People move all of the time – they transfer schools and are thrown into a totally different environment – but people seldom ask why. Usually high-school-aged kids move because of their parents’ jobs. They have no control over it, it’s not their choice. They move from city to city, from place to place, and never seem to stay in one.
There are occasions though, when one makes the choice to move for their individual benefit. It’s not a very common thing for kids in high school to move to help themselves be more successful. (After all, isn’t that what college is for?) It’s not common; but then again, I’m not exactly the most common person.
This time last year I was attending a completely different high school in a completely different county. Things were relatively normal. I was finding my niche, I had just suffered my first break-up, and I had great friends and even teachers that I knew I could rely on. I was going through all of the “normal” high school events: love, loss, friendship, and adjusting. Yes, I was just like the one-thousand-plus other kids at my school.
So what changed? Why am I here?
Well, obviously, things changed for the worse. (Why else would I move away from my friends who were more like family to me?) My mother became very over-zealous in the church; she needed someone to make the decisions for her. No matter the function – be it a dinner or service or something else – if the church was holding it, my older sister and I had to go. No questions asked.
At first, it wasn’t horrible. I enjoyed the youth group at the church, and the dress code was about what you would expect from a conservative Baptist church – polo shirts and jeans, nothing too low cut or short. The youth group gave us homework to do, which wasn’t horrible either. In addition to the work for church though, I started getting work piled on from AP Government and AP Statistics, along with healthy amounts of work from the rest of my Honors-level classes. Add practicing an instrument and theatre into the mix and I was ready to go to sleep at seven pm, not some church function where I would be so bored that I would fall asleep anyway. It was overwhelming at times.
In the beginning, my mother understood – or at least pretended to – that my classes and extracurricular activities were extremely demanding. It began to escalate. It was just little things at first, her forcing me to go to youth group or Sunday-evening services. Eventually, it reached the point where she was trying to force me to go to a Christian college down in Florida. Now, that in and of itself isn’t that horrible of an idea. Parents should assist their children in finding colleges. But the college was un-accredited and going to that college would be a waste of my time and money.
I stood up for myself. I was adamant about the fact that, no, I’m not going, it holds no interest or benefits for me whatsoever. That didn’t help anything.
She had yelled at me occasionally before – I’m sure everyone has been yelled at by their parents for something at least once – but from then on the house seemed like it was World War III. She would come up into my room for no reason in particular and begin yelling at me over the smallest thing. If I attempted to defend myself or my opinions – whether it was through calm mannerisms or ones that reflected hers – she would slap me (never hard enough to leave a mark that lasted mind you). No one else in the house seemed to notice when she would do these things.
I became fed-up. I got sick of feeling so worthless. I got tired of not wanting to get out of bed in the morning and worrying about everything, including my dropping grades. I was sick of living with my own mother.
I did something about it. I moved up here, to Carroll County, in the middle of the last school year to live with my dad. I’ve tried before to explain what my first week here was like, and I have found two words that sum it up almost flawlessly: culture shock. Back in Glen Burnie, I lived about fifteen minutes from Baltimore, a mall, and just about everything else I needed to get to. Everything was off of two major highways. When I compare that to out here, where everything seems so spaced out and peppered with farms and livestock, they feel like polar opposites.
But, as the school year went on, I lost that initial shock, along with the awkwardness of being that new kid who randomly dropped into a class half-way though the year. I met people, and reconnected with a few that I had only seen on weekends when I’d spend time with my dad. I made some friends, lost a few, and things gradually started to improve. I started improving my grades and caring about my work ethic. My interest in theatre returned and I was a part of the run-crew for the spring production, Legally Blonde: The Musical. I started to lose that feeling of worthlessness. I didn’t really mind getting up early anymore and I didn’t have to worry about everything. And now, it’s gotten to the point where I can stand to speak to my mother again.
Now, I know that one of the most clichéd phrases we hear is “It gets better.” We hear it during Unity Day, and we hear it when people attempt to console us when we’re down. I don’t know about anyone else, but personally, that phrase irks me. In fact, at times I loathe it. Coming from me, someone who would usually say “it gets better” because of all I have been though, it sounds a little weird, right?
I’m not saying that that phrase is untrue, because I think that it rings true for everyone, at least to some degree. But those three words, while sometimes effective, don’t seem to be enough. Why does it get better? How does it get better? When does it get better and who can make it better?
I’ve pondered these questions quite a bit. I’ve thought about this when I couldn’t sleep. And, after a while of thinking I feel I’ve found an answer to those questions.
In the simplest terms possible, you make it better, because no one else will do it for you. It’s your life so you have to step up and change it. If I were to make that three-word sentence seem more appealing to me, it would go something like the following.
It gets better, but you have to be the one to make the initial change.
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