I Have Changed


Photo Illustration by Zoe Watts

     Freshman year, I was optimistic and excited about High School. At the same time, I was nervous and afraid of what High school meant. I was a good student, I made friends and found classes I enjoyed. Parents and teachers alike saw potential in me and pushed me to be my best. However, I am not the same person I was Freshman year.

     If you were to look back at Volume 12, Issue 2 of the school newspaper, you would see two stories by me. I wrote them my first year in Newspaper and to this day, they are some of my greatest work. I went above and beyond for them, making graphs and creating pictures. One was even considered for contests. For our superhero themed magazine, my ideas were praised and I could not have been more proud. Wherever I went, I talked about newspaper class and how amazing it was. By all means, I was a wonder kid. People began to expect things from me, and what could I do but welcome it with open arms?

     Sophomore year, I was made the Junior Editor of the newspaper. I was excited and eager to prove myself. Before I could get settled in the year, things went downhill quickly. My anxiety got to the point where I started therapy. My grades fell, I lost some friends, everything began to feel out of control. For a few months, I forgot who I was. People close to me asked if something was wrong, and I remember I never knew what to say. I knew something was off, but if you asked me what it was, I wouldn’t have an answer for you. 

     Of course, not everything was bad. I gained friends and learned more about the person I was becoming. Looking back, I know I gained more confidence that year, but I also know that for the majority of it, I felt lost. 

     Feeling lost is difficult to explain. I don’t mean that I was actually lost. I knew where I was geographically. I mean that the places that had become familiar to me no longer felt the same. The places that made me feel at home were foreign in my head. It almost felt like I was watching someone else live my life. I could yell and kick and scream at this person, but it wouldn’t change a thing. I can’t tell you exactly when this other person stepped in and took over, but I can say that there were moments when I was in control again. 

     These moments could span a week, or only an hour. They are easy to remember as they shine out as clear amongst an ocean of blurry. The clearest of all of them is a trip I took in November with the media classes. I made plenty of new friends and I made memories that I won’t forget anytime soon. 

     I remember taking a deep breath as I stepped outside the hotel we were staying at to get coffee with one of my good friends at the time. The air was brisk and you could almost see your breath. I felt as though I could change into the person I wanted to be. The feeling didn’t last forever, but it lasted long enough for me to know that something was wrong. 

     My childhood dog, Truman, passed away on February 19th in the midst of the foggy feeling. Already feeling blurry, that week was difficult. Even now, I only remember the day he died, but the week that followed feels like a silence you can’t ignore. The night he passed, I called multiple friends, some were unable to answer but one of them talked to me for at least a few hours. I remember I was swinging from sobbing my eyes out to almost laughing at their attempts to cheer me up. It remains a clear memory, even if the following days are gone.

     The happiest and saddest days are clear in my mind. They have little in common except for the fact that they all are attached to a strong emotion. Most of them have a few people in common, but those people were present on my foggy days as well. 

     When schools shut down and everyone moved online, the fog continued to cling to me. I passed my finals and settled into a quarantined summer. That year, I didn’t write any exceptional stories and I let myself down. The skills I gained Freshman year diminished as I wrote the last mediocre article of the year. I knew that I could do better, I just didn’t know why it seemed so hard.

     At the beginning of summer, one of my best friends cut me out with no warning. In the hurt that followed, I sunk into the fog, begging for it to stop all the pain I had built up. I detached myself from certain aspects of my personality and became someone I didn’t quite recognize. I refused to let myself feel all the pain at once, so I dove into activities that distracted me. For a minute, I could handle the hurt a little bit at a time, while also forcing myself to live and have at least some fun. 

     As parts of me were shut down, my conscious mind was numb and restless with an occasional break of happiness or sorrow. My subconscious mind was stuck in a cycle of relaying all that had gone wrong in the past months. That cycle was playing into the conscious part, keeping me in a fog without making me deal with the situation. I was grateful that I didn’t have to feel everything I was holding back. 

     At a glance, I would’ve seemed normal, but I was drowning in my head, only able to see my own perspective. I forgot how to truly see other people and their points of view. 

     What I didn’t realize at the time was that the ‘new me’ was creating more problems than it was solving. My close friends would ask me for help with their issues and I would shut down and make things about me. I would see their situation, and compare it to my own thinking that there was no way they could feel as badly as I did. In refusing to acknowledge how hurt I felt, I started to hurt those around me. This led to a fight where I almost lost these friends and I still can’t forgive myself for that. At first, I truly believed they were being bad friends to me, not the other way around. It wasn’t until I reattached myself that I began to see the truth. Once I did that, the fog lifted bit by bit.

     The summer of 2020 ended and school began again. After a year of school where I was completely lost, going into a new one threw me off balance. I forgot who I was in school, but now the fog was lighter and each day began more clear than the one before. 

     The fog is barely noticeable now. I now find myself terrified of falling back into it. I never again want to be the person I was when it clung to me. What started the fog continues to elude me, but now I have a determination to rise above it. I am determined to find that spark that lit up freshman me with motivation and a sense of purpose. On the other side, I want to keep the lessons I learned over the past year when the spark was gone.

     Today, a few weeks into the school year, I sit at my desk and look around me. My room has changed as well. Posters from bands and shows clutter my walls and new artwork hangs on every corner. There is more color and life than there was in February. I have gone through a lot, and I can point to where I’ve cried and almost see the girl I was when I look. I smile knowing that I overcame that obstacle. 

     The future remains a mystery, though I know it is filled with joy, sadness, adventure, and fun. I have been given the chance to do things again, and this time, I want to use that opportunity to the fullest. 

     So yes, I have changed. But I am not worse or better than I was, I am a different person entirely.