I Don’t Know How to be Your Friend

Growing Up Without a True Friendship


Riley Wania

A Catholic, private school uniform drawn next to “The Golden Rule” of the church.

I never related to the story of “The Ugly Duckling.” If anything, I connected more to the yellow ducklings. I felt that I walked gracefully and confidently and that I fit the standards of “normal.” I felt that I had found the group of people that made me truly feel secure- my own flock. I never imagined a time where I would not fit in, or be alone with no one to support me or lift me up when I needed it. As I have gotten older, I have realized that I do relate more to the grey, ugly duckling. I am not perfect, and because of my differences, I have never really fit in; However, I believe that, just as the ugly duckling found their beauty within, I have too. My grey feathers (or “scars”) have made me into the person I am today. Constant exclusion and consistent pain have shaped me into the individual I have always wanted to be-a beautiful, happy swan, who has found her place amongst the chaos in the world around her.
Growing up, I attended private, Catholic grade school, and my only friends were a grade older. In their group, I was always the odd one out, mostly because I was younger, but also because when you are younger, things like “being funny” determine your ability to be a good friend. As I started maturing in this same environment, I began to realize that I had outgrown the people that surrounded me. My “friends” never showed up for me when I needed them to, and my classmates despised me. I was smart, I was really good at making music, and I got along with almost everyone that gave me the time of day. Their jealousy quickly turned into bullying. My teeth were not straight, I bonded more with adults rather than kids my own age, I was barely pushing four feet tall. They used these things against me for years. You would think that being in a Catholic school, where the golden rule is to “treat others the way you want to be treated,” everyone would be more appreciative and kind towards one another, but in fact, it was the opposite.
When the going got too hard, I moved schools to another Catholic school in Florissant. I noticed that my warm welcome was quite fake. These kids had known each other since kindergarten and were proud of it. They had their groups and friendships formed already, and in a class of 28 kids, that’s not something that is just going to change, which I learned very quickly.
My feelings were hurt time and time again as I watched this close-knit class bond without me. I was never mean, there was never any drama, I just simply had not known them long enough, but when you’re young, you do not understand this concept, all you see is the exclusion-the fact that they do not want you there. Even to this day, I still find it hard to believe that simply asking me to come over with everyone else would have been such a difficult thing, but I guess there is more to every story.
I thought high school would be different. I knew that I would not be the only new kid at the school. I thought going from a class size of 28 to 460 there would be at least one group of people that would take me into their group, but I was wrong.
I shuffled my way through friend groups, still in search of people who would accept me. I came to the conclusion that there was something wrong with me. There had to be some part of me and my personality that made me weird, or annoying because none of it was adding up. I was loyal. I was kind. I was supportive. I was everything that a good friend was supposed to be, and it broke my heart that no one was willing to give me the chance to show them.
To this day, no group of friends has given me the chance; however, I have learned that it is okay. These kids have known each other for years, and no matter how kind I am to them, nothing can compete with that level of friendship, but what all this has taught me is not that people are rude and exclusive, or that my life is so hard, but that you do not have to be enough for everybody. I was so busy trying to find a group of people that supported me and chasing after friends that never appreciated me, that I never paid attention to the individuals that never left my side. I did not need a group of people to love and accept me, I just needed a few good ones.
As people, and especially as high school students, we are constantly maturing more as a person, learning more about ourselves, and growing closer (and apart) from people. At the time, it may feel like heartbreak, it may feel like the world is ending, and the sky is falling, but just give it time. It stinks, but it really is a learning experience. Use the trauma, the grey feathers, and the scars this life has thrown as a chance to grow, and I promise the flock found will be worth it all.