About a month ago, I went to my Little’s house for Friendsgiving with my sorority sisters and she had gotten out her yearbooks to look at her and another of my sisters old photos and senior quotes and things. I was hoping her husbands’ yearbooks were there because he and I went to school together and I was curious about mine. They weren’t and I had forgotten about it by the time I’d gotten home. Yesterday, my friend was moving and his wife had found our high school year books and so I decided to take out mine and laugh along with them, states away, at our horrible pictures and stupid messages.
Looking at my year book is always an emotional rollercoaster for me because I look back so fondly and wish I could relive those days but when I really think about it, I don’t know that I’d love reliving them. I hated myself so much back then and I just remember not eating, crying over boys and mean girls and just drama, drama, drama.
I was curious to see what I wrote in my senior yearbook for my goals, memories and advice and honestly I was a little surprised by what I had to say.
My hopes for the future: go to college, become a writer, get married, be happy.
This was shocking to me because if you asked me now what I thought I’d written I would have assumed it was something about becoming the best in my career or whatever – I knew I wanted to be a writer out of college – but I became so career obsessed over the last 10 years that I was a bit surprised to see I had such simple hopes for the future.
I’ve accomplished only one of my hopes and that’s a little disheartening, especially considering it’s been 12 years. It made me self reflect to see that even 12 years ago, my hope for myself was to just share my life with someone and be happy. I think somewhere along the line in college I really lost that ambition and became this hardened person who tried to find ways to escape my relationships whenever they felt like they were headed towards marriage or the possibility of sharing “too much” with someone. Granted, I haven’t been in a relationship in almost 7 years so who’s to say how I’d react these days. I can’t even fathom anyone wanting to be in a relationship with me, let alone pushing that away but, I digress.
If I look back at my last 4 relationships, I ended all of them. I left Andrew because I didn’t want him to lose his goals and dreams to be closer to me, I left James because I lost sight of every aspect with myself when we were together, I left frank because he cared about me so much more than I could care about him and he deserved to be loved better than I could love him, and I left Jason because at the heart of our relationship I felt empty because of how it all began and never felt like we ever really connected over anything outside of Greek life and the college experience.
Now, throw in a dump truck load of trauma and toss it around through out the years of those relationships and that will fill in the holes of my timelines and ultimately become the bumper cars that pushed me towards bad relationships or away from good ones, but at the heart of everything, it was always me leaving and always me craving something else, something better.
I think that idea of craving something better is a theme in my life because I look at this beautiful, beautiful girl who I feel so distant from, who absolutely hated herself and her body, and I wish I could shake her and make her realize how much happiness and love and beauty she had. Even then, even in high school when I was a size 8 and cared about my appearance, I couldn’t find happiness. I couldn’t find a way to love myself or my situation. That feeling stayed with me, every day, and just grew and grew, as I grew, and now I’m this shell of a person incapable of loving myself, incapable of believing someone could love me, and so overweight and disconnected I can barely look in a mirror.
Sometimes it makes me wonder what I ever thought happiness should look like.
My memories: things that made me smile and inside jokes with my friends, one for each year of high school, but my very last one was “time spent with the boys”
This one made my heart smile. I think it’s easy for me to romanticize the relationship I have with them now that we’re adults because we have truly known each other since we were kids and we still try to make time for each other, as best we can, even now — not to mention everyone’s married and working on babies – but sometimes I wonder if I romanticized too much and sort of “made up” the friendship I had with them in my head like we were closer than we really were. I do that pretty easily, and friendships that last 20+ years are incredibly rare so it’s easy to question that sort of stuff, but seeing it written there, in 2007, affirmed for me that I’m not necessarily the crazy girl who made these boys up that I sometimes feel I am.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I definitely loved them more than they loved me back then. My pages are filled with messages of “sorry we always make fun of you, but not really” and various jokes that are probably borderline cruel (maybe not even borderline) but boys love differently so it makes me smile looking back on it. To look back and see that even then, they were my final thought, makes me happy. They are the memory that stuck out the most to me – the people who shaped my heart and taught me how to really, truly, come to love friends as though they’re family. It also retroactively justifies the buckets of tears I cried at Mullets wedding just thinking about how far we’ve come.
Anyway – I’ve gotten off track a bit.
My advice: love the friends you have and befriend the ones you don’t.
Again – honestly surprised at seeing this. I think I’ve gone through so much of an identity crisis lately that this helped me understand that the core of who I am has always been about loving my friends. Sometimes I don’t know how I survive everything I’ve been through – losing a sibling to Suicide, car accidents, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual assault, family members with addiction, an eating disorder, losing my aunt to cancer, caring for my brother with cancer – it’s all honestly too much to take in sometimes and I think the thread that has helped hold me to this world, to my last shred of sanity, has always been the love I have for my friends and how grateful I am for the relationships I have.
People hear about “the boys” and they genuinely question why I speak to them but the truth is – they are a part of the makeup of my soul. They are in my DNA, for better or worse, and I think having that friendship to look at and cherish over the years has honestly kept me tethered to reality when I’ve wanted to slip away. So many times I have wanted to give up but when I look at our memories and the lives they’re living now I’m just filled with happiness enough to push through. They have taught me so much pain, but also so much forgiveness and love.
My sorority sisters helped me survive losing my brother and kept me alive when I struggled with depression in college (though it may have also introduced me to some easily accessible bad coping mechanisms, but that’s another story) I can remember my heart swelling when my sisters came to his funeral, only having known me a few months, and holding me when I cried the night he died. My sisters who’ve walked in on me self harming and held me and loved me. Meeting my little gave me a love so pure I would go through all the drama of college again, just to meet her. My little connected two halves of my heart and married my Mullet and brought me some of the purest joy I’ve ever experienced
My friendship with Danielle and her family loving and accepting me helped me survive some of the most difficult times I’ve experienced with my own family and walking away from a friendship that had turned toxic and detrimental to my health. Having her family become my extended family was the only thing that got me through so many days where I felt like I had nothing else to live for.
My work friends at brockport helped me survive some of the most stressful work I’ve ever done, made me laugh every single day, and supported me when I had tragedies or health scares of my own. They’ve continued to believe in me, even after I lost everything I thought I knew when I had to leave student affairs and continue to make me laugh, despite our distance. (Sarah, Im grouping you in this group here just an FYI)
My friendship with my cousin and her friend group helped me get through losing my job, my career and my way of life after coming back home. Having friends that feel more like family with every passing year made it easier to come home and not regret that decision. And they make it easier to tolerate work now that half of them work there too 😉
Now, it’s 3am and I may be romanticizing again, but I don’t think I am. I think that for as deeply as I feel this depression I am in, I also feel other emotions deeply, like gratitude and love for my friends.
While I’m grateful I am able to feel this deeply about friendships, I just wish I could feel this way about myself. I wish I could see my world for what it was in the moment, rather than looking back 12 years later and seeing the happiness I was blind to then. It makes me wonder all the things I’ve missed these last few years, and all the things I’m missing now, because I can’t recognize happiness for what it is.
In college, I took a class called self in society and there was a moment where someone told me I was beautiful and I full out sobbed because I hated myself so much and just couldn’t see what she saw and it felt so genuine that I was forced to believe her and it shook me to my core. That’s how engrained my self-hatred really is. That moment was a defining moment for me and sometimes I think i spend a lot of time chasing that feeling. I look back at the girl I was in high school and I feel so sad that I couldn’t see what I see in her now – someone so beautiful, who loved so deeply, and was full of life. If I could write my hopes for the future now, I’d say that I hoped to become that girl again, because I can see how beautiful she was, but I should probably wish to be able to love myself for who I am now.
I feel like so much of who I’ve become is the physical manifestation of the hatred and disgust I’ve had for myself over the years and I just wish I could learn how to embrace who I am and believe I’m worth someone loving me the way I love others – because I do love others, a lot, and I think that’s always been the person I was at my core, even when I didn’t know it.