“The world is bigger than high school, and you will find your place in it.”

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Sofia Hughes, Staff Writer

I want to tell freshman year me that I’m writing this in front of a mirror, and I look up and catch my own eye, and I smile. I smile because I finally look like myself. I’ve grown into my insecurities; my nose finally fits my face, my clothes fit my frame. I smile because it feels really good to finally like myself.

I won’t pretend that I’m completely fine now, because yeah, whatever, I’m not. I’m still in therapy for a reason, I’ve still got anxiety, self-doubt, loneliness, and a laundry list of other issues, but I’m doing better now. I’m happier. 

There have been a lot of times in high school where loneliness has seemed all-encompassing. It feels hollow; it makes you feel like there’s something wrong with you. It’s a byproduct of thinking everyone else isn’t lonely; I have always felt lonely in comparison to others. I have always felt lonely in comparison to who I wanted to be. Maybe this has just been my experience, but I tend to feel like my sadness is my fault – for not being social enough, for not putting myself out there, for not reaching out when I need help. Even when I’ve tried to make connections, they’ve failed. After a while, it becomes easier, and less painful, to stop trying. I was hurt by people who I thought were my friends, so I forgot that friendship is supposed to be comfortable. I trained myself into self-isolation. Loneliness became a story I told myself: I wasn’t built for the same world everyone else seemed to be built for; there was something wrong with me. It felt like choking. It felt like drowning. And it’s terrifying to say out loud. 

But loneliness isn’t a branding. It isn’t a spell, it doesn’t become true as soon as you speak it, and it doesn’t stay forever after it comes to visit. I have dealt with it for a long time, and it comes in and out of my life like the tide. I want to tell you something that I often have to tell myself: you are lovable, even if you are not loved right now like you need to be. You are lovable if you are lonely. You are lovable because you are exactly who you are. A lot of times, loneliness comes simply because of the universe’s misalignment – you get unlucky, and you don’t meet the people who will love you the way you deserve. But you will. The world is bigger than high school, and you will find your place in it. 

The tide is low for me right now; I’m happier at the end of my senior year than I think I’ve ever been before, and I’ve found more people that make me realize how desperately I’ll miss them in a few months. But when the waves came in, when high tide lapped against my throat and I felt like choking, like drowning, I had to learn how to love myself when I didn’t believe anyone else would. I couldn’t will myself out of loneliness, it doesn’t work like that. So I tried to find happiness despite it. I focused on my interests, my style, my writing. I figured out that it was useless being a version of myself to make people like me because, well, it wasn’t working, so I tried to be more authentic. And then I figured out that I actually do like myself. It feels so simple, after it took me so, so long to get here.

And that’s how I’ve found myself closer to shore. When I feel alone, I can tread water and breathe easier knowing I won’t sink. And when people pull me to shore and tell me they love me, I believe them.

 Maybe you’re lonely right now, but you can be lonely and still be happy. I have been. I will be.