They say friendship is the spice of life. Well, during high school, my life was pretty bland. Growing up, I never got to experience those “Friends” or “Boy Meets World” types of friendships. In fact, my friends and I were more concerned with smoking joints and stealing packs of our parents' cigarettes than one another's feelings or aspirations.
Needless to say, the bonds that formed around our need to fog and stimulate our minds weren't all that strong. It wasn't until I got to college that I got a glimpse of the meaning of “true friend.” Even so, I've drawn a lot of lessons from going through life with a completely different mindset from those around me.
Here are a few of them:
1. I learned my true friends were there all along.
Anyone who has siblings has probably gone through the phase of despising his or her existence and wishing he or she was an only child. However, when I started to realize my high school friends and I had different values and ambitions, I found more similarities with my siblings.
I'm convinced part of this is because we started our journeys in the same way. So, we're inclined to have the bigger picture stuff, like goals and morals, in common. This makes for a pretty impeccable friendship. Although I grew up as the only girl and had three older brothers who gave me a hard time, they still had my back.
2. I felt the need to be self-sufficient.
When I graduated from high school, I realized I was going to be somewhat of a loner for the most part. But in all honesty, I felt lonelier with all these people who I knew I didn't really have anything in common with than I did when I was alone.
Bad friendships are exactly like bad relationships. Although they lack relationship intimacy, they're just as hard to walk away from. Nostalgia and the sake of wanting to “keep the peace” often kept me stagnant in these “friendships.” But once I developed the strength to cut ties, I realized it's more than OK to be alone.
I also realized it wasn't their presence that kept me from feeling alone. It was actually the idea I had that being friends with them meant my high school years weren't being wasted.
I guess I felt like they made my high school years worth something. But once I finally stripped my life of the falsity of these friendships, I found out that happiness occurs from within.
3. I realized drugs and alcohol form fake friendships.
It's not uncommon to share a few laughs and good times over some beers in high school. It comes along with this desire to feel defiant and mature, despite being young and completely reckless.
But the thing about my high school friends was this: Alcohol wasn't complementing the situation. It was the situation. We didn't have much to talk about unless we were laughing at someone who got too drunk or reminiscing about other drunken nights.
I can only think of a handful of situations in which we were all sober together. In retrospect, I think we were all hiding from things in our lives. We had all been through some sh*t, and we were all using sedatives as distractions and fuel for a “good time” (or so we thought).
I don't want to discredit all those experiences because yes, singing "American Pie" at the top of my lungs with people who I thought were my closest friends isn't something I'll ever forget. But, it's also something I don't often remember. So, through all of those Miller Lite-soaked nights, I realized drugs and alcohol form disposable bonds.
When I scroll through social media and see friendships that have survived the test of time and geography after high school, I don't feel envious. I've realized this experience was a formative way for me to remain introspective and true to my own ethical views.
So no, I may never laugh and reminisce with all my high school friends when I'm 35. But, I'm confident I'll end up reminiscing about my youth with people who share my perspective and ambition. Sometimes, sh*tty friends teach you more than the treasured and few good ones ever could.