Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Lost Friend

Each summer, starting before my Freshman year, I participated in a week camp called Especially For Youth (EFY). This was where a lot of LDS youth and youth interested in the LDS religion got together and went to classes and got tours of various religious sights over the summer. This was honestly my favorite time of the year. I was away from everyone at school and no one knew me, or my brand as the “Quiet One.”

Had my school friends been there, they wouldn’t have recognized me. I talked and talked and talked. I got to know so many kids and made so many friends over those four weeks those four summers.

The EFY after my sophomore year, was one of the best I attended. It prepared me for Junior Year.

I label Junior Year as the “Year I Stopped Caring.”

I still stressed about grades and school, but I stopped caring what others thought about me, well at least for the first semester. I should change the label to “The Semester I Stopped Caring,” but the first one is stuck in my head, so let’s just ignore the inaccuracy.

Hehe. I think back on this and laugh at myself. I started going to school looking like a scrub. I didn’t even try. No make-up and basketball shorts and ponytails for days. It was a wonderful feeling, a freeing feeling in the social aspect. I actually stopped for the most part hanging out with friends outside of school. I simply wasn’t interested anymore, and they had stopped inviting me. Again, I didn’t care. I went home early almost every day because I could. My classes were stupid easy, and… I didn’t need or want to be at school.

The administration finally sent a letter to my parents telling me I couldn’t miss anymore school. Mom and I thought it was hilarious, because I still had A’s straight across. It wasn’t like I was failing anything, so why bother telling me I need to come?

It was only when they said I couldn’t officially move on to Senior Year if I kept missing school I finally stopped asking Mom to come and get me.

So, the reason I could go home so often, was because I had dropped out of my Honors Physics class. At the time, I felt like the ultimate failure, but now I realize it was one of the smartest decisions I made.

Remember my anxiety and how the only time I was seen was because people saw me as smart?

Well…this backfired on me in Honors Physics.

My teacher was incredible. If I could remember his name (it was a strange one), I would probably send him a letter telling him how awesome he is. He and my Honors Biology teacher from Freshman year helped me learn how to cope with what I thought was merely test anxiety—not a whole pit of other neurological issues. They taught me how to breathe deeply and not to think about failure, but rather envision how I will succeed. They were kind and understanding. I wish I could have let them know more about how they helped me.

All right, back to the story.

Until this point, I excelled in every subject I tried. I am not being pompous, I’m stating a fact. I was good at school because I spent forever and a day studying and honing my skills.

Yet, not matter how much I worked at Physics; how I utilized my aunt and my uncle as tutors, or spent my lunch hours in the Physics classroom, I could not comprehend the majority of it. Sure, if fascinated me, but man…this was the hardest class I had ever taken.

It took me HOURS to finish ONE Physics problem at home. There was a kid in the class who I would sometimes call and ask for help. He actually called me once and being ashamed at not living up to the title of “Smart One,” I faked through the question we worked on together.

I was afraid if he didn’t think I was smart, he would stop hanging out with me. He was new to the school, and I had invited him to sit with me and my friends at lunch. I mean, what teenage boy will refuse to sit with a whole bunch of cute girls during lunch? Plus, he didn’t know anything about me. Perfect situation right?

He was my friend until right before I dropped the class. He found friends he got along with better, and I was happy for him. Honestly. Although, I didn’t appreciate how I became invisible to him the minute I dropped class. Suddenly…I was no longer worth paying attention to. And yes, I made the effort to see him and talk to him, but no…he became friends with the pompous jerk who believed himself better and smarter than everyone else. Unfortunately, this turned my short time, only male friend I ever had (up until my 8th semester in college) into a jerk too. Still, he’s a brilliant kid and has gone on to better places and he does have a good heart.

It just sucks that he broke mine. I wasn’t interested in dating him, sure he was way cute, but I honestly just wanted a male friend. Had he stayed my friend, maybe something would have happened, but I doubted it. There was a dance coming up, and despite my being his only friend at this point and my directly asking if he was going, he said no. His excuse? He had too much homework to worry about. This shouldn’t have surprised me, because as I said in my previous posts, males hardly pay attention to me. I thought because I was his first friend in the school, the first one who was kind and talked to him, he would see me differently…but the pompous jerk changed his mind. Want to know how?

Physics class.

I was in a group project with pompous jerk (we’ll call him PJ). I don’t know how he knew, but he knew I was struggling in this class. Since people expected me to be the smart one, I acted like nothing was wrong, but PJ somehow knew. And oh, how he loves to prey on those dumber than him—I watched him do so since I first met him.

He was a male, Asian reincarnation of the white, ginger female Robot.

During this project we had to set up a ramp. We were to predict the trajectory of a marble launched from the ramp and where it would land. I wasn’t even DOING a physics problem when PJ decided it was time to belittle me.

My grandmother and Aunt Lynn are amazing quilt makers. I have helped them set up frame after frame since I was old enough understand how quilt clamps work. These clamps kept the corners of the wooden frame together, and we would twist the clamp so tight, it was near impossible for the frame to move.

In order to set up our marble ramp, we had to use a quilt clamp to secure part of the track. PJ, being the lovely person he was, handed me the clamp and told me to secure it whilst giving everyone else part of the actual physics problem to do.

Of course, he had to watch me instead of focusing on his contribution. As I was lining the clamp up, making sure it wouldn’t interfere with the marble’s course, PJ glared down his bulbous nose at me and said, “You’re doing it wrong.” and proceeded to tell me how to use the quilt clamp.

I was crouched at the side of the table, clamp still in hand. Sure I had taken some extra time to secure it, because our teacher was adamant about how precise we needed to be. As PJ spoke in such a condescending tone, our whole group stopped and stared at him.

My heart was racing, and I’m sure my face was as red as Arizona is hot, but I told him to stop treating me like I was stupid and I knew how to secure a quilt clamp.

(Wow, thinking back on these things, I was actually pretty brave when I needed to be. Go past Natalie!)

PJ rolled his eyes and we all went back to work. I was simmering with irritation, and PJ continued to treat me like an idiot.

Want to know what the best thing was? My prediction was right and his was way off. And yet, we nearly failed this group project because CLEARLY PJ was smarter than me and his answer was guaranteed to be correct.

I’ve come to despise people like PJ. They think they have to belittle others to lift themselves up. People like PJ will never find happiness, because happiness only comes when you lift others up, NOT yourself.

After this escapade, a girl in my group stopped me before Physics class the next day. She thanked me for standing up to PJ. She had been wanting to for a long time, but wasn’t brave enough.

No one, it seems, was brave enough to knock PJ off his high horse. Here’s the kid who took away the only true male friend I ever had thus far and turned him into a PJ 2.0

I dropped Physics because of the amount of stress it was causing me. I was miserable. I cried myself to sleep every night (yeah, dumb, but remember, people only noticed me because I was smart). I was beyond terrified to drop this class. Seriously, I began shaking at the mere thought.

If I dropped, people would know I was stupid. Know I wasn’t good enough. I would lose the only thing people saw of value in me—my intelligence.

In the end, my body made the decision for me. Now, this next part may be a little TMI, but if you want to understand the extent of my anxiety (which at the time I didn’t realize was what I had, I thought I was just an excessive worry wart), then keep reading.

I started finding blood in my stool. Excessive blood. Even when I didn’t use the restroom for lovely number two, blood was still in my pants. And no, it wasn’t because I was on my period. My stomach was constantly aching, but due to my high pain tolerance, I didn’t tell my parents until several weeks after I found the blood spots and the amount had increased significantly. (Mom was not happy about this, and lectured me about how I need to be more aware of my health, and sometimes sucking it up isn’t the best option—no matter if I have a high pain tolerance). I went to the hospital, and at age 16 I had to have a colonoscopy and an endoscopy.

I had stressed so much, I caused the inner lining of my stomach to thin—which was the cause of the bleeding. I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, from which I will deal with for the rest of my life…

All due to Honors Physics and my anxiety.

This goes to show how detrimental stress is on the body.

Despite my fears, I knew it was the right thing to drop this class. My doctor said if I continued to have such stress, I would soon suffer from chronic ulcers in my stomach. This terrified me.

With two fears to balance, I almost chose to stay in Physics, but thankfully had the foresight to look ahead. Would staying in Honors Physics and having stomach ulcers be worth it?

Ultimately, I decided no.

So I dropped.

I went in class for the mid-term and did everything I could to avoid my Physics teacher’s eyes. Man, I was ashamed. I sat hunched in my desk and finished my test as quickly as was possible for my addled brain. With my head ducked, I turned in my exam and nearly ran from the classroom. My teacher made note to say goodbye—I don’t know if at this point he knew I dropped, but I knew. I simply shrugged and left.

The minute I hit the hall, tears threatened to fall. Only, my friend came out. He gave me a hug and wished me a fun Winter break. I wished him one as well. By now he had stopped sitting with me at lunch and sat with PJ and his fellow jerks, so I was surprised he even took the time to seek me out.

He texted me once the next semester asking why I missed class, when I told him I dropped, I didn’t hear anything from him afterward. He also stopped acknowledging me at school when his friends were around. He would give a small smile if he were alone, but no longer did we exchange words.

I had been praying for a guy friend. It was fun while he was there, but again, he reminded me I wasn’t worth his time in the end. I became invisible once more. My value had been decreased because I dropped my Honors class. My stigma of being smart for the rest of Junior year was dampened, and I did my best to not let it get to me.

But having my thin access to attention and my only guy friend I’ve ever had leave me at the same time really crushed my self-esteem.

Again thoughts of whether school or life was worth it came to surface…and I stopped eating.

Always and Forever,

Natalie Carroll

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