We were sitting at a table that we had staked out just minutes prior. This was prime real estate – the beautiful light colored wood was sturdy and would serve our purpose well. The table was wide enough to give us the room we needed, and there were enough chairs for everyone to have a seat comfortably. Elbow room would not be wanted for. We rejoiced in our acquisition, and started to pull out everything we would need to accomplish our mission. Out from our bags came markers, stickers, washi tape, pens… and most importantly, the planners. We had all gathered together at the Starbucks Reserve to decorate our agendas and wow, what a party it was. As we were frolicking amongst the sticker binders (yes, binders full of stickers), and smelling the wonderful scent of untouched paper, a woman about our age came over to the table and complimented what we were doing. She said that she was envious of us. She said that she didn’t know how to initially approach us because she felt like we were the cool girls at school, sitting at the cool girl table. We all laughed at this – because none of us were the cool girls – and made a joke indicating this. In that moment, our group and this random girl connected on a very deep level – a level that almost all girls can understand. Here we were, as adults, sitting at a table in a Starbucks Reserve, crafting. And we might have been losers in high school, but as adults, we had arrived at the cool table. We had made it. We were the table that everyone (almost) wanted to be at.
After she left to order her really fancy latte at the really fancy Starbucks Reserve, our lighthearted moment together made us start talking about high school and college reunions. Would we go to them? An almost resounding no followed our question. I started thinking about my own high school and college experience, and unfortunately came up with a lot of awful memories.
I transferred high schools when I was ending my Sophomore year. At my original school, I was not popular by any means, but I had a great group of friends that would have rivaled any movie girl gang you could think of. When I transferred to the new high school it was a complete culture shock. I joined the show choir in an attempt to continue doing what I loved and to also make new friends. There was one girl who absolutely despised me the minute I stepped in. Her mom was the leader of the show choir, and I still to this day have no idea why she hated me. There was also one guy who did not like me. He made a comment to me that he hoped I would get pregnant and drop out of high school (this was back before I even knew what sex was!). For some reason, in my high school brain, I thought that these people disliking me was the absolute WORST thing that could EVER happen to me, and I let that cloud a lot of my experiences in the show choir and at that school. I had a really tough time fitting in there, as a lot of the groups had already been formed by the time I came in Junior year, and none of the groups were really looking for a newbie. I felt unwanted and so out of place. Looking back, however, I did make some awesome friends that I am still friends with today, but I wasn’t able to truly appreciate that at the time.
Fast forward to college. I started dating a guy freshman year who I thought was the bee’s knees. He was a youth ministry major, so obviously he had no flaws and was perfect… or so I thought. I thought he could do no wrong. He did lots of wrong. Once we officially broke up for the second time, he started telling everybody about my pregnancy and adoption. Talk about betrayal. Something that was supposed to be my information to tell in my own time was spreading around campus and people (mainly his friends…so the entire soccer team) were acting as if I had the plague. It wasn’t even the whole truth coming out, it was a nasty twist on the truth – children, we call this a rumor and rumors are really painful and unnecessary. Top this off with the fact that everyone knew who I was (thanks Dad), I was a pretty easy target to bully. And bully they did. I could not walk into the Student Commons to eat a meal without getting sick to my stomach. I stopped going to classes. I was convinced that everyone was watching me and whispering about me. I even got called into the disciplinary office because of this rumor – and I was told that I was the problem. I am still not over the fact that an adult working at a private Christian college told me that me being bullied was my fault. I let him know how mentally distraught I was over this situation, to the point where my Dad was willing to pay full tuition at any other university that I wanted to transfer to – and this “man” sent me on my way with a threat that if the rumors continued, I could be expelled. Once again, I felt unwanted and out of place, with a really huge spotlight on me at all times. Remember those friends who I had in high school but didn’t truly appreciate them at the time? They got me through this college experience too.
I won’t spend too much time talking about my experience at SNU, because, for the most part, it was a wonderful school where I finally felt like I fit in. I finally felt like I was in the right place, at least the majority of the time. I was in a very dim spotlight. People knew my dad, but they didn’t necessarily connect me with him (I also stopped using my last name which helped with the dimmer spotlight). I met my very best friend there and got to cheer, and I also didn’t freeze my bum off six months out of the year. Living. The. Dream.
As I was thinking through the timeline of awfulness in my life (lol, sorry to the people who have actually awful problems, I’ll try to be less dramatic), I realized the importance of perspective. While I was going through terribly un-fun times, I had a pretty terribly un-fun perspective and mindset. Now that time has passed, my perspective has shifted. I’ve been able to appreciate that I’ve been through these specific events, because they’ve helped shape who I am today. For example, because of constantly feeling like people (unfairly) didn’t like me, and feeling like I was in the spotlight because of my parent’s position, I have become a person who is going to be genuinely unapologetically me. This is hard for me because while I am genuine, I hate to be an inconvenience, and sometimes being truly myself is inconvenient for people. But I’m going to do it anyway.
I’ve also realized the importance of friends. I’ve been able to truly appreciate the people who were there for me in these rough, probably-pretty-typical teenage and college years. I’ve come to understand that friends can help shift and shape your perspective, and surrounding yourself with positive people can make a really tough situation very possible to overcome. I like to think of these friends as my adopted family. Obviously different than my actual family that adopted me, but somehow not so different (minus all the legal papers and whatnot). Sometimes you choose them, sometimes they fall into your lap because of a shared connection (thanks Papersource and SNU Cheer and TPR and etc etc). But regardless of how they came to be, they are, and they will continue to be. So, to all of my adopted family, thank you for playing a role in my life. Thank you for welcoming me with open arms and making me feel wanted, loved, and like I have a very important place. And most importantly, thank you for letting me be a part of the cool table at the Starbucks Reserve.
I’ll decorate my planner with you guys anytime.