What High School Was for Me Part 1: Friendships

It was four years of my life. It likely was or will be for you as well. But what happened during those four years? How do I feel now that it’s done?


My first day was wondrous. Surreal. I sat in the broadcast room of the Commonwealth Governor’s School as my English teacher discussed religion and the existence of God with us – I was captivated.

By the time the first month of school was over, I was crying nearly daily once I got home. I’ve never seen Ethan actually happy is a quote I pulled from a text conversation early freshman year. What was wrong with me? is a thought that I can have now – but the thought that I had then was What is wrong with everyone else?

I spent the majority of high school not only struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, but blaming everyone else for my problems. I was so flawed, and my greatest flaw was not seeing that. It was their fault that I was upset, not the fact that I couldn’t properly interpret and control my emotions. That toxic mindset led to me becoming an arsonist, burning every bridge that I thought couldn’t handle a million pounds of my emotional baggage, and then trying to rebuild them when I realized I didn’t know how to swim.

The smallest things used to set me off. One text not responded to, a joke not laughed at, or someone late to a hangout could cause me to shut down. While it was the actions of other people that caused me to shut down, what I needed to realize was that I was flawed, not them. Sure, they can help being late or could respond to my texts faster, but it’s much easier to try and change your own behavior than others. It wasn’t until my Senior year that I accepted that.

I began writing down my problems, social situations that went wrong, and friendships I was unhappy with. Then I began thinking about how I could have done things differently, and aspects of myself that I could improve upon so that those things didn’t happen again. Writing them down forced me to think and re-examine the situation, and examining how I could improve made me blame myself (healthily) instead of other people. I stopped shutting down when things didn’t work out, and instead just changed my expectations and behavior.

Things got better. Not perfect, but better. I became more accepting of other’s flaws, and more aware of my own. I began seeking out new friends while also finding new enjoyment in solo activities. I’d like to think people see me as truly happy and having a good time now (let me know below?), and I no longer struggle with depression. Who knew that to feel different, you had to change something!

While I overcame my issues in high school without medication or therapy, I want to make it clear that this can’t be a reality for everyone. If you have a friend that is struggling, be there for them, but also encourage them to seek professional help – it could change their life.

I don’t think I’m finished growing or learning yet. There’s still many flaws that I have yet to address, but you can check back on this blog in four years for my What College Was for Me post for those. For me, high school wasn’t just about learning how to deal with the mitochondria or calculus. It was also about learning how to deal with other people, and more importantly, myself.

The Privilege of Silence

I couldn’t vote during the 2016 Presidential election, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t following it closely. My preferred candidate was Bernie Sanders, but we all know how that turned out.

When I found myself grimacing at the two frontrunner candidates for our nation’s highest office, I had but one thought: Well, the Presidency doesn’t really matter, nothing will change regardless.

I was only half right. Nothing would change – for me. The next year I pulled back my political participation, no longer reading articles and trying to stay informed, as I thought it was a waste of time because none of the news was truly impactful for me.

It didn’t dawn on me for awhile that the ability to just tune out what our government was doing is an extreme privilege. Now, I don’t come from a rich family. We’re upper middle class at best, but both my parents have secure jobs. However, this security has almost sheltered me from what it’s like to truly depend on a candidate like Bernie Sanders to help push for policies that could change my life.

For me, the 2016 Presidential election was just a fun joyride. For others, it was literally a death sentence due to an administration that hasn’t passed any meaningful healthcare reform. It was a life sentence for those still incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses, in a system that seeks profit instead of rehabilitation.

2020 is coming up fast, and I realize now that while I have the privilege to stay silent, I won’t be. No matter your views, I encourage you to be vocal and do your best to speak up for those that need it the most.

Why I May Be a Narcissist

I struggled with the idea of creating a blog primarily due to a single burning question: Why the hell would people want to read my writing? What makes me an authority on, well, anything? Why should my thoughts be heard, spread, or reflected on?

And then I started thinking about social media. I considered the inherent narcissism in posting a picture of my face, and expecting people to ‘like’ it.

I was called back however to Joan Didion’s essay On Keeping a Notebook. Didion describes keeping a notebook, essentially a daily diary, which allowed her to reflect years later on the person she was. Captured with each stroke of her (presumably used) pen was the person that she used to be and the feelings she felt at that time.

There’s a similar reason why I have an Instagram, and why I don’t delete my posts. I love being able to look back upon my old self, with a literal visualization of my growth over time as a person. Through my old political memes and even my selfies, I’m able to reflect on how far I’ve come.

I feel with a blog I can do the same. This writing isn’t perfect. My beliefs are probably very flawed. But being able to look back upon this, my views written in long form instead of captured with a meme, is my own notebook.

Is it narcissistic to expect people to read and like what happens here? Probably. I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t partially my motive – I could keep this private after all. I would like though to think though that maybe I’m not completely self-absorbed, and that it’s the desire to see and fuel my growth that motivates me to type these words. You be the judge.

Why I Don’t Argue Online Anymore

We live in a time where people are able to share in one second the thoughts that they dreamt up in two seconds. This can be beautiful but it can also be quite problematic.

Often times I’ll find myself on Instagram, whose Explore feature likes to oscillate between showing me hardcore communist propaganda and tea party conservative memes. No matter the side of the spectrum though, invariably I’ll see a claim such as House rep. Ilhan Omar is a terrorist or graphs that play tricks on the reader to suggest one thing when really the data represents the complete opposite.

When I was twelve, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would engage the kind of people that post misinformation online. I would debate them until we were both blue in the face, at the end both of us still resolute in our beliefs. My (limited) personal experiences tell me that most people, especially as they grow up, don’t change their beliefs or principles unless something major happens in their life. Me arguing with a homophobe probably won’t be fruitful – until one of their close and most respected friends comes out to them, showing them that not all gays are bad. Convincing a person that deep into their beliefs and prejudices isn’t a challenge I like to take up anymore.

What I learned however was that debate (competition) has never been about convincing the other person. It’s about the judge. The spectator. The person who is also looking at those Instagram comments – maybe someone who hasn’t yet made up their mind – and now sees a discourse that presents more nuanced information that they can follow and make their own judgement on.

When I see misinformation nowadays, a random claim or misuse of statistics, I don’t engage with the poster directly because they often will get defensive and the conversation will be fruitless. I do however like to leave other sources, information, and my opinion on why the OP’s information might be skewed or inaccurate in an attempt to let their audience see the other side.

A last thing I like to keep in mind when commenting online so that things stay classy is that I’m arguing against a point not a person.