Titan Tattler: It gets better

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 13, 2024

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By Claire Reinthaler

For the Clemmons Courier

A year ago, I was doing exactly what I’m doing right now: lying in my bed, late at night, writing. My mentality, however, could not be more different than it was in my admittedly less well-rounded junior mind. A year ago, I was incredibly unhappy, unfulfilled and unmotivated. I felt as if my only identity was the straight-A student, loved by my teachers, never truly accepted by my peers, who either resented, shunned or exploited me for my school work. Worst of all was the constant undermining of my own struggles and mental health by phrases like “you’re so smart, you’ll be fine!” and “people like you always succeed,” meant as compliments, but made derogatory by willful ignorance. It’s hard to believe that the people who look put together could be so torn apart; it was so demoralizing to see that even those closest to me couldn’t believe how broken I was.

This only perpetuated my feelings of self-doubt that have made their homes in my mind since the start of my freshman year. Spending close to my entire life in the same location, environment and school through eighth grade meant that friends came naturally and were built-in from my childhood. Moving to North Carolina in the turbulent times of 2020 only made the already anxiety-inducing transition to high school that much more frightening. I still have some fairly serious trauma from that time in my life, trauma that makes me fear change and the unknown so much that it often holds me back from looking forward to the positive events in my future.

That same fear of the unknown is what initially held me back from getting engaged in West’s community. Now, to be fair to my younger self, I was not exactly placed in a supportive environment from the start. I expected that at least in my honors and AP classes, I would be surrounded by people who were as dedicated and welcoming to all as I tried to be. Unfortunately, it was in those classes in particular that I came across some of the most shallow-minded people I’ve had the misfortune to meet. These are people who quite literally cared more about the appearance of being in a higher level class than the actual class content and showed absolutely no respect for the teachers teaching the classes, as well as making it their personal mission in life to be the most unwelcoming, gossipy, mean-spirited people toward anyone they determined to be inferior to themselves. Lonely, broken down and defeated, I spent more hours crying than I did actually spending time with the few good friends I had. Right there, junior year, I almost gave up on the idea of high school happiness all together.

Something in my mentality changed though, something so subtle, and yet infinitely valuable. I’m not quite sure I can even put a finger on what shifted my outlook on high school, except that I found some hidden bit of strength in myself to make my senior year the experience that I wanted, not one dictated by the will of others. 

And so, I wrote myself a letter.

In this letter was everything I had never let myself imagine having in a senior year of high school because it just seemed too unlikely. I folded the letter carefully, sealing it inside an envelope with the title “To be opened in the last month of senior year, 2024.”

Now is where you’re probably expecting me to say that I opened said letter prior to writing this article, or that I opened it on graduation. This is what I would say, if I knew the actual location of the letter in question.

I’m not religious, but if I was, I would say that some higher power came and quietly took my envelope of hopes and dreams and filed them away somewhere important; looking back on this year though, it has been my own determination and dedication that has put me in a place to write this article you’re reading now.

Simply put, over the course of this school year, I have been far happier than I could have ever imagined. I joined, started and gained leadership positions in clubs and classes that fueled my passions, which allowed me to let down my guard and slowly deconstruct the carefully put together walls around my heart. The friends that I’ve made this year are quite honestly some of the most genuine people I have ever been lucky enough to get to know, and they, along with my older, steadfast support system, have had my back and been my shoulders to cry on through the hard parts that inevitably still popped up throughout the year. This year has been everything I’ve always hoped my life to be, simply by the mundane act of having people to rely on and things to look forward to.

Looking back on my four years at West Forsyth High School, I can now truly appreciate how much I’ve grown and accomplished, and how proud I am of the way I’ve carried myself and my attitude towards others, even in the toughest of times. While I still of course would not have chosen it, I am grateful for the wisdom and empathy that dealing with less than kind people and situations have given me; I know now, for instance, that I will never do to someone else what the unpleasant people I’ve encountered did to me. I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain upon anyone, not even the ones who inflicted it on me. I know now the value of my friendships, especially which ones are worth everything.

I know now, assuredly, irrevocably, who I am: someone who truly believes that it gets better.