not apply to my old friend, the Golden Gate Bridge. 

When I was nine years old, Christmas was spent with my cousins, my aunt and uncle, and my aunt and uncle from England. Before the holiday, however, I went to the Golden Gate Bridge with my dad, my brother, one of my cousins, and the England aunt and uncle. The first picture below is of my and my cousin, Melody (I'm on the right), and we're probably just catching up on the last few years because we've never been the cousins who see each other all the time. This particular catch up moment, however, is probably my least favorite. While walking along the Golden Gate Bridge, I remember telling her about my parents, how I was pretty sure they were going to get divorced someday, and how I wasn't necessarily worried but definitely wasn't happy about it, either. As we all walked across the bridge, I remember thinking about how life as I knew it was going to change, and I remember not knowing how to feel about it. 

The next time I visited the bridge was pretty similar. As I'd suspected, my parents were separated, but I'd come to realize a divorce was not far off. There are some really cute pictures of me and my brother from this trip across the bridge, but since I know he'd never forgive me if I posted them, we'll stick to the picture of me and my cousin. The point of me telling about this second trip is the same as the first: My melancholy, ten year old self was in a state of reflection. Something about the Golden Gate Bridge does that to me, I guess, and it always has. While at the bridge I thought about my family a little, but the thing I remember most about this visit is me thinking about my friends, or rather the lack of them. I had been at camp meeting with my dad, brother, and grandparents, and while there I had found a few kids my age who I'd been with the majority of the time, and I loved it. I knew, though, that when I went back to school all of that would change, and I really didn't want it to. 

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Flash forward a few years, and I was living in Cupertino, which, on a good day, is only about an hour away from San Francisco. My parents had been divorced for about four years, I had moved to a different school and had a good ground of friends. On this trip to the Golden Gate Bridge, my mom and I had actually taken one of those boat tours that pass under the bridge itself, and it was right before passing under that I took the picture below. The first two times I'd visited the bridge, I'd thought about the things in my life that I didn't like, mainly my family and lack of friends. This time, however, I distinctly remember thinking about all I had to be thankful for. As I wrote in an Instagram post that day, "...today, my heart was filled with peace, and I knew that even though life isn't always easy, I am happy with my family and my friends. I am happy with my house, and I am happy with my school. And I know that God had all of this planned out the last time I was at this bridge, praying for something good to happen." My time in Cupertino didn't end up being as perfect as my fifteen year old self so wanted it to be, but it certainly stood as a testament to time and all that it heals. 

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The next time I visited the bridge was only four months and three days later, on my sixteenth birthday. I'll probably write a whole post someday about my sixteen birthday (and the Halloween that followed), but right now I'll only say the good parts of that day. Being at one of the places that had meant to much to me on my birthday somehow made it seem extra special. Since it was my birthday, I was already feeling reflective, and being by the Golden Gate Bridge just made me more so. I remember that I almost started crying because I was getting older. All of a sudden, I felt the pressure of being closer to twenty than to ten, but then remembered how I felt when I was ten years old and stood exactly where I stood then and realized that life was far better now than it was six years ago. 

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My most recent journey to the Golden Gate Bridge was a couple weeks ago. I went with my mom, and as we walked across I felt myself grow quiet. The first time I stood on the bridge, my family was changing. This time, as I stood there looking out onto the water, I realized that my family is changing once again, only in a very different way. The second time I stood on the bridge, I was heartbroken over my lack of friendships, and this time I realized I have come out the other side of that. Probably not for forever, but right now I have strong friendships all over the place, and I couldn't be thankful enough for that. The third time I came to the bridge, I was just thankful for everything that happened in the past four years, and this time I once again felt that feeling of gratitude. The fourth time, I felt the pressure of growing up, and that was still true this past time. This is my last year of high school, my last year at home, my last year of all that has been familiar. My sixteen year old self was worried about turning twenty one day, and if only she could imagine what my present, eighteen year old self is feeling. Even so, there is something about this bridge that takes away all my fears. 

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I'm afraid of bridges. I don't like them, and I avoid them whenever I can. Except for when it comes to the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge. This bridge, this place, reminds me of all that I've gone through in the past eighteen years. It reminds me of what life was like before my parents split up, what it was like right after, and what it's been like since. It reminds me of what it feels like to wander the playground by yourself because you don't have any real friendships, and yet it also reminds me of what it's like to have friends who want to take pictures with you on your sixteenth birthday (and also what it's like to have friends who will take care of you when you're sick and throw up all over the cabin floor. But again, the story of my sixteenth birthday is for another time). The Golden Gate Bridge reminds me of all I have overcome, and all I have to be thankful for. The bridge reminds me to take life one day at a time while still looking ahead to all the good things life will one day give me. 

Life hasn't always been easy, and I know that fact won't change as life goes on. But while life hasn't always been beautiful, it has always had beautiful moments. While I may still be afraid of bridges, this one in particular will always have a very special, bridge shaped space in my heart. 

The Quest to Be Genuine

It was the end of May, 2015. The yearbook staff had just finished passing out yearbooks, and there I was, sitting cross-legged on the gymnasium floor, holding my book in one hand and a green pen in the other. Friends, acquaintances, and even seniors I didn't know very well came by and we signed each other's yearbooks. I was in this position for about half an hour before a girl in my class approached me. She had sat behind me in Physical Science, in the back in English, and across the room in math. I was jealous of her long hair and her black shoes, and she was standing above me holding out her yearbook asking me to sign it. I took it and handed her mine before writing a typical "You're so nice, I hope you have a nice summer. See you next year" blah blah blah kind of thing, and handing the book back to her. She handed me mine and when she had walked a respectable distance away I read what she had written. I've forgotten the majority of it but I will never remember the ending: "You're so genuine. Don't ever change." Now, the "don't ever change" was a phrase written countless times in multiple Freshmen yearbooks, but the "you're so genuine" part really stuck with me. 

Now normally I wouldn't think so much about something a girl I hardly knew wrote in my yearbook, but the idea of being "genuine" had always been in the back of my mind. I had never thought of myself as genuine. If anything, that year especially, I thought of myself as someone hiding behind a mask. So, I made the conscious decision to be genuine. I didn't care if the girl had only written what she wrote so it would look as though she had put some thought in, or if she had truly been genuine (ha, sorry. I had to.). I decided that when I returned to school for my Sophomore year, I was going to be the most myself I had ever been. 

It was the end of May, 2016. My Sophomore year was coming to a close, and I was sitting in the choir room. Class had sort of been canceled that day, but not enough so that we were allowed to actually leave the room. I was sitting at the back behind a few chairs, earnestly reading the last third of "Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban" while many other students signed each other's yearbooks. Eventually, I looked up and saw that one of my friends who I had been anxious to have sign my yearbook was free from signing others, so I stood up and walked over to her. I handed her my book and when I received it back I read something along the lines of: "I love the way words fall out of your mouth and never make sense." I didn't think much of it until about a month later when I was taking a break from packing and read it again. "Words fall out of my mouth and never make sense?" I thought to myself. Suddenly I was faced with the thought of maybe my being genuine was being received as awkwardness and weirdness (it is highly possible that this is where my love of Luna Lovegood comes from). 

I began to think back on my interactions with other people throughout my time at that high school. The times when I made people laugh, were they laughing with me? or at me? The times when I thought I was being genuine by not staying silent, were they well received or was I looked at as being the odd one out? When people told me I made them "feel smart", did they mean I built them up or did they mean they felt smart in comparison to me? I wasn't sure I liked the idea of being genuine anymore if it made me appear less than. 

It was the middle of December, 2016. I was sitting at a banquet table next to a girl I didn't know very well. On my first day, she had been nice enough to go beyond the "Hi, what's your name? Are you finding your way around okay?" and had gone on to a real conversation, but other than that I hadn't spoken to her that much. The table was round, and anyone who isn't skilled in dining arts knows that when there is a round table, it can be tough to navigate which plate belongs to who. At one point I said something like "Wait, is this plate mine? Or is it this one? I'm really not good at this!" and laughed at my own expense when the girl next to me said "I love how unapologetically awkward you can be!", and I braced myself. Had I made another mistake? Had my half hearted crack at being genuine once again been translated as simple weirdness? I followed up with "Because then you feel less awkward?", and hoped I wouldn't meet a comment along the lines of "Yeah because in comparison to you I feel graceful, intelligent, and all around amazing." Instead, the girl laughed softly and said, "No, because then we can be awkward together and I feel less alone." 

It was then that I realized what had been missing all along. To me, being genuine means being honest with what you are feeling and why. It means being unapologetic for who you are, and being humble in the face of others. This girl had showed me that my being genuine wasn't always looked at as being less than; sometimes it was looked at as an open hand to mutual acceptance. It wasn't that being genuine made me look stupid or like I didn't think things through, I just happened to encounter some people who didn't understand who I was, and they weren't necessarily ready to see me be okay with who I am.

It's not that I'm perfect at being genuine- I think that would actually defeat the purpose entirely- but I am beginning to realize that I don't need to think I'm less than in order to think I'm being honest with who I am. I still don't understand everything there is to understand, however. I am, as they say, on a quest. A quest to be genuine.