If You Knew Me in High School, I’m Sorry

Where is this apology coming from? With the end of another year at college, I’ve spent some time thinking about how much (or how little) I’ve changed. As most of us experience, sometimes I feel like a beautifully mature, updated version of myself, almost unrecognizable from my past self/selves, and sometimes I feel like I am the exact same person I always was and always will be.

Lately, I’ve been feeling more like a new person than I was in the past. When I arrived on campus a year and a half ago, I was terribly anxious–always had been. My worries took up most of my mental space and manifested themselves on my body. I had stress-induced eczema (No, really, look it up; I did) and would periodically wake up with hives on my hips or my face. I often wrote in my journal about how stressed out I was and how inadequate I was feeling, and couldn’t sleep most nights from the multitudinous negative thoughts in my head.

All of these behaviors were vestiges of my high school self. My high school self was extremely preoccupied with assignments and grades. She was constantly comparing herself to her brothers and her friends and made everything a competition she was desperate to win. Everything stressed her out. If you asked her what was stressing her out, first she’d snap at you (especially if you asked while she sat blurry-eyed and pouting during the early morning downtime before classes began) and then she’d assault you with the list of tasks she needed to accomplish that was constantly cycling through her head. She felt threatened by the unknown and preferred to think any negative opinions toward her were misguided. That Rachel was not a very fun person to be friends with. She was not a very fun person to live as.

That was the girl who arrived on campus my freshman year, but, the more I think about, that is not the girl I am now. I’ve changed in a lot of ways, most notably in how I deal with stress (and how I dance at parties. High school Rachel would never dance). First of all, even though I attend an academically rigorous college, my desperate sense of competition has all but disappeared. It never crosses my mind to ask how someone else did on a test, and while I still strive to do well, it doesn’t feel as crushing to receive a lower grade than usual. I repeat; I like getting good grades, but it’s no longer a life-or-death situation. Also, when I worry, it’s usually about an essay deadline, a busy weekend coming up, or a conflict between friends. Note that I said “or,” not “and.” My worries have become far less numerous over time. If you ask me what I’m stressed about, it’s not longer “Where do I even begin?” and my nights are rarely plagued with endlessly repeating lists of things I need to do. To be clear, I still get stressed–a lot. But, to borrow words from my wonderful roommate (who met me when I was still inchoate Freshman Rachel and inexplicably decided to stick around for another year), the way I deal with that stress has changed. I’ve lost a lot of the defensive anger that used to accompany my stress. I no longer lash out at close friends when I’m feeling overwhelmed, no longer believe that my situation is impossible to deal with.

There are a lot of factors that played into this change: time, age, hormones, college, counseling, friendships, yoga, etc. Rather than analyzing which had the most influence, I’ll make a blanket statement about all of them: I’m thankful for them. I’m so much happier as this self, however long it lasts.

And, since I’m now a soft, relaxed me who is willing to give into sentimentality: to those of you who knew me in high school and lasted it out with me to this point, thank you.

 

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