I’ve been feeling really down and alone lately. When I first started at Paly, I didn’t know many people, but thought I would find someone I clicked with and related to. My main inspiration were those best friends in the movies, which was obviously unrealistic, but I had had friends like that before and knew they were out there.
It’s been a while, and I still feel like I don’t have anyone like that for me. I have friends and am somewhat social, but I don’t feel like we’re really all that close. They’re more friends out of convenience, instead of ones who truly care about you, though they’re all lovely people. I can’t remember the last time they asked how I was or anything about my life, which sounds self absorbed, but I feel like I try to care about theirs. We don’t seem to have any common interests either, and I always feel like I’m on the edge of their friend group.
I’ve become one of those sensitive types that can’t even take a joke, and remarks like “we’ll just have fun without you” carry more weight than they should. I want to cry over the silliest things, and it’s hard for me to feel motivated to do anything. For the first time in ages, I don’t look forward to going to school because there’s nothing for me there.
I’ve joined an absurd amount of clubs (so many that I often can’t even go to meetings because they’re on the same days) and talked with my parents. I just can’t see it getting better in high school, as everyone already has their friend groups.
Transitioning to a new school feeling insecure and nervous is difficult, especially when reality doesn’t meet your expectations; I understand from my own move to Paly in freshman year. I want you to know that you are not alone. If you think about it, the same media that portray idyllic representations of high school also showcase drama between cliques and questioning about who “I” and “my people” are because these experiences are highly relatable. It is not uncommon for people’s initial friends in a new environment to change over time or for us to struggle to find friends whom we really connect with. Though it can be easy to get caught up in our busy, overwhelming lifestyles and to forget that others are dealing with similar obstacles to ours, remembering that our struggles have been overcome by others before may bring you comfort and boost your assurance that you, too, can push through the fight. And as we fight together, we can also grow to better understand each other.
Though you may not have one specific friend group at the moment, your human needs for empathy and support can still be met; different people can embody aspects of your ideal friend, and it can help to learn what can be a “good enough” friend for now. Since people tend to connect best with others who remind them of themselves, whether through a shared love of movies or refusal to eat certain types of food, recognizing one commonality to appreciate in each of your relationships may help both you and your friend find more value in and fulfillment from your relationship.
You can seek to develop these deep connections in new friendships too. It sounds like you have a lot of interests, but instead of spreading yourself thin with multiple commitments, I suggest really dedicating yourself to one or two clubs. Then, you will likely enjoy the activity more, have time and energy to create closer relationships with similar people and feel more content with yourself and your relationships.
As you spend time with different friend groups, you may also notice that some parts of your personality remain constant though other details may change. Recognizing these aspects can help you solidify your own identity and confidence. Eventually, it will become easier to stand alone without feeling lonely.
It can definitely be frustrating and draining to feel that your efforts to help others are not being reciprocated. While your compassion for others is something to treasure and nurture, please remember to take care of yourself too. In terms of crying often and feeling unmotivated, do you feel sad most days of the week? Can you not enjoy things that you normally would? If that is the case, you may want to talk to a trusted adult like your guidance counselor, pediatrician or other mentor.
I think it’s wonderful that you try to be loving and thoughtful to your friends. Though you or they may not realize it yet, each of your positive actions is improving people’s lives; remember this when people do things to help you too. If you express your gratitude for them, they will remember your acknowledgement, feel more loved and encouraged and will want more to return your thoughtfulness. Continue making the community a better place by encouraging more cycles of love and appreciation, and in time, you and others will see your valuable impact.
WITH LOVE: JAMIE
This is the full version of the submission and response. The printed version was condensed due to limited space.
Dr. Moira Kessler, a child psychiatrist at the Stanford University Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, offers feedback to the column writer. She is not providing any clinical services.