Those who survived high school can be categorized into two types: those who miss high school, and those who don't. I have found that those who miss their time in high school are the ones who peaked in high school. They were probably popular, had lots of friends and perhaps excelled in something — whether that's sports or art.
The people who look back on their four years of high school and can't pinpoint a single thing they miss have generally always been the ones who find success after graduation. In my case, most of the people I hated in high school were those who peaked somewhere during freshman and senior years. They walked the halls like they owned the place, and now, they're living at home with their parents in the same town they went to high school in.
I was an outcast in high school. Although I say this now, I never would've admitted it at the time. Being an outcast doesn't necessarily mean I was the Hollywood portrayal of one. Things were not thrown at me when I walked through the halls (well, not always). I didn't sit in the corner of the cafeteria and eat alone while the jocks sat at a table close to me and taunted me.
I didn't show up to sporting events and stand ominously behind the bleachers, silently plotting my revenge à la “Carrie.” I never let my peers push me around like most movies and television shows depict as a normal day for an outcast.
I was simply alone, and I preferred it that way. Reminiscing on the beginning of my time in high school is an interesting thing, really. When my freshman year came around, I was pretty much the type of chick I would come to hate later on. I had long blonde hair down my back, wore lots of color and was smiling and flirting with people like it was my mission in life.
I had a wide range of friends, a boyfriend on the football team, and received the kind of attention that ultimately became the exact thing that I strived to avoid from my male peers. When my boyfriend and I broke up, I became severely depressed and removed myself from everything that once gave me a sense of happiness. At the time, it seemed like my world was falling apart. But looking back on it now, it was the best thing that could've ever happened to me.
The summer after freshman year, I cut my hair into a bob, developed a strong taste for black clothing, started listening to music that spoke to me in ways top 40 hits didn't and I started writing. When I returned to school in the fall, nothing was the same. Thus began the next three years of being considered an “outcast” for all intents and purposes.
As an adult who has been out of high school for nearly six years now, I can understand the pain of those who don't fit into the cookie-cutter versions of who they are told to be during their time in school. My heart breaks to see my younger cousin struggling to find the happiness that so many of her friends seem to radiate constantly.
I can relate to the kids who fight back tears as they walk into school in the morning because they are dreading spending the next seven hours around people who simply don't understand them. I know how it feels, and more importantly, I know it gets better.
Although I would love to say it didn't bother me to stay in most nights while my classmates were partying, it did. It hurt when I didn't go to a single prom during high school because no one wanted to go with me. It hurt when all of my old friends had boyfriends and I was perpetually single. It hurt when those who didn't like me started mindless rumors about me, and I didn't have a group of friends to stick up for me.
It hurt when I fell into the trap of sexting during sophomore year and a girl who didn't like me sent a nude photo of me to everyone in town. It hurt when people egged my car. It hurt when a hate blog was started about me and ultimately went viral around the school. It hurt when I was made fun of for wearing high heels to school. It hurt when I walked into the cafeteria at lunch and people whispered about me.
It all hurt, but it all made me who I am today. They say that some of the strongest people had to go through heaps of horrible times in order to build their thick skin. I agree with that sentiment. Had I not had a really difficult time during high school, I may not have ever gotten out of the town I was in.
I may not have ever found that the light at the end of the tunnel is filled with happiness. I may not have ever discovered that self-love is the most important love there is. All of the elements that seemed so trying at the time were simply building blocks for my future.
Since I've graduated – before my classmates, mind you – I have lived many lives. I've moved around the country, I've developed a sense of excitement I never would've found had I stayed in town and I now have a successful career. I sometimes wonder how different my life would have turned out had I remained the same girl who walked into high school on the first day of freshman year.
But then I look at the lives of all of the people who remained who they were on that day. All of the people who thrived in high school are now living mundane lives I would never want for myself. So, this is my message to all of the outcasts who are struggling to make it through high school: Embrace it. We “outcasts” are the ones who wind up happy in the end.