Have you ever had something happen in your life that years later, you still remember everything about that day? I had a group of friends I grew up with – many I played sports with (soccer, softball, tag, Commando) and went to school with from Kindergarten on – but somewhere along the way, I think I fell out of the group. Not physically, but socially and emotionally. I guess. Somewhere in middle school as much as I wanted to hang out with them, I guess they were more of the ‘cool’ crowd that I wanted to be a part of. How I had gotten it into my mind that I was not as ‘cool’ as everyone else is beyond me. After all, I had been friends with these very same girls for years and deserved just as much inclusion as they did.
In middle school, I remember the four of my good ‘friends’ talking and telling me about how they had all spent the weekend together and all the fun they had had. Fun without me. They would even show me pictures of all the fun they had had and places they had gone. Again, without me. I think I started shutting down to a certain degree, thinking I didn’t deserve to be popular. Didn’t deserve to have the same amount of fun and respect as the ‘popular’ girls. The more they talked around me, the less deserving I felt. Why could I not be included? Was I not fun enough? Not religious enough? Not pretty enough? They had even formed their own little ‘group’ called JAAC and I thought with adding a K at the end, it would be the perfect ending to their group name. I was just never invited. No one ever thought about me.
The real kicker came when we were in high school. Ninth grade. At that time, our high school had block scheduling where we only had four classes a day and had about 90 minutes for lunch if we didn’t go to Overtime period to get extra help during lunch. Since none us could drive, we either stayed on campus or relied on others to go out for lunch. One day, I was tagging along with the group where I thought I could get a ride to lunch with their church leader or someone who was taking them out to lunch. We got to the car and ‘A’ (as we can call her), turned to me and said ‘Sorry, there’s not enough room for you.’ No one else bothered to try and let me fit in the car or said maybe we can squinch in, but they all got in the car and left me standing alone at school with no one to eat lunch with.
I think the fact no one even argued and no one thought twice about leaving me behind was the biggest blow. They wouldn’t leave each other behind, but apparently it was just fine to leave me behind like I didn’t matter. For whatever reason, it took me a little longer to get up the courage to finally leave that particular group of friends behind. The friends I had had since I was about six and thought I would have forever. But when I finally realized they were not for me, I became better. Stronger. I remember one day that same year, walking away from them during lunch and all I got was a ‘Hey, where are you going?’ When I told them I was going to find another friend to talk with that day, again there was no arguing and no more questions. No one seemed to even care I might not be around anymore.
After that day at lunch, I never went back to those girls. Every once in a while I would hang out with them in college if I happened to be home for the weekend, but they still made me feel like the same inadequate middle and high schooler. Nevertheless, I had found a different group of friends that actually called me. Friends that actually cared about me. Friends that would include me in on their plans over the weekend. Friends that if we had a group chat in the 90s, would know that I was on the group chat. I now have friends that care about me. Care about my feelings. Include me in their parties. I am now consciously getting better and more aware of sharing my feelings and letting more people in. It’s what I deserve and I deserve better than how I was treated so long ago.