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I was born in Redding, California. After my parents divorced, my mom moved my sister and me to a small town. Growing up, my sister regularly spoke for both of us. While this played a significant role regarding my shyness, I was invariably a happy kid. After the move, I developed a tight-knit friend group, consisting of 3 girls and me. Life was good, and we were content, aside from the occasional drama. However, as the years passed, things started to change. Little did I realize that that happy, shy girl would soon be gone.

Fast-forward eleven years to the beginning of ninth grade. I was at home sitting on my bed crying to my mom. I couldn’t process my sadness, nor did I know how to react. I felt numb and was unaware of the tears rolling down my cheeks. My heart was mentally breaking. Salty tears stung my eyes and my throat tightened. I felt my mom’s warm embrace as she sat beside me, assuring that things would be alright. Her cool hands wiped my tears, and she kissed my forehead. I wanted an explanation of why they were choosing to treat me in such ways. How could eleven years of friendship be forgotten?

While I may never understand, I can explain my side of the story. Unlike myself, these girls thrived on drama. They were the popular breed that needed attention to survive. Whenever problems occurred, they always revolved back to being my fault. My insecurities were thrown in my face and used against me. There was a never-ending competition, in which there was no finish line. I got broken down and was purposefully made to feel bad about myself.

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Sadly, I started to believe these things and allowed myself to change. I was the girl who refused to walk on stage when her name was announced at award assemblies. In photos, I would hide in the back and pray not to be seen. I was the kid who chose not to dress up for Halloween because they didn’t want attention. I was embarrassed and didn’t want to give my friends another reason to take shots at me. They made me believe I was too fat or too stupid to experience these things. Being the butt of every joke became exhausting. Cutting me down only fed their starving insecurities. Yet, I constantly found myself apologizing.

I found myself spiraling. All I wanted to do was scream. I wanted to throw a tantrum, bellowing from the top of my lungs how mad and hurt I was. I wanted to say they were bad friends. That that was not how friends are supposed to treat each other. How I had been their number one supporter as they took the light inside of me, while I watched on the sidelines. How what they said and did hit deep for me. I wanted to tell them how they didn’t even know the real me. How I wasn’t allowed to have feelings, and they knew close to nothing about what I faced on the daily. How girls should empower girls, not tear them down. But I couldn’t. I not only had too much pride, but was too mature to give them the satisfaction of seeing me broken.

However, at the beginning of ninth grade, I was done. It was time to end this eleven-year toxic friendship. I removed myself little by little. I blocked their messages that would try to reel me back in. It was lonely at first, but I started branching out. Having lunch with different people and making new friendships felt exhilarating. I found myself feeling and less stressed. I was able to talk with my old friends and create a resolution. While we are no longer close, they can accept what I want. By taking these steps I found myself. I had a newfound confidence and was proud of my ability to stand up for myself. Overall, I learned that doing what is best for you, can make you stronger. While it is hard at first, I can promise it gets easier.

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