What Really Happens When You Graduate High School

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Senior year of high school was a whirlwind of new friends and close bonds. My lunch table filled quickly, Friday nights were always booked and I never struggled to find a partner in class. Yet the closer I got to graduation, the more people warned that my friendships weren’t going to last forever. This warning seemed unnecessary and untrue–for me. I was above the so-called high school friend epidemic. My friends were lifelong.

My feeling of security lasted deep into May. When graduation finally rolled around, I had no fear of losing contact with anyone. I truly meant every “Stay in touch!” I spewed. I imagined this summer being as filled with movie nights  as the ones before. But who knew crossing the stage with a diploma would cost me many all-nighters and about 20 friends? Suddenly, the very people who were over at my house every weekend were too busy to text me back. I was unfollowed on social media. I wasn’t invited to the annual end-of-school celebrations I always attended in the past. I had major FOMO–but, more than that, I felt betrayed. I was a good friend to them all year long. What happened? Were our friendships so shallow that they ended when school did? My idea about summer and these seemingly lasting high school friendships changed.

During school, I considered the following three months to be the freedom I needed to hang out with my friends every day before college began. Yet, shortly after summer began, each day started to feel like a painful waiting period before I could move away, make new friends and live the college dream.

The friends I did stay in touch with shared similar stories. They were unfollowed, uninvited and, like me, felt abandoned. We struggled to find a reason behind our ex-friend’s actions. There wasn’t a falling out or a fight we could point to for closure. The friendships just ended. I felt stupid for imagining they would last.

Not all the feelings were bad though. As the summer went on, the best-friend breakup of 2016 changed from simply bitter to bittersweet. High school friends are great, but they’re also constricting. I don’t have to pack for college the mold people had for me in high school. I can meet new people and share experiences with them that’ll go deeper than just doing homework together. There’s a chance to be someone new, someone my old high school friends wouldn’t have supported, and the endless opportunities overwhelm me with excitement. The thought of starting over helped me come to terms with the idea that high school friends are not for forever. It was hard to accept but the friend breakup had nothing to do with doing someone doing something wrong. The truth was high school was just a phase in my life and when it ended, so did the friendships.

There are some friends I still worry about losing. Those closest to me have been my friends for as long as I can remember. I fear them turning into other “high school friends,” but I’m confident in the fact that there will always be hometown gossip for us to discuss and TV shows to catch up on. If any bonds can make it through the years, it’s these ones. We allowed each other to grow and change through middle school and high school while making sure the relationship we had changed too. I think the same thing will happen in college. We’ll change but our friendships will grow with us.

I didn’t expect to lose my high school friends. I fell blindly down that rabbit hole. But with college starting in only a few weeks, I’m hoping it’ll all be worth it. Maybe I’ll truly connect with the kids on my campus. Or maybe I’ll find myself back in this same situation–constantly reaching out to people who can’t seem to pick up the phone.

RaeAnn is a freshman at Ohio University studying journalism. She is very fond of French onion dip, cats, and tweeting her feelings.

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