Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Summer Before College Part 2

The summer before I started college mostly felt like a daze--even when I was working. For the first time ever, I had absolutely no idea what was awaiting me in Rexburg, Idaho at Brigham Young University Idaho.

With such huge changes like that in my life, for some reason, day-to-day life becomes surreal as if my body isn't actually mine and I'm walking in a dream.

My friends from high school were getting together and traveling about with their new found freedom, but honestly, I wanted to stay as close to my family as I could. It was as if my mind was preparing me for them all to suddenly drop dead.

Ridiculous, I know. I was just grateful I could spend every moment I could with my family, savoring each second. (Wow...thinking back I was acting as if they were all going to die. However, I was happy to be the one leaving. I've never liked being left, and it felt empowering to be the first one to move away instead of my old friends from high school leaving or forgetting me).

So, now for my coworkers/boss.

I knew the business was pretty sketchy from the beginning with the sheer lack of professionalism everyone had—my boss did her best to be professional herself, but... yeah.

Being the newest I was the lowest on the totem pole. The pee-on.

Growing up I was taught how to clean, and how to clean well. I wasn’t a stranger to hard work, and (before my cousin came to work with me) I was always put with this one girl. When she learned I could clean twice as much as her in half the time, she kinda stopped. But, there was only ever two of us and if we took longer than 3 hours for a house—no matter how big or messy—our boss would yell at us. But, there’s only so much two can do in some people’s houses...

I learned how to take open, harsh criticism real quick. I don’t think I’ve ever been yelled at so much in my life. And I wasn’t perfect, but I worked hard and I cleaned well. And anything the clients reported was always the other girl’s assignment. Always. But I took it because I could tell there was no point in assigning blame. Plus I knew I was leaving soon.

Then I learned my boss was in debt to the majority of our clients and I started looking at my payments. Being a trusting person...sometimes to a fault...I didn’t think to check my payments. But she was paying slightly less and less each paycheck.

That’s when I gave my two weeks. I wasn’t going to keep laboring for someone who didn’t appreciate my hard work and didn’t keep her word about my paycheck. I saw the business coming to an end and I got out of there.

My boss called me several times months after I quit—even when I was in Idaho—asking me to come back. I told her no, obviously. I didn’t want to associate with the mess she had created and possibly get caught up in her legal issues. Heck no.

The funny thing is, they had no idea I was 17 until I told them. They all thought I was 23-25 years old. My boss always told me how much she loved how mature and hard working I was. And then yell at me for the other girl's mess. I’m glad I was able to see the manipulation there. It was another reason why I left.

For the most part, the other people were kind. I didn't get to know them as well, but they were always nice to me. The ones I worked with definitely knew how to say pretty words and act nice, but you could just feel the fake pouring off them.

I hope they are all in a better place in their lives. I don't know what each of them were struggling with, but I hope they're all a little happier and a little stronger. However, I still will never go back.

Always and Forever,
Natalie Carroll

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Letter About Fear: A Post that Started with One Thought and Ended Miles off Topic

What's your biggest fear?

Mine I guess could be considered more than one. Total chaos with nowhere being safe (that's why zombie or apocalyptic movies terrify me).

But my biggest fear used to be: Getting Forgotten.

I had the same friends since I moved to Gilbert at 6 years old. I honestly don't remember how I became friends with most of them...or any of them? It takes some deep thinking to recall.

But, as you know I was becoming so different from the girls I grew up with. Sure I was into guys and wanted a boyfriend, but guys--at least the guys I wanted to notice me--never did. My friends around me were getting boyfriends--or at least having their first kiss (didn't have mine till I was 21 and it was the worst, haha I can't wait to tell you that story)...and it wasn't that I was jealous but I had missed the simpler times where we could all hang out together without talking about who liked who. I was the weird girl who silently glorified our elementary days where the most we had to worry about was getting picked for a team at recess or PE.

As graduation dawned I felt my biggest fear was soon to be realized.

So in a sort of ridiculous haze, I wrote a long letter to Layla--the girl who I had been closest with since elementary (again her name has been changed)--begging her to not forget me. Funnily enough, I shoved it in her mail box while trying to hide the fact I was doing so from two other good friends who had walked to Layla's house with me. I didn't want them to feel bad I hadn't written them a letter. Maybe I was so worried about Layla forgetting me because she was only MY best friend until fourth grade. Wow, I just realized that once our friendship expanded to others was the moment I grew scared she wouldn't want to be my friend anymore.

Fourth grade was the time I starting running about at recess with my imaginary friends more often than before because I didn't know how to be friends with anyone else. (Times I remember distinctly). I would also pick up trash to try and get a "Tiger-riftic" as well. Something me and my friends laughed about later.

All I had to do was go and ask anyone in my class if I could "play" with them and they would have said yes. Elementary was a magical time and it may just be me, but I feel there will always be even the tiniest of connections with the kids I went to elementary with--those in my classes were always so kind.

Nonetheless, Layla was always so good to me. She assured me she would never forget me. We are certainly not as close as we used to be, but... I admire her for remaining kind. It wasn't that I was creepily attached to her--it was that I was so painfully shy she was the only one I could truly be myself around at school all the way until graduation! (Page entered in Junior High and became the second person I could really be myself around).

Yes, my thoughts are all jumbled here, but bear with me. Memories don't always surface in chronological order.

I watch certain people and I wonder how the hell they miss high school. I truly wish that high school will never be the prime of anyone's life. Everyone deserves more than the click-ish envrionment where if you don't fit in you're essentially a social outcast. Not that college or adult hood is any easier, in fact it's a million times harder. Well, I take that back. It's simply different.

But it's a hard and painful different I will choose over high school any day.

I'm not sure when my fear of being forgotten faded away, but I know Layla's simple assurance those nearly five years ago certainly helped. I know we won't ever be as close as we once were, but that is not a bad thing. Friendships evolve in various ways, and the very fact that I know I can call her and she will listen is sign enough of how good a person and friend she is.

Something I wish I could have realized during that fearful senior year: those who truly care about you will never forget you, and a lack of constant communication does not mean they don't care. It means they are confident in your ability to take care of yourself.

I still think fondly of my elementary school days, and I want to send a shout out to any of you--and yes literally all of you--peers and teachers alike--who happen to read this. All of you were so kind and good to me in elementary school, and the fact all of you remembered who I was throughout high school made that tremulous time so much easier. I hope that life is treating you well.

I want to thank two kids in particular. As you know I don't use real names, so I simply hope (if they even read this) they know who they are. Elementary school perhaps the only time in my life I didn't care about having friends who were boys. As I've explained, I still have never had a "best" friend who was a guy, but there were two boys who I had in all my classes since first grade that were always nice to me. I know this sounds simple, but it meant the world to me that they remembered my name and would even reach out at times to ask if I wanted to play whatever it was they were playing.

I was sad when one left in junior high to go to a different school district, but even when he visited he still knew and acted like he knew who I was. I never could understand why people would act like they didn't know you simply because you weren't in the same click as them. I always admired this kid.

And, I'll even admit I was driven to tears when the other who stayed in the same schools as me signed my Junior Yearbook with something that said along the lines. "I know you'll be a successful writer one day."

Man, I hadn't actually had a conversation with him since elementary, but somehow he remembered this (I didn't tell really anyone I liked writing for a LONG time; my mom had told a leader at church once who asked about it in front of everyone and I busted into tears from the sheer embarrassment). The memory of his note even has me crying now. Silly, right?

No. I no longer think it's silly. The world needs more people like the kids I went to elementary school with. Although we all went on completely separate paths--they have always been kind.

Truly, you can never know how much a simple, nice word can completely turn around someone's life.

I know I'm not perfect, but I always strive to be kind. Let us all strive to be kind. The world will be a much happier and better place for it.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

An Ode To Page

Once upon a time, awkward twelve-year-old Natalie got into seventh grade orchestra with very few of the people she had been in orchestra with in elementary school. Having had a summer of frankly the beginnings of puberty and all the "joys" that come with it, she was a silent observer of her orch dork friends.

Page is one friend I can remember how I became friends with her. Although, even though I do remember it really wasn't anything specific. It was just: boom, hey we are totally friends now!

I remember admitting this to Page once, that when I first met her I wanted to be like her. She was hilarious and popular. She had awesome pool parties, which when I was invited to her first one I was honored to my very core. I became her shadow in orchestra and she always accepted my presence without any fanfare--which I loved because my telltale blush would have exploded across my face had she pointed me out. And if that had happened, I might not have been brave enough to return.

Our orchestra class played so many pranks on our high strung teacher that I'm sure we were the reason she quit several years later...we hadn't set the best example for the following classes who continued the pranks. They were never cruel just fun...but when you prank someone who doesn't know how to take a joke, I suppose they could appear cruel. Ms (I'll just call her this) did rip up a tissue box once, her face on fire and her eyes bulging to find the timer we had hidden in there (that was the last time we used the timer...she kept it under too close a watch).

Yet, it connected us.

At the end of eighth grade I remember sitting with Page and two other girls playing M.A.S.H. We had decided the first chair viola player--Pete--was going to marry Aunt Jemimah (yes, the syrup brand) and have thousands of pancake babies which they would adopt to McDonalds. (Man, we were such thirteen-year-olds). We reminisced about the Ching-Chong-Brothers (a band with Pete, another kid Flynn and a girl Lilly). At one point I liked both Pete and Flynn.

Side note: Flynn was the one kid I knew who ever asked me to dance at these gatherings called Stake Dances. It was right before he was going to move to another state--which at the time made me really sad. Yet, I felt honored to be asked to dance with him at his last dance in Arizona. Like I said, the smallest things can make someone so happy; and feel good about themselves as well. Especially because everyone knew Flynn was in love with a different girl.

Page and I grew closer in high school. We really connected when I started watching Vampire Diaries so I could understand what she and another kid were talking about. She was the one person in high school who read the very first version of the first book I had ever completed.

She called it our drug deal. I would print ten pages at a time and bring them in a folder for her to read in the orchestra room at lunch, and when we couldn't go to the orchestra room, I did my best to exchange it sneakily at the lunch table so my friends wouldn't ask about it. They never did (which sorta made me sad. I really wanted them to be interested in my writing, but it's my own fault for not telling them. I eventually told Layla and she loved it.), but I bet they only would have asked because of how awkward I was acting.

I clung to Page during the hardest time in high school where I felt I was so utterly different from my original friend group that I didn't know how to hang out with them at lunch anymore. It sucked when Page didn't make it to school, but it was good too. I needed to have my eyes open to remember my friends still liked me for who I was, even if I assumed they didn't. (My mind wasn't really in a good place, which is why Layla and Page were such saints to have stayed friends with me).

Then Junior Year came and Page told me she was going to do online school and wouldn't even be in orchestra anymore.

I cried for several days straight. She was gone for about a month.

In that month, I asked Layla if she would care if I went to the choir room to hang out--that was where they always went. Page and I either walked around school or went to the orchestra room. I really shouldn't have been surprised at how welcome everyone was. I was, after all, their friend. Even if I didn't entirely fit in. I always stuck close to Layla though, always praying she didn't find me annoying.

Note: if any of you have ever had a shadow. Always be kind. I eventually got a few of my own and once I realized what was happening I did my best to be kind. You don't exactly have to be your shadow's friend, but you do need to be their cheerleader. If you've never been a shadow yourself, I don't think you can ever understand how hard it is to finally learn you don't need to be a shadow.

Suddenly (and on a particularly hard day too), Page was in orchestra again. (Truly, and yes this is my religious beliefs coming out here but my religion is at the core of who I am: I believe God sent Page back to me. He knew I couldn't survive without her). Her online school said they would give her credit for the rest of Junior Year Orchestra. It was really the only time I ever saw her, but it was the best time of the day. I always looked forward to orchestra.

The power of a good friend is something that often goes unrealized.

When you realize it, make sure you tell that friend just how freaking awesome they are.

I also started looking forward to spending lunch in the choir room with my original friend group. I was still silent, but I've always been more of a listener anyways. And these kids were funny, simply being allowed in their presence was enough for me. And I got invited to most of their parties which was cool, and good for me. I never wanted to leave the house and Mom always had to remind me I always have fun when I go. And I did.

I hope it hasn't sounded like I've bashed on this friend group. Truly, they were very nice to me. My issues were very much internal and I would assume at times I wasn't wanted. Yeah...I unfortunately let my insecurities get in the way of what possibly could have been closer friendships.

I've kept in decent touch with Page since graduating. She's always been a rock I know I can call and verbal vomit too, even if it's been more than six months since we've talked.

This is one thing I love most about Page. As you know from earlier blog posts, I am a Latter Day Saint (LDS, aka Mormon). In high school...well life in general, the world at large assumes certain things about my religion that aren't true and frankly hurtful to an awkward teenager. Page was never like that. She wasn't my only non-member friend (and whether someone is a member of my religion has never mattered to me EVER) but she was my only non-member friend that didn't judge me for my religion. The others I know never did on purpose...but...things come back to you when you talk behind others back. And most things were said as these friends tried to fit in with others...which is also sad. Bashing on anyone in anyway should never be a way to fit in.

I'm not one to just randomly talk religion with anyone, even now, but sometimes I needed to talk about the drama with the girls at church and Page always listened. She never judged and although she didn't always know what to say, she always supported me.

One of the most nerve racking things I've ever done was give her a Book of Mormon. I didn't want her to think I was trying to convert her--because again that's an assumption made by a lot of people when copies of the Book of Mormon are given out. It was the end of Junior Year and I knew I wouldn't see her for a while. Neither of us was doing orchestra Senior year so I had no idea when I would actually see her again.

I just wanted to give her something that made me happy. Honestly, my faith in God was the core foundation that kept me from being destroyed by high school (is still the core of who I am now). I put the book in a gift bag with tissue paper because the only time I saw her was at school, and I didn't want any of our classmates making fun of her for having this book. I also didn't want to get made fun of myself.

Not that kids were awful towards the LDS at my school, but it happened often enough I didn't want Page to be embarrassed by my gift. I told her in the letter I had wrapped with the book and even in person. "Please remember I'm just giving this to you, because this is something that makes me happy."

I wanted to give my friend who had coaxed me off the edge of suicide (unbeknownst to her and again the reason why I believe God led us to be friends) something that made my life valuable and brought joy to me even in the hardest of times. I will be grateful to the end of my days for her gracious acceptance of the Book of Mormon, and even her follow up text saying something like, "Thank you for giving me something that you obviously care so much about."

Like I said, I could not care less what religion anyone belongs to, but I am so grateful that my best friend respected me enough and knew me well enough, to understand my intention was to only give her something that brought me joy. She didn't assume I was trying to make her a Mormon. She knew all I wanted was to show her how my religion gave me joy and helped me through every trial of my life, and that I wanted to share this joy with her.

So as the title says: this is an Ode to Page. A beautiful woman who has stayed with me through thick and thin and has accepted me wholly as I am: anxiety, religion, quirks and all. She's truly an amazing woman. Anyone would be honored to call her friend.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wonder

There is a Ted Talk about a writer for Disney who talks about why he wanted to become a writer. At three years old, his mother took him to see Bambi and he was filled with WONDER.

In one of my creative writing classes, my professor sat on one of the desks. One foot was propped on the chair, his hands clasped with his elbow resting on his elevated knee. He looked each of us in the eye and said, "You cannot write about the fantastical if you cannot find wonder in the unfantastical."

Funny how even after all the lessons I have learned in my life, this is one I'm still learning. Graduating college is an amazing milestone, but I think I was expecting things to get a little easier. And they have, in some ways and in other ways not so much.

Each stage of life holds something different, and I have forgotten to look for the WONDER of life these past few months.

I started writing a new story this last weekend...and the simple beauty of allowing myself to write bad and to write about the fantastical opened my eyes once again.

To the wonder of life.

May we never lose the wonder.

This life is hard. But we can't forget the good that has happened. May our trials never cloud our eyes from the WONDER that is life.

Never lose the wonder.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Summer Before College, Part 1

So you know, once upon a time... I was the world's largest worry wart.

I graduated high school and was free of stress for about...three days. At the time I was a nanny for two amazing, brilliant girls--but I also needed a second job to save up for college. I don't remember how long it took--but it couldn't have been for long (but at the time felt like ages) but I got a job at a cleaning business. 

I was a hot mess though, before I found that job. It's embarrassing when I look back on it. My parents would tell me to not worry so much about it...but, ha. I would worry whether I wanted to or not. 

This job though... I can't remember the name of the company--which I wouldn't say anyways, another reminder is that I will always change names--but it was one of the hardest jobs I have ever done.

Not because of cleaning. Mom taught me how to clean, and how to clean well. I had no issues with the actual cleaning.

It was the people. You learn a lot about people when you clean their house.

I'll break this story into two parts, though. Let's start with the clients.

Most were fine, but others were...horrendous. The most we went to one place was once a week. Most however, were every other week.

And those every other week (and even our once a month clients) often did not clean in between those times. I would be embarrassed if my house ever looked like some of the ones I cleaned. Who knew a bathroom could look like a black hole...one I could turn back to white. *shiver*

We went to deep clean an interior designers house who had so many nick-nacks around it looked tacky...and a bit trashy. I had to dust all of them, naturally. I could have cared less, but the lady was shadowing behind me altering each thing I just dusted. We weren't allowed to touch these tiny squares on the wall because they were $700 each yet they were hideous and looked like they could be from Walmart. I mean, to each their own. But if you're going to stalk me whilst I clean your house, why don't you do it yourself?

There was also a dedicated man cave in the basement and she had to wake her teenage son and his girlfriend so we could come and clean down there. Maybe it's just me, but who knowingly let's their teenage child have sex with their girlfriend in their man-cave basement? Yeah, I had a lot of issues with that place. They were condescending as hell. As if cleaning is a poor man's job. If there's anything I learned--there's no such thing as a poor man's job. A job is a job. If you need money, take what you can get (well...don't go selling drugs, but get a respectable job that isn't shady).

About a month in, my cousin--let's call him Ron--started working with me. Good thing too. Unless we were deep cleaning, we were only in pairs. And... I was either with a woman who was in the beginning stages of dementia or a girl shorter and weaker than me.

Do you get where I'm going with this?

Most people weren't home when we were cleaning, but some were. I didn't like that for multiple reasons...

Yet, when Ron started working with me, I felt loads safer. 

And almost the minute he started working there, we were sent to a beautiful home with these instructions: Don't go into the locked room near the entrance, this client will pay with cash, and act dumb if he comes home.

I was dumb enough to not think too deeply into this.

The client did have a locked room near the entrance, and the smell hit us like an airborne torpedo. Ron and I tucked the cash into the client's folder, and I cleaned up his breakfast which had been scrambled with some weed, and I brushed off the crack on his glass coffee table. Ron called me back and we grimaced at the mirror over his bed. We cleaned as fast as we could--but you can only go so fast.

I was back in the kitchen when the guy comes home. My heart started racing and I was ready to scream if he got too close to me. He overall ignored me, and he went right to his freezer. He pulled out a huge zip lock back filled with multiple tiny bags. Guess what they were filled with?

Crack.

Then this guy comes over and gives the head nod, asking. "So do you have it for me?"

They go outside. About twenty minutes later the client returns and smiles at me. I smile back, internally screaming. Ron wasn't done, so I was pretending to scrub the oven more. When Ron finished we high tailed it out of there, the client staring after us while sitting on his couch.

We told our boss, and she said we couldn't report the issue because we entered his private home and what-not.

Again, had I not been so young and dumb I wouldn't have listened. But I was intimidated by my boss...and didn't want that crack dealer coming after me...

More on this lovely job next time.

What I want to end with is this. I don't care where you are. If you don't feel safe at your job, at home, out in public, you feel free to leave and get yourself somewhere safe. You do it for your own sake, and especially so if for other's sake. You don't have any obligation to be anywhere you don't feel safe, no matter who tells you otherwise.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Note to Remember

Hello. Long time no see, I know.

The thing is, I just graduated with my bachelors! Freedom! (Sort of, haha) Hence the lack of my presence on the blogger web.

I just wanted to remind those who read this blog, that even though I am writing about the harder parts of my past, this is really the only place I look at them (other than in counseling). I love my life, and want to remember the good. However, if I had known there was someone else out there going through something similar to what I was going through--and I found some good people at times--I think certain struggles I had wouldn't have felt so heavy...so scary.

So, again, I am writing this to explore the possibilities why my anxiety started, why I was prime for abuse.

But my life is good. I'm grateful for who I am today, and I couldn't be as strong as I am now if not for the hard--and wonderful--parts of my past.

So I may be focusing on the hard parts here, but know I am happy. I am strong. And I really hope this blog helps others--at least in some form.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Graduation, Smaduation

Yay for Senior Year!

Way back in Freshman Year, I wanted to graduate early. Had I gone through with it, I would have bypassed a ton of crap in High School, but I’m glad I didn’t. In fact, I think had I graduated early life would have been worse. I had Layla and Page as friends instead of my being a total social outcast because I was so ahead in school.

Anyways. Senior Year!

Page had gone to online school Junior Year, but had come back for orchestra—thank the stars.

This year I also dropped out of orchestra. No longer was it a safe haven. My teacher had started going a bit crazy and on the cranky side. The Robot had followed us (my orchestra peeps) to the highest level of orchestra. What sealed the deal was if I didn’t take orchestra, I could have a half day all year long.

Half days were the best! I only had four classes and seminary, then I was done for the day.

Mom often took my out to lunch. It was seriously a blast.

Yet…Senior Year was the year our English Teachers had us apply to colleges.

I had planned on going to ASU. Dad really wanted me to go, and if I did I could live at home.

Then I looked at tuition and changed my mind.

So where should I attend college?

I had decided I wanted to go into Physical Therapy my junior year, so it was when I found BYU-Idaho had a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) Program, I finally made my decision. At the time, making the choice was fine. It wasn’t real in my head just yet…

College applications were done in the first semester. I didn’t think about them until I got letters at the end of senior year.

So here’s what happens in between:

Remember how I told you about the surprise I had about The Robot Senior Year?

I had the unfortunate experience our having Anatomy and Physiology together.

And other Junior Jerk Wad (JJW) who fueled her hateful fire.

What I write next wasn’t directed toward me, but it’s an experience which will resonate with me for the rest of my life.

And empower my life long mantra too: “Always be kind and never treat others as most have treated me.”

This year I saw the true colors of The Robot.

My teacher stepped out of the classroom for who remembers why, and JJW and The Robot took this as the opportunity to spew their poison.

Those two imbeciles talked about how there wasn’t an option for an Honors Anatomy class. Then expanded on how this class was too easy for them, and anyone not in Honors were idiots and wouldn’t, in fact, get anywhere in life. That they should just give up now—for they would be the ones living on the streets or flipping burgers.

My teacher walked in at this last part and laid it on them.

Man, it felt awesome to watch them endure the rage of my teacher.

The whole class had been physically cringing at their conversation.

And for the rest of that semester, JJW and The Robot were pariahs to the rest of the class. Why shouldn’t they be? With the tone of voice they were using, and the base words, they were basically telling everyone who wasn’t in Honors to kill themselves because their life wouldn’t have any substance in the future. (One of them said something along the lines about how they would kill themselves had they not been as smart as they were).

I think The Robot saw me smiling at her while the teacher yelled. We were put together in a group once, and I remember saying something about what her and JJW had said, basically reinforcing what my teacher said. Needless to say, The Robot was never disrespectful to me again.

The rest of Senior Year went relatively well. I was in a sort of a daze, refusing to believe my adolescent life was about to end. That soon, I would have to be an adult all on my own and move two states away.

I was decently social. I only hung out with Layla and our friend group about once a month, and did what I wanted at home—which was mostly writing and hanging out with family.

Then Prom came.

Despite how I had done my best to talk to more people at school and put myself out there, even asking my long time crush to Morp—a girl ask guy dance—no one cared to help me get a date for Prom.

Worst thing is?

There were two.

If you haven’t guessed, I am LDS (aka Mormon). There was the school Prom and a Mormon Prom.

All the girls talked with each other about getting dates for one another. When I was around, I mentioned I how I wanted to go. I don’t remember the name of the kid I wanted to go with, but…apparently I went unheard. (I am also, to this day, of mind where the man should traditionally ask the girl out, unless it’s explicitly a girl ask guy dance; and I was not going to appear desperate enough for a date to ask a guy).

All of my “friends” went to both Proms.

BOTH DANCES.

WITH DIFFERENT GUYS.

Without even thinking about trying to help me get a date.

The Sunday after school Prom, all my friends wore their gorgeous, princess dresses to church. Dresses I always wanted to wear and have, but would never get the chance because no one saw me.

I was invisible despite my efforts to be visible that year.

Mom took me home because I couldn’t stop crying. I hated how weak I was. Hated how much I was affected by this.

I told myself I wouldn’t be. The night of both dances I told myself I was happy I didn’t get asked; that I rather be home alone and doing my own thing—which was writing and balling my eyes out.

I am really awesome at lying to myself.

Until now, I never felt anger toward my friends for leaving me out of things. For deciding because sometimes I chose to hang out with my cousins instead, it meant I never wanted to hang out with them so they stopped inviting and paying attention to me.

I never realize how much it hurt until I saw them laughing, in their dream dresses reminiscing about an experience I would never have.

My entire body shook from the pain of being unseen and unloved.

My breaths racked through my ribs, my lungs fighting for oxygen. My head pounded and my mind screamed at me how worthless and ugly I was. Because why else did I not get asked out?

When I got asked to the Homecoming dance that year, I thought someone was playing a joke on me. Thankfully, he wasn’t.

But shouldn’t that tell somebody something?

I went home and slept.

I had finally figured out why I loved to write.

I could control every aspect of the world I created, and since I infused myself into the main character, I could be myself. I could be social, seen, and loved by those outside my family.

The first version of the first book I ever wrote is an intense demonstration of how alone I felt at school. It’s printed and stored away in my memory box in congratulations of completing my first book ever, but thinking back on it…now I’m not sure I want to keep it.

The rest of Senior Year, I put on a face. I smiled and laughed with my friends, pretending I was happy and wasn’t hurting.

I had gone numb.

I don’t think I seriously considered suicide that year, but it certainly crossed my mind, especially after the Prom incident. The fact I thought about killing myself over something so stupid as to being left out of Prom made me so mad I shoved the thoughts deep down into the recesses of my mind and promised myself I would become visible in my college years and never have to suffer the pain of high school. I would make a life for myself where no one would forget me.

In a moment of weakness, I wrote Layla a letter begging her not to forget me.

I fear people forgetting me. So long had I been invisible, I didn’t want my one friend who stayed true to me since kindergarten to forget my existence completely.

I went to one graduation party. It was a pool party. It was fun, I guess, but…*shrug* at this point it was clear to me they didn’t care whether I was there or not. I’m sure it was just the prompting of their parents to not make me a complete exile.

So long I had been screaming for people to see me, but because I never explicitly told anyone they never knew. How could they know?

But didn’t they see me? Didn’t they see the agony in my eyes? The false stretch of my smile?

No, because I was—am—really good at pretending I’m okay when I’m not, and no one tried to see beyond the fa├žade.

At graduation itself I was ecstatic. When I was called and sat back down, freedom washed over me. I would never have to interact with anyone from high school ever again. Although I was sad I was losing Layla, she had more fun with her other friends than she ever had with me. I no longer had to feel left out, because I was the one leaving everyone behind.

I was the one leaving.

I was the one in control.

I was the one shutting them out from my life forever.

And it felt powerful to finally feel like I was in control of something.

The minute everyone threw their caps into the air was the moment I made my escape. I basically ran in my sexy, strappy heels and in my red shiny dress (I looked GOOD) from the premises. In my attempt to locate my family I walked around in circles. I smiled and said congratulations to others but quickly left to find my family. I gave Amanda a hug, because even though we grew apart after my sophomore year, at least she continued to see me.

When I finally found my family, it was like I finally entered a safe haven, and freedom became a reality.

Always and Forever,
Natalie Carroll

The Summer Before College Part 2

The summer before I started college mostly felt like a daze--even when I was working. For the first time ever, I had absolutely no idea what...