Category Archives: What I’m Thankful For

Friendship Without Limits

I’m a difficult person. Introverted, hyperactive, pedantic, anxious, and chronically ill, I’m neither easily likeable nor particularly dependable. Chances are, I’m that kid in class or at a party who makes you grit your teeth and roll your eyes in irritation—a relentless know-it-all who doesn’t know when to shut up. Social anxiety and ADHD ensure that I’m usually off-balance in social situations, and my conversation topics of choice tend to be more scholastic than casual. That’s not to say I have no good qualities—I’m open-minded, loyal, and fiercely protective—but it can be challenging to be my friend, especially if you aren’t equally nerdy.

After taking a year off of school to recover from a traumatic brain injury, I switched schools for my junior year. Nearly an hour away from my house, I knew absolutely no one at the new school. I was uncertain about the return of my intellectual abilities after my head trauma, so I decided to take regular physics instead of honors. Though it turned out to be a mistake academically (physics is actually the one science I’m skilled in, and I was mostly bored), I can’t regret taking that class—it’s where I met Munkhjin.

Munkhjin did not like me at first. My interest in the subject and general desire for knowledge meant I constantly asked questions that made the concepts we were learning more complicated, and my incessant Hermione-Granger-ing did nothing to endear me to my classmates. Eventually, through a mutual friend, we ended up sitting at the same lab table, and she gradually warmed up to me. We were on amicable terms by the end of junior year, but not close.

Then, senior year, we both ended up in a special magnet program for digital photography; though we initially stuck together from familiarity, we quickly became fast friends, bonding over photo excursions. We spent countless hours positioning lights and playing with props, exploring the surrounding areas, and peering over each other’s shoulders making edits. It easily could have been a school-friendship like any other—you see each other in class, and when class is over, you go your separate ways—but then she did something that changed the way I saw myself forever.

Me and Munkjihn, senior year.

As I said before, my know-it-all-ness makes me a hard person to get along with. I know it, accept it, and don’t really expect others to ignore it. So, when Munkhjin relayed a story to me about our mutual friend bashing me at lunch, calling me “pretentious,” it stung, but I was prepared to accept it. But Munkhjin? She was furious. She ranted and raved about the unfairness of it, saying it wasn’t my fault that I was smart, or that I liked school, or didn’t know how to talk to people. To her, it was so obvious and simple, an innocuous occurrence, but to me, it felt like absolution.

For all the years of adults praising my intellect, I’d never had a peer tell me that it was okay to be me—that loving knowledge didn’t make me a bad person, that I shouldn’t have to watch what I say to avoid being labeled strange or condescending, that I could have real friends, true friends who weren’t like me. In that moment, I realized that Munkhjin may well be the best friend I’ve ever had.

I’ve had friends in the past who were willing to overlook it, of course, as well as friends who were similarly bookish, but she was neither of those. (To be clear, that’s not to say that she isn’t smart. She is, much more than she gives herself credit for.)  But for the first time in my life, someone was looking at me and all of my flaws and saying that they cared about me for and with them, not in spite of them. Something changed for me that day—I didn’t know that I’d been waiting my whole life for acceptance until I had it.

What Love Really Is

My senior year of high school was a very lonely time for me. I had once been excited to go to school and start every day, but by the end of my junior year, I could barely get out of bed. I would smile, act normal, and bear it, but my heart ached and my stomach felt like it was ripping in two, especially on my drive to school.  

That year began with one mistake that led to an even worse one. A boy in my class asked me out because he thought I was pretty, and I said yes. I believed him every time he said he liked me, when he actually just wanted arm candy. I even believed him when he ordered me around, saying “this is what couples do.” Those five months were a whirlwind of confusion, exhaustion, and sadness. For a while, I couldn’t understand why I was so unhappy with him. 

In September of my senior year, I broke up with him on a whim. I sobbed, screamed, and regretted it, but he got over me in a week. In about three months he would get another girlfriend of his same moral standing, by that I mean none, and start a long-term, actually respectful relationship.  

I was in more pain when he began ignoring me. It was even worse after I saw him actually caring for someone else, someone who wasn’t me. Instead of going to my friends and family, I made the wrong choice and didn’t.  

My friends knew I was unhappy, but I refused to reach out. He had already distanced me from my close friends when we were together, but I found out that several of them knew he was a bad person and didn’t tell me. I was enraged, became very paranoid, and chose to silently distrust and hate everyone.  

By the time the school year was over, I learned a far different truth. When I finally opened up, I was greeted by so much love and support from my best friends that I cried happy tears instead.  

They took care of me, listened to me, and took the time to understand. They helped me drive away my persistent negative thoughts and worked hard to convince me that the way he treated me was not my fault. I would drop by their houses at random so that I wouldn’t have to sit alone and think about how worthless I felt. My friends let me vent even if I was just repeating myself and never complained about me dragging them down. Most of them still don’t know everything that happened, but they still sent me late night texts to help me sleep and always helped me have fun despite the pain. 

Graduation was one of the tougher times that my friends got me through. It was supposed to be special and exciting, but I couldn’t understand how my horrible ex was happy while I was still so miserable. But my friends were, and still are, so loving and understanding that they convinced me to go to prom, graduation, and even the all-night grad party hours away from home. My ex was at the grad party too, having fun with his friends and girlfriend. If I didn’t have my friends, then I know I would have hidden and cried all night. Instead, my friends stayed by my side and we had a blast. That night of dancing, playing games, and laughing until no sound came out at Dave & Buster’s became one of my favorite memories. 

The next few months before college were still hard for me because being home brought back bad memories, but I can’t imagine recovering from this without my friends. I am truly thankful for these friends who showed me what loving someone really looks like.  

Silver Lining Surgery

Once upon a time, my health wasn’t nearly as good as it is now. My freshman year of college was a time of new experiences and meeting people- it was also a time I suffered the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my whole life. I’m a klutz, so I’ve encountered broken bones and a great deal of discomfort before, but this pain I felt at 18 years old was something I’d never felt before.

 

One morning I woke up and there was a sharp throbbing in my lower abdomen that was unbearable. I was nauseated and in agony, so my RA at the time was kind enough to drive me to the emergency room. After a few tests, I found out I had multiple kidney stones tearing their way through my body and an ovarian cyst the size of a baseball.

 

The kidney stones would pass on their own time, and were the main cause of my pain, but the worst part of it all was that I would have to have surgery to remove the cyst. I was extremely lucky though; the cyst was benign and the c-word (cancer) were nowhere to be found. Although this was good news, I was terrified. Having surgery was something so foreign to me-something I only could only correlate with movies and TV shows.

 

The worst part was the date of my scheduled surgery. Christmas Eve. There I was, doped up in a hospital bed during my Christmas break, going through one of the most traumatic incidents of my life. Nearly everyone else outside of the hospital was celebrating the holidays, while I was pressing my pain pump for more numbness.

 

I was so focused on having the surgery, I didn’t realize how difficult the recovery would be. I could barely walk afterward, and the pain made me grateful for the invention of Vicodin, but I left the hospital and I was healthy and had my family to take care of me. Knowing I had a support system in my family and friends made me realize that my life was something to be thankful for, and I found the silver lining in my situation.

 

Looking back on that time now, I don’t take for granted that my diagnosis could’ve been so much worse. The fact that I had only one surgery and my cyst was benign was extremely lucky. As I look forward to Thanksgiving break, I am tremendously thankful that I have my health and I always make it a point to send happy thoughts to those who are not as fortunate.