I never liked the idea of growing up. When I was younger, I remember waking up in the middle of the night and crying to my mother because being an adult petrified me. It didn’t seem real, yet it quickly became a tangible reality that overwhelmed me in my senior year of high school.
Besides having the existential crisis of my life, I was involved with a very toxic group of people that turned my high school experience into a part of my life I dreaded looking back on. To describe only an instance of the ridiculous things I tolerated for years, there was the time I opened up about my sexuality.
It was and still is one of the deepest parts of me that I treasure and at that time, I kept it hidden, afraid I would be judged and cast out for being different. I decided to share who I really was with my friends because I wanted to be honest with someone for once in my life.
Their reactions ranged from being supportive to claiming it was stupid of me to identify as anything other than straight because of my lack of experience with the same gender.
Months after, it felt like I was suffocating whenever I was around them. Even those friends that had accepted me without question could not bring themselves to admit the group’s friendship was harming all of us.
Finally, I had the courage to cut off my toxic friends when summer ended. Freeing myself from those that had influenced and shaped who I had become proved to be the biggest challenge thus far. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I am proud I did it.
However, letting go of my childhood friends left me in a very vulnerable position. When you’re as emotionally drained as I was, it’s like you’re drowning slowly. There’s a weight constantly laying on top of you until you have no option but to succumb to it.
Then, you see a light and decide to reach for it. A boat saves you and lets you onboard, making promises that seem too good to be true. But you ignore that, along with the questionable way they act toward you or say certain things because at least you don’t feel utterly alone.
I made a few acquaintances here and there before moving to Montclair State University, one of them helping me go through my friendship breakup. I considered them to be a close friend and blindly trusted them, thinking I meant the same to them. I accepted the help of this person, someone that would push me off the boat themselves months later.
That was only the beginning of what I like to call “The September Arc,” a segment of my life that served as a copious amount of character development.
When I turned 18, I was two months away from finishing my first college semester. Both good and bad had transpired and to top it off, I was legally an adult. As a teenage girl, my reaction to what had occurred had naturally been cutting my hair short, dying it red, crying over Mitski and reading a concerning amount of romance books.
All jokes aside, I have never felt so lost in my life. I kept considering those exhausting relationships as personal failures. For a while, I wondered most what had driven my past loved ones to change so drastically toward me, so it was only reasonable to question if I had been at fault.
But I realized you shouldn’t put aside what you believe in and who you are out of fear that you’re going to end up alone. If someone chooses to act a certain way toward you when you have been nothing but loving and unconditional to them, that is their problem.
We are not the face of those who have hurt us, nor are we responsible for their feelings or the consequences of their decisions.
Life is not easy, especially when you enter college. It’s about self-discovery, adventures, learning with those around you, being uncomfortable and trying new things. But most importantly, it’s finding how you fit into this crazy, beautiful world.
My spring semester experience is proof of that.
I’ve never been surrounded by so many loving people, who genuinely like me for who I am and I know I can trust them. They listen to my dramatic rants, give me advice no matter how big or small the issue and put Vines and Olivia Rodrigo on when the tears have stopped. I can confidently say they add only happiness to my life and make me a better person.
So don’t you ever settle for less. It is the worst way in which you can betray yourself.
I know I’m only a soon-to-be sophomore, but I can’t wait to see my friends and loved ones thrive and pursue their dreams. For those of you that have been with me all along and the ones I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know as of late, this is a love letter to you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.