The Month of 30: The Teenage Years

I am ripping a Band-Aide off today, a Band-Aide that I strategically placed years ago.  As I began contemplating how I was going to go about writing about these years, that's what I determined it would feel like.  It is safe to say that I spent the first half of my twenties recovering from my teenage years (Or, well, trying to recover) and I never really got the hang of it until a few years ago.  There are going to be things written here that are very real and will probably throw some of you for a loop.  I have not always been sunshine and roses (Okay, so, sometimes I'm still not, and that's okay.) and some of you are going to read the following and say, "I had no idea!"  The vast majority of you that will say that probably are who I graduated from high school with.  My teenage years and my twenties are how I became.  It is how we all become.  I have no shame and I am real.  I am real because of my story.

As I said last week, I always knew I was different.  This really didn't start bothering me until I hit my teens.  I was awkward.  I was a mess on the inside.  I spent most of my days trying to just get through them.  As I started nearing my high school graduation, I couldn't wait to get out of the town I grew up in.  I had a small handful of friends and they helped, but I knew I didn't belong where I was.  I felt that there was something greater for me out there.  I wasn't sure what, and, if I would have known then what I know now, I would have cooled my jets and hung around for a while longer.  However, the flip side of that is, I probably wouldn't be married to E or have L so, it is safe to say, the road I took is the road I was meant to take.  Remember: all signs along the way point to your destination.  You just have to know how to interpret them and how to survive them.

I never fit in.  I know most teenagers say that, but I really didn't.  I was so much more than I appeared to be and I stifled it.  I forced it down and away.  If I were to have been the real me, I wouldn't have survived.  However, even this didn't save me from the name-calling, the teasing, the whispers behind my back.  I learned later in life that your enemies can see right through you.  They know what to do, they know what to say, and all you have to do is just exist.  That is what I did:  I existed.  I stayed very close to my group of friends (who were classified as outcasts just like I was) and I waded the water's of high school with them.  They were my solace and my comfort.  I knew they all had my back and they did, just like I had theirs.

I would lie awake in bed at night and pray the morning wouldn't come.  I didn't actually want to die, I just wanted to sleep until college.  However, the morning would come and I would go back to school and sit in class and will the hours away until I could go to work or go home.  I could never get out of the door's fast enough at the end of the day.  (Who am I kidding, no one could wait, but I was rushing off for different reasons.)  I felt suffocated.  I couldn't breathe in that building.  It was so much work to be someone other than myself.  No one made me do it.  It was my choice.  I suffered greatly for it.

The only people I could be myself around was my close knit group of friends.  They are still my friends today if that tells you anything.  Through all of things that I have been through, they remained, like a heartbeat. I could hear it in the distance when I was drowning in my own life.  I would crawl towards that sound, always.  It never failed me.

I had a couple of boyfriends during high school and I am not entirely sure they even knew who I was.  I mean, I didn't, how could they? The relationship would go on for awhile and then it would be over.  I would be devastated and crawl into a hole inside of myself and blame myself for everything.  It was the only way I could make sense of things.  My mantra was (and this was for almost ten years I heard this every day in my head):  "It is your fault.  You aren't good enough.  Look at what you did.  You are a sorry excuse for a human being."

I graduated high school (finally!) and started the local junior college in the fall. Late that summer, I plunged head first into an abyss that took me over half of my twenties to resurface from.

August 19, 2001.

I lost a friend.  I lost a friend five minutes from my house.  Although, I don't think she realized she was five minutes from my house.  I have often asked myself what would be different now if she would have showed up in my driveway instead of being involved in an accident that took her life.

This friend dated a friend of mine and they were on the outs.  She was genuine.  She was a genuine and good person.  Her and I had several conversations about life and what-not.  She used to come into where I worked.  She would shop, I would work, and we would talk.  The night before she died, she wanted to spend the night with me because she didn't want to be alone.  I had to work the next day at 5am so I told her that the next night, the night she died, she could.

I blamed myself for her death for eight years.  She reached out to me and I turned her away and she died.  At least, that's how the series of thoughts went in my head for eight years.

The cliff that I had been teetering on for five years got stepped off of that day.  I gave in.  I dove into an abyss that would swallow me and not let me go for eight years.

I just couldn't cope.  No one knew how to help me cope.  I pushed people away.  I wanted to get away, disappear, forget, get lost somewhere else other than where I was at.  It was too much to be in that town.  It was too much to drive on that road.  It was too much of everything all at once and not knowing what to do about any of it.

After a year and a half of feeling like I was living in my own personal hell, I left.  I packed my stuff up out of my bedroom at my parent's and left.  At the time, I thought it was the right thing to do.  I wanted to start over where no one knew who I was, where no one knew what I had been through.

I transferred to a university in St. Louis and began attending college there in January of 2003 where I spent the vast majority of my time still drowning, still lost, and still hopeless.

*          *          *

And that, my readers, is my teens.  My friends know of my struggles and always commented on how, to the naked eye, you couldn't tell by looking at me that anything was wrong.  No, you couldn't.  As I sat going through photos the other day for this blog post, I was astounded at the smile on my face in most of the photos.  A smile is easy to do, it's the eyes that tell a person's story; they hold all of the emotion, the soul, of a person.  I may have been having a grand time at the moment the photo was snapped, but my eyes don't match the expression on my face most of the time.

My awkwardness, my vulnerability, my inner mantra from my teenage years; they all went with me into my twenties, along with a lot of other baggage, and not to mention all the baggage I picked up along the way to my mid-twenties.    It is my twenties that I am most proud of surviving.  As the years go on, it will be my twenties that I will always reflect on and use to teach my daughter right from wrong and good from bad.

Thank you for reading.

Until next time,

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