You could say I’ve changed a lot since high school. My acne calmed down, I stopped hating my parents, I ditched the heavy black eyeliner, and I’m over my Jesse McCartney obsession. After graduation, it was obvious to me that I was experiencing one of the most defining moments in my teenage life. I had begun to figure out my own identity.
A girl approached me the other night and said that she could not believe I, Rachel Connell, was at a party. She was from my hometown, and one of the many popular girls from my high school that could barely remember my somehow irrelevant first name. She giggled and was polite as she could be while also intrigued as to how I now lived with a group of girls that, back in the day, were once way too cool for me. In a lot of ways, I guess she was right. The only ‘me’ she had ever known was the awkward redhead in glasses who would rather spend her lunch breaks in music class practicing for ensemble than in the cafeteria by the senior window. High school ‘me’ kept to myself, enjoyed photography, had a small tight-knit group of friends, and yeah, didn’t party a whole lot.
But, I’m simply not that girl anymore.
Nobody back home could’ve seen it coming; that I would find my place among an obnoxious group of student spirit leaders, and be the first to volunteer in front of massive crowds for a spontaneous audience participation opportunity. Nobody could’ve anticipated the best friends I have now would be my friends for life, not the ones I met in high school, or that the parties I look forward to on the weekends would connect me to people from far beyond my previous social standing. High school used to feel so important, and had me convinced that the quiet girl stereotype I’d been labeled with would be branded on me for life.
The truth is, I’ve never been one to clutch onto the past. I’m a strong believer that those who wind up in my life are meant to be there, and those who fade away, will inevitably find their own place in the world too. But change is one of those funny things that everyone fears, looks forward to, and can’t make up their minds about. Many hold onto who they’ve always been, and who they’ve always known. They don’t want to let go of the happiness that once was, in fear that it may not happen the same way again.
There’s a whole lot I didn’t clue in to in high school until it was too late. Social interaction wasn’t my strong suit, and I was naïve to think that being cool didn’t mean wearing destroyed converse and band tees to the semi-formal dance. I thought I was original, but as it turned out,
my peers just thought I was weird.
In many ways looking back, I feel sorry for the popular kids who teased me, not for myself, the victim of their teasing. They stuck it out with their ‘ride-til-we-die’ friends all the way to college, because that’s what was comfortable, but they lost out on the terrifyingly awesome feeling of social visibility for the first time. I was used to being invisible, feeling overlooked, unacknowledged and chilling with my fellow warriors at the wallflower club. Nobody knew me, and nobody cared to ask either.
The transition to college was a little weird at first of course, because I was still struggling to find my people; the ones that I fit in with. I quickly learned that university is filled with nothing but simply, people. It was a massive group of broke, struggling students all seeking out the exact same thing; pass your classes and get a few good stories for the grandkids. My eyes lit up to see that the engineers, football players, and orchestra, were all on the same team, and that being involved with student life was actually a pretty cool thing to do.
Moving away from home had given me my first opportunity to start fresh and be the person I had always wanted to be. I could feel comfortable in my own skin and forget about the day-to-day pressures that high school weighed me down with. It was my time, and I wasn’t going to live the next four years under anyone else’s social standards.
So to that girl from the party, you’re right. I’m never going to compare to that shy, insecure eleventh grader. But, I hope you see past who I was, and get to know who I am now. We’re not in high school anymore, and the world is full of change that will surprise you.
Featured Image via We Heart It.