I’d been drifting apart from my high school friends during the school year. As we all prepared to go to separate colleges in the fall, our differences became apparent through our varying interests and personalities. We spent a July day sightseeing in New York, and it finally dawned on me how much distance there already was between me and the people I’d grown up with. I felt like I spent time with them due to obligation.
The truth of it dawned on me when I sat next to the girl I had considered my best friend and I could feel her dislike stab into me with every word of her clipped responses to my attempts at conversation.
I didn’t see my old friends for the rest of the summer after that day and went off to college on my own, no “one last goodbye” dinners or parties with high school friends that I saw pictures of posted by others. I had never felt so alone. And I was so afraid, not sure of what I’d done wrong to drive these people away, who were still really nice individuals, and terrified about how I would make friends in college.
That fear lasted about two weeks. I got better. I forced myself to be comfortable going out to lunch by myself if I wanted to because I didn’t know who to invite along. I spent more time doing whatever I wanted. I used that last, lonely month before college to become my own person in a way I hadn’t been able to when I was trying to fit in with my crowd from high school. I started to really like myself. And when I moved into college I met amazing people and have a whole new group of people to spend time with who I fit with better.
For me, realizing that my old friends and I had outgrown each other was one of the best things that could have happened to me that summer.
When the anniversary of The Day I Went To New York City passed this year, I spent the day pitying the Anna of last year, wishing I could have a time machine to go back and keep her from leaving or at least make sure someone was ready to give her a hug when she got back home, because it was a hard day to live through. But it hit me that I shouldn’t want to change that day. I’m glad for the experience. It made me a better person today than I might have been otherwise. Everyone has a day or a moment that haunts them for a long time. Knowing, wishing that something could have gone differently. But there are times for bad days and times for good days and there are so many good days that follow each bad one. I’ve stopped looking at my worst day as the time a part of me died, who loved being in that group of friends, and instead as the day I had the chance to change and grow.
Setbacks are opportunities to get even better and try again.
I’m still friendly with my old friends. During a school break later that year I nervously accepted an invitation to meet them and catch up and it was better than I’d expected. Bad days won’t always seem like bad days. You get through them and smile another day. Heck, maybe even smile at the end of a bad one. The rough will-it-ever-end days are the ones you need to add more colors to the mosaic of your life and you will get through them. Promise.
Anna is a sophomore at Hartwick College, majoring in anthropology and history.