Thursday, October 16, 2008

I am a manta ray.

When I came to Carroll 2 years ago, I knew nobody. I was mostly okay with that, given that I considered it a chance to start over with people who would get to know me as I am now, rather than as a amalgamation of all my past identities. I would get to be frank about every bit of me and hopefully find people who liked me – an honest, true me.

That is not to say, though, that I was wholly unafraid. For much of my life I had seen my town and the people in it as a cocoon. I took pride in identifying everyone in my class, and most of the people in my high school, by just the backs of their heads or the way they walked. I convinced myself that it really meant something to be a part of my school and my class. I cared deeply about the people around me despite the reality that very few gave a shit about me. I'm not sure how to describe the pain or the way it tore me apart when I realized in my senior year that the people I hung out with, my classmates, and the school were actually a very well-designed personal hell. I was miserable and abandoned, rejected by those I had held in highest esteem.

Given all that, I can understand not wanting to leave behind those bonds of friendship that had formed over 12 or 13 years. If you are afraid, it is easy – painless – to sidle down the road to the local state university, party with the same friends you had in high school, and come back to sit in the student section at high school basketball games. At first.

If you are any bit intrepid, though, you will begin to look around. You've known these people since kindergarten, have probably dated each of them at least once or seen them naked in the locker room. Surely the same social circle all that time gets boring. There are only so many times you can talk about that winning point at the state tournament 5 years ago before it begins to eat at you: nobody around you has changed, and neither have you. This is the time in your life during which you are supposed to challenge yourself, push yourself – not just academically, but personally. Don't you know? If you don't stretch your muscles now, you'll wake up sore all over and laying beside the girl who tattled on you that winter day in second grade. Then you'll know that you've betrayed that younger self, the one that vowed never to become that sad person who who now stares back at you in the mirror.

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