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By: “No. 12,” local high school student

Since I’ve completed my freshman experience, which went by faster than lightning, I have been through some stuff already. I want to talk about my own experience with loneliness and isolation in high school. It’s not going to be the “I have no friends in my class;” it’s more of getting rejected and being excluded out of groups, leaving you with nothing but your own thoughts.

To start off, one of my biggest fears, if not the biggest, is actually loneliness–not being able to relate to a group of my own, a group to go to if I need help or to be called on if someone needed help. It didn’t even have to be a group; it could be a companion, a friend, a single face to call upon. Starting with how I got to that point, I was in public school for elementary, middle, and junior high school. It’s safe to say that I was used to all the things public school had to offer. When high school was right around the corner, though, I was going to switch it up and go to a private school. With that choice, I was dealt a new set of cards, and I had to play a different game that was unfamiliar to me. At first, I was fixated on how much better my life would be once as soon as I was at a different kind of school–how naive I was at the time.

I remember my first day, an early August morning, with a chilly breeze blowing and toying with my long hair. I stared down the front doors, and I was ready to begin a “new chapter” (not to sound too cliché). I walked through those doors and started walking with confidence. Looking at many other guys doing the same as me, I realized that I found myself in a crowd, just another fish in the pond. A student: nothing more, nothing less. The only thing that set me apart from others was my caramel brown skin, while others were a clear cloud white. I didn’t want to be unique based only on my skin color. That was the problem, though; there was no other way to stand out.

Throughout the day, I was getting one-word responses to my questions like “How is your day going so far?” and “What school did you go before this?”. I was opening myself up to people, something I hadn’t necessarily done before, but I was still brave enough to go up to someone and try to talk. But I was the only one talking. I was eventually sick of getting left out, so I resorted to my safe place: my music. Music, to me, is something to calm me down, or to distract me. I like mellow beats or just some upbeat stuff. As I untangled my headphones from my pocket, I selected my favorite playlist and just start minding my own business walking down the hallways. To my surprise, I got into trouble and got sent to the Dean for having my headphones out. I can respect that now that I know that doing so was “wrong,” and I’ll try not to do it again. Instead of a warning, which I thought I was going to get (because I was new to these type of rules and it was my first day), I got to clean the lunch room. I had to do all the dirty work for having my headphones out and listening to music. I hated it, but I tried my best to follow the rules. At the end of the day, I just figured I had a bad day and that the next day would be just fine.

That’s the same thing I told myself for five months. When people asked how school was going, I forced a smile and said, “Things are good. It’s a big change from public school, but I like it there.” I hated saying that, but I couldn’t break down in front of them and rant about how I hated my new school–what could they have done? It would only make them feel uncomfortable and weird and sorry for asking. I really couldn’t tell anyone how I truly felt. I wouldn’t feel right going to my parents about this, since they were paying for my tuition at a school I didn’t even like. Now that I say it out loud, I should’ve told them in the first place, but that’s what happens when you’re just stuck in your own lonely, sad, gloomy world: You don’t think straight.

During the next few months of my misery, I just stopped caring about rules. I lagged behind in my studies. I started wearing the same thing every day. My hair was always a mess. The second I opened my eyes in the morning, I’d shut them tight, believing that I could just skip this day. I might have been depressed as well, but I did not want to be alone forever, so I decided to join a club.

This club was sort of like a minority club; it got all different types of people from different backgrounds together, and we just looked for ways to get more people involved. Even then, I didn’t feel content with myself. Every club meeting, I’d still feel like I didn’t belong. I’d get interrupted when I tried to state a point, and for the longest time when people referred to me, they’d either just point or say “you,” (mostly both). My biggest fear already had me in its hands. I didn’t care what came next; I just wanted some friends. I had only people’s names. I knew of them, but I didn’t know them, and we didn’t hang out. I should have made a better effort, but then, it was hard enough to talk to myself as it was.

As December came, my family started seeing me change, not just appearance, but also emotionally and mentally. After school, I always just went up into my room and started on homework. I didn’t want them to worry, so I’d just give them a basic response to their concerning questions on my mental health. One night, as my mom and I were driving, she asked me, “Do you like living?” I said a simple, “Yeah it’s fine,” but I actually started thinking…do I? That was the little ounce the tipped the scale. I was unhappy with my situation, and I needed to get out of there.

Long story short, I left that school and started attending my second choice school for second semester, which was public school. The sweet feeling of acceptance for who I was filled me completely within about five minutes. I remember saying, “I feel more at home here in a minute than I did in a whole semester back at my old school.” I overcame that isolation and depressing state, and I overcame it greatly enough to where I can write about it and post it on the internet.

If anyone else went through a same experience as I did or is going through it currently, my best advice is to talk to someone you feel comfortable with, whether that person is a parent, a friend, a doctor or a therapist. Writing about it helps, too. Put it on paper and express the ways of your emotions by the way you write. No one should have to face bad situations alone. Never be afraid to ask someone to be by your side.