2010-2019 has been a year packed with experiences and challenges, all of which I am grateful for. While I am still quite young, I faced rock bottom and was forced to fight to be where I currently am. I attended middle school, high school, and college throughout this single decade. While I’m sure reviewing my own decade could take some time, I wanted to shorten it to the most important events I faced.
In 2010, I was still in the only school I had ever known: Catholic school. I was surrounded by the people I had grown up with and was starting my search of finding a decent local high school. I went on a retreat with my classmates, attended parties, and had lots of fun in graduation attire. I attended church twice a week and was generally pretty happy despite dealing with what I would later learn was anxiety. See, it’s easy to look back and realize that I was, in fact, happy. I got bullied quite a bit for how I physically looked and didn’t have the nicest friends but I was still much happier compared to what the later years would hold.
I gained a little more independence in 2010. I was able to walk to a local park with my friends without supervision, where we would make jokes and play on the swings. I would text my classmates often, since this was well before social media was rampant, and we would gossip about silly things. Life was pretty easy for me back then. I eventually learned that I had been accepted to a nearby high school for the arts program, where I could learn more about photography. Things were really good.
Middle school graduation came and went. Hugs were given to friends and the next chapter of my life was beginning. I had a difficult time adjusting to public school since it was much bigger than my Catholic school had been. I came from a school of 300 students and entered a high school with 3,000 students. My saving grace was that I had one of my childhood best friends at my side with me through this strange new place. She was in the culinary program across the hall from where my photography class was so we saw each other often. I had a really interesting AP Biology teacher that I still remember, I reconnected with my old neighborhood friend, and I witnessed a few things that weren’t as wholesome.
I saw a lot of fights at school. It was usually around lunch and it was usually females. No matter how common it was, it always scared me. Two girls in my class were expelled from my school and the entire school district for posting a very racist video on the internet. That gossip lasted for a long time. A few months into my time at this high school, I found myself with a bully. His name was Frankie. He would usually cause me to leave class bawling and none of the teachers seemed to care. I eventually spoke to my guidance counselor about my bully, who moved him to a different class time away from me. A few weeks after he was moved, he ended up getting arrested for killing another student. I looked him up and apparently he was recently found guilty. I think that was one of the breaking points for why my parents wanted us to move out of Florida so desperately.
2012 was the first rough patch I faced. While public school was rough, I had someone I knew really well there with me. When I moved to Georgia, I had no one. I had to live on a mountain in the middle of nowhere and it was extremely tough on my mental health. About 1 month into moving, I ended up finding a blond Mountain Cur outside of my window. He was skinny and had oodles of scars across his ribs. My family, after a lot of convincing on my part, agreed to take him in and I named him Jake from the cartoon Adventure Time. We were inseparable and he made adjusting to the move a little easier. Sadly, he passed away within a few months after getting hit by a truck while I was away from home preforming a play for chorus. While I still miss him, I’m grateful for the time I had with him.
Starting high school in Georgia was stressful. It was a small school but I felt like I stuck out. Most people had grown up together so having new students was rare and exciting for them. It was weird going from a small Catholic school to a large high school back to a small high school but I ended up finding my way. I quickly made friends with a girl I still keep in touch with today. I also learned that speaking my mind was not welcome, for the students were mostly Baptist and didn’t agree with some of my viewpoints.
I was supposed to be in a band class during my first semester at this high school but somehow ended up in a chorus class. As someone who has high anxiety and refuses to sing directly in front of people, chorus wasn’t the best match for me. However, I stuck with it for the three years I went to high school there and loved it! I didn’t preform on stage like I had feared but rather sat in the sound booth with the same girl I made friends with.
I also came to terms with my mental health. I expressed my anxieties and constant sadness to my parents, which was very scary but it made me feel a lot better to finally talk about it. My mom got me into counseling quickly and, despite the fact I didn’t stick with that counselor for very long, it was nice to feel heard and know that I was cared for. This was the beginning of a very long road to understanding the depths of my mental illnesses which wouldn’t become detrimental until later on.
2013 was a really important year for me because it’s the year I started marching band. Marching band helped me in a lot of ways. I made new friends, gained a huge passion for music, and it gave me a way to release stress healthily. You see, I played percussion and my band director could tell how I was doing that day by how loudly I played. Regardless, it was a ton of fun and I’m glad I gave it a chance. I would have missed out on a lot of experiences if I had let my anxiety get the best of me.
Some smaller accomplishments included my mom allowing me to dye my hair for the first time. I had always wanted to dye my hair and went as far as to use lemon juice and the Florida sun just to lighten my brown hair a little. However, she finally agreed to let me get highlights. Every time I got my hair cut, I added more highlights until I was practically a full blond. I also started to stretch my ears in 2013, which I still have to this day and have gotten much bigger since then (sorry mom).
On a sadder note, 2013 was the year I started getting bullied pretty bad. My peers had gotten comfortable with me and thought it was best if they spewed their unwanted opinions of me. I was berated for everything from my physical appearance, how I dressed, the way I talked, my opinions, who I was friends with, the fact I was a “band geek”, and more. It was a really rough point and I started begging my mom to let me switch to online school. The only thing that stopped me was marching band, which I’m thankful for. I don’t know how I would have reacted having to adjust to something new again.
2014 was the start of my senior year of high school, which was exciting in general. I also managed to get my driver’s license (after failing the test the first time). I was able to drive my drumline friends to practice while also lugging our heavy instruments in the back of my truck. I had moved up from snare drum to tenors (also called quads or quints, depending on the number of drum heads). I was the only tenor player and I felt on top of the world. Some of my friends would attend football games and cheer my name when we preformed the halftime show.
I also cut all of my hair off in 2014 and learned I could pull of a pixie cut rather well. I later dyed it red, which was fun. Dying my own hair has still not lost its charm. I also started my senior project this year and decided to do my project on learning saxophone. On days I needed a mental health break but couldn’t afford to be absent, I would claim that I was working on my senior project and sit in the band room the entire day in a closet and practice saxophone. My band director and I would eat a healthy lunch of overly salted McDonald’s fries sometimes, which was really fun. I found ways to avoid the negative aspects of my classmates and the school.
The bullying only got worse. I started to get more self conscious and wanted nothing more than to disappear. I was with this guy that controlled most aspects of my life, causing me to miss out on every senior trip. The principle of my high school began singling me out, calling me a lesbian for having short hair. Band helped me escape it all.
Senior year was coming to a close. I was starting to say goodbye to friends I knew in my heart I wouldn’t keep in contact with. I was finalizing my grades for graduation. I had been accepted to college and was sorting out the next steps. I also got my first tattoo, which was a secret I kept for almost 3 years. More changes were happening whether I wanted them to happen or not. I thought that I could handle that change but I learned quickly that I could not.
I met someone at college orientation, who I attached myself to rather quickly. He convinced me to join the university marching band as a staff member since I didn’t make the cut for the drumline. Being in the marching band meant I got to move in before anyone else did, which was nice. I had a very small dorm room that I filled to the brim with way too much stuff. I started classes for my Computer Science major and thought things were going to be okay. Spoiler alert, things were not okay.
I ended up hitting my rock bottom in October. I stopped going to class entirely because of how depressed I was. I stopped sleeping, eating, and taking care of myself. I lost many friends and was extremely alone. My GPA at the end of the semester was a 0.067 and I was placed on academic probation. Despite better judgement, I returned and kept pushing myself.
2016 was spent fighting. I fought my mental health, I fought my university to excuse failed courses in order to raise my GPA, and I fought to get some friends back. I was removed from the university at the end of summer, forcing me to give up my on-campus apartment and attend classes at a local community college. I had to eventually fight the community college due to a bad professor giving me an incorrect grade. I was working a minimum wage job at a Dollar General and my boyfriend of 3 years not only broke up with me but blocked all contact with me. I was at a low and I was lost.
However, all of these misfortunes sparked a fire in me that still burns now. I got a class removed from my grades and brought my GPA up, I took a chance with a guy I met back in high school, and I reconnected with some old high school friends. Things seemed to be okay for a little while. I felt as though the mess I had gotten myself into was fixable.
The start of 2017 is something I have subconsciously blacked out of my memory. I had quit my job and dropped out of community college due to the awful professors. For 4 months, I would stay up late playing video games every single night and sleep most of the days away. I was highly depressed but focused on video games to give me any semblance of joy. The only time I really left my room was to spend time with my new boyfriend. I had one thing going for me and that was my seasonal job that I would start in summer.
My godfather basically runs a small island in Michigan, where I had been hired as a seasonal guest service representative for a state park. I made friends with my roommates and really enjoyed my job. I actually lived on the island in a very old house, which was really rewarding for me. I learned a lot about the islands’ history and ate at every restaurant that was there. I hold those memories close to my heart at all times.
An important thing that happened in Michigan is that my boyfriend drove 14 hours straight with a little over one thousand dollars in cash to spend an entire week with me on the Island. It was a complete surprise coordinated with one of my roommates. We had only been together for under a year but that surprise still means the world to me. He took the time to work hard to afford a hotel there. He was able to meet some of my family, most importantly my grandmother who has since passed away. He bonded with one of my cousins rather quickly and still sees her a younger sister. We took a day to get matching tattoos on our ankles for a video game I still haven’t played. I was able to show him around one of my favorite places on earth and I can never express how grateful I am that he did that for me.
I also went back to my university in 2017. My boyfriend helped me move in, decorate and prepare for classes. I got a job at a GameStop, which I walked thirty minutes to and from. I also made the president’s list for getting straight A’s my first semester back. Despite the year having a difficult start, it ended rather well. The most important thing that happened was that I switched my major from Computer Science to English. After failing three semesters of math in a row, I decided that I just wasn’t cut out for the major. Plus, I didn’t have a passion for it. I only chose it in an attempt to make more money. However, I only have one life and I want to live it doing what I love.
This year was an absolute cesspool of garbage. The year was a trash boat, if you will. I cut ties with the remaining friends from my first year of college and most of the old high school friends I reconnected with. My parents separated, which is a difficult event to work through at any age. I cut ties with family members. I lost both of my childhood dogs that I loved more than life itself. I lived in absolute paranoia for most of the year, which I can say from experience isn’t fun.
Despite all of the bad, I still stuck it out. I worked hard in school, I worked hard at my job, and ended up making a very close friend at work. I got even more tattoos, giving me eight or nine in total. I was starting to get healthier after struggling with an eating disorder I did not consciously form (refer back to my rock bottom). I started taking the time to learn about myself as an individual. I learned about what I like and what I don’t like. I became braver and stronger. I stood up to people I felt were toxic. I stood up for my beliefs and finally felt safe enough to abandoned the beliefs forced on me from birth. My rock bottom taught me how to find goods things in bad times.
Now we come to the present. This year wasn’t entirely easy either. I can’t seem to catch a break. In February, my boyfriend and I were in a terrible car accident. Luckily, I was the one who endured any real injuries and all I have left in a small scar. I was jobless for almost the entire year, which was a real struggle. I made friends but lost them just as quick as I made them. However, more good things happened than bad.
Probably the most important thing that happened this year is that I got engaged. Some people may think we’re young and dumb and that’s fine. My life doesn’t affect you in the slightest. I finally found a job and, even though it’s still retail, I really enjoy my job. My coworkers are great and I even got offered a promotion a few weeks into my job. I got a new piercing I really like (sorry again mom). I was given concert tickets to see my favorite rapper live with my best friend. I started learning two new instruments. I petitioned to graduate and it was accepted. I reached a total of 11 tattoos. I actually went to on-campus events and had loads of fun. I went to new places in the city and even visited a new state. I taught myself how to cook and fell in love with taking care of indoor plants.
It’s been a decade of ups and downs, laughs and tears, life changing events and mundane tasks. Each and every second was worth it to get where I am now. This new decade has a lot in store for me already but I still have a fire in my heart pushing me to be the me I was meant to be. I am eternally grateful for my mother and my fiance and my best friend. I am thankful to be where I am now. I am thankful for everything that this past decade gave to me, even if it wasn’t all easy. I grew a lot as a person and I still have more growing to do. I look forward to the new year and the new decade.