This piece was inspired by many random conversations, my musings about friendships and also the whole idea of ‘squad goals’ that has been challenged by Chloë Grace Moretz and Rowan Blanchard. Lastly this post was inspired by this post by my friend Giulia who always writes so honestly.
‘Ngl being a teenager has been a very lonely’ I sent this message to one of my best friends recently and in that moment it was like I finally realised what the icky feeling I have had for the past seven years was- loneliness. You know that notion of not feeling like you fit in or that you are connected with anyone. You’re just there, sort of going through the motions. You are sitting with these groups of people, but where they are all sailing on the same wave you are left bobbing along in a boat nearby. It’s like physically you’re there but mentally you exist in a completely different space.
When I started secondary school I was sure I was going to make loads of friends because I was this loud, smiley over-confident person who loved people. It didn’t quite pan out like that, at least not at the start, there was a lot of drama and tears (all of which we laugh about now) but at the time it felt like the worst thing ever. I remember I used to have a diary where I wrote all about how I felt so upset and alone all the time (I went on to burn the pages to this because I felt really moist writing about my feelings- bad idea).
It didn’t feel right. I was the confident one. I was the friendly one. But instead of having a secure group of friends I was turning into the girl that people would be so kind and allow me to be part of their group and I hated it. I didn’t act like I cared, but when you know that you are in a group just because they had to make up the numbers. It hurts. Or that you are the person who always had to leave a team of ‘friends’ when the teacher decides she wants a team of 4, instead of 5, it hurts. I hid myself in excellence instead. People knew if they worked with me (or even when I worked by myself) our team would be more likely to win because ‘Itunu works hard’ and ‘Itunu is really on it’ and I decided to accept that. If I can’t make strong friendships, if I can’t have my squad I will just work at being cool as an individual.
Don’t get me wrong I did have friends but it was more a case of being the add-on friend. My friends were really close to each other and I was the additional person they liked. Like third wheeling for a whole friendship group (lol). Aside from this, outside of school a lot of my family friends were older than me, so where I was worrying about the colour of my pencil case and backpack (or handbag- I went through that phase urgh NEVER AGAIN) they were preparing for their GCSEs, going to parties and chatting to people on MSN. Gone were the days of going round to play, they had important big people stuff to do.
So throughout the school years I fluctuated between having friends and feeling accepted and having friends and feeling like an outsider. The funny thing is in the rare moments nowadays when we talk about Year 7-11 people will say ‘well you had friends, you’re friends with everyone’. On the surface that was quite true, I could sit with or talk to anyone but that didn’t mean they were my friends. I didn’t go out with them; I didn’t speak to them outside of school regularly. I just felt so mentally disconnected with everyone. And it’s not in an obnoxious, I am better than everyone way- it was more of a ‘I like you but we are not on the same wave’ or ‘I like you but you already have a squad and I don’t want to be a beg’ kind of way.
This Quote from White Teeth by Zadie Smith (I always have to drop a quote in there) perfectly encapsulates my feelings
“And underneath it all, there remained an ever present anger and hurt, the feeling of belonging nowhere that comes to people who belong everywhere.”
The whole idea of being able to talk to anyone about anything, being able to sit at any table with any group but not actually BELONGING anywhere is something I felt so strongly throughout school. I didn’t talk about it with anyone and often people made the assumption that I had a strong group of friends and was a very socially busy person- which really wasn’t true.
This brings up another thing, assumptions. Just like people made assumptions about me, I made assumptions about everyone else. In my eyes, everyone had the best squad ever and they all face-timed each other and shared their deepest darkest secrets. I felt like the weird one who didn’t have that. But there is something about Year 13 that makes everyone really open and honest and now I realise I am not the only one who has felt the ‘alone in a crowd’, ‘belonging nowhere’ feeling.
People have told me about hiding away in different parts of the school because they didn’t feel accepted or feeling overlooked in a friendship group because everyone found the ‘leader’ of that group the most interesting. People have told me about feeling defined by their friends, how people would presume things about them because of who they associated themselves with. So all the time I was thinking everyone was having the time of their lives, a lot of people were experiencing the same feeling of loneliness that I was.
It’s interesting because a lot of us manage to present an image of a very well put together person with a nice group of friends, and although sometimes that is the case other times it’s not. While people may be fawning over you, you are fawning over others and it’s like we are never at a place where we feel content with where and who we are.
Now I have a lovely group of friends at school and lovely humans in my life. Although I am still figuring out where I belong on the larger scale of things, trying to become a Renaissance woman and connect with more people, I am slowly coming to a place where I realise that 1) You don’t have to have a squad for your friendships to matter 2) Human connection is important so don’t get wrapped up in a place where you are always by yourself (independent woman or the whole ‘imma just ghost’ thing is pretty crap when you have no friends) .
Feeling accepted is something we all want and friendships are messy, but then again what isn’t.
I’ve never really done a post like this, but I just wanted to share my experience briefly and encourage you to do the same. What do you think about ‘friendship groups’? How have you dealt with feeling lonely? How do you make and keep friends? (I just added these questions for flavour tbh- feel free to say anything you want about what I wrote about).