Friends come and go, but you stay forever


The feeling of being stuck in your thoughts in a hallway filled with your former friends. (Illustration by Gen Carlozo)

By Mara Mellits, Editor-in-Chief

Sophomore year, March 2020. 

I wake up with a smile on my face — I can’t wait to go to school. My best friend and I walk into our first period class giggling, and even though we sit at different tables, we don’t seem to mind. 

We became friends with the other people at our tables, and from that point on, I opened Pandora’s box — making friends everywhere — bonding from mutual interests like a similar teacher or class. From periods one through eight I have someone to talk to — a friend. Someone I could spill my secrets to, like an embarrassing slip on the icy pavement or my crush on the junior in my English class. With one of these friends always by my side, I never walk to a single class alone.

One of those friends is an older boy who sits next to me in Art. On the surface, we have nothing in common, yet we never run out of subjects to discuss, like the upcoming election or the new virus. Or when I sit down at my new table in Chem, I silently listen to my new tablemates talking about last night’s varsity basketball game. By the next month, I know the best and worst of the JV roster off the top of my head. I walk into my second year of Italian completely clueless, but by March, my friends and I laugh as I stumble through a story about il mio segreto ragazzo.

But with a rip of a band-aid, it’s all over. That year is in stark contrast to how I felt a year later. Who knew what a year of isolation could do to me. 

Junior year, March 2021

My alarm wakes me up at 7:59 a.m. — just in time to open my computer and join my first period physics class. Sometimes I go right back to sleep and wake up to find myself kicked out of the Meet.

I continue the rest of the day in my room except for lunch with my mom and my sister. Stuck in my room, I begin to hate it — it’s my own prison cell. Gone are my friends from the year before — some I’ll never speak to again, and others I won’t know how to speak to, staring at each other as we pass in the hallway, not knowing if we should say hi or say nothing, like we’re pretending sophomore year was meaningless. 

But of course, I won’t know that until the next year, when I actually return to school. For now, I’ll spend day after day in my room, not leaving my house and falling into a depressing routine of nothingness. 

I try to throw myself into my work, doing as much as I can to forget the present. I find comfort in writing story after story for the newspaper — something to fill my time with. 

And for the few friendships I do have, I desperately cling to them — no matter how toxic they are — not wanting to lose the only people in my life other than my family.

Because in high school, friendships are key — they decide how you’re going to live out those four years: who loves and hates you, your weekend plans and even what clubs you’ll join. 

But during a pandemic, suddenly, none of that matters anymore, and you only have yourself, which is something I never see reflected back in the media. 

After watching a plethora of high school movies growing up, it’s scary to stare in the mirror and only see yourself, especially when the mirror of social media only reflects back large groups of people. And in movies, even the loner finds a friend by the end of it. With my friend group now small, I have no choice but to dwell on my last day of normalcy — March 13, 2020 — in my head, over and over again. I beg to see the rest of the year — to know what would’ve happened if life had been normal, for my surface-level friendships from the year before to come back. Right now more than ever I need my lab partners in Chem, mi amici from Italian and the boy next to me in Art. 

Senior year, March 2022

I forge new friendships in all my classes senior year, just like my sophomore year. I find it easy to bond over similar interests like a shared teacher or dream school. My senior year classes are curated to what I want to explore: an abundance of English electives and fun classes like Contemporary Painting and Horticulture. And for the first part of the year, I live the rest of my sophomore year with only one motto in mind: to have fun. 

To do that, I open myself up from my isolationist shell. I find myself making the same friends: the girls at my table in Art, my lab partners in science and everyone who I once had Italian with. 

But deep down I know that no matter how happy they make me, they won’t last. At least, that’s what the pandemic taught me. 

A year from now, will we even think of each other? At colleges all over the country or even outside of the country — will they think to text and ask how I’m doing? But it’s also fair to ask if I’ll do the same — will I even remember them? That realization frightens me. 

It hits me one day in Art class when I’m painting alone. Art is one of my favorite classes, 50 minutes every day to do what I love — create. It also gives me a chance to do my second favorite thing — gossip — and the girls at my table feel the same way. Yet, when we’re told to paint at the easels, our tables are forced to split apart.  

Every day my easel partner and I do just that — create art and gossip. But one day, she doesn’t show up, and I’m forced to paint alone. Do I listen to music? Let my thoughts take over? Badger my teacher for critiques so I can talk to someone? I don’t know. I haven’t felt this loneliness since the pandemic. 

But forced to spend time with myself after a year at home, I learned that maybe I had the wrong perspective on it.

During my junior year, I learned to hate alone time so much that I filled my days with other meaningless activities, mainly so I wouldn’t have time to think.

So when I finally got out of my prison cell, I jumped right into it.

Before the school year began, I spent three weeks away from my family in a foreign country, and in order to not feel so far away from them, I sent them pictures of everything — every meal I ate to every museum collection I saw. My friends all laughed at me for it, but it made me feel like they were on the trip with me. So looking back, it wasn’t that surprising that I became the school’s photographer.

I learned this by capturing every event — every home football and basketball game and even a few away games. I photographed the Pep Rally, I-Days, Oktoberfest, Ricebowl, teacher protests — spending day after day, forcing myself to never be alone. 

I made new friends at all these events, from sports managers to random people I talked to once; I even reconnected with that lab partner I hadn’t spoken to since sophomore year — now we say hi to each other in the halls and share secret crushes just like we used to. I became friends with every new person I met at these events — only to know that we’ll never speak again after this year ends. 

Documenting experiences is a way for me to remember them. Putting them on social media is a way for others to remember them. But doing it for your school community has a different sentimental value — others will have the same attachment that I have to my own photos.

And through documenting those experiences, I not only learn about other sports or cultures, but about myself. Photographing for the school allows me to participate in all these events I normally wouldn’t have — to live different lives. For a day I’m an I-Days dancer, or the star basketball player, or Student Council President. And from that, I’ve learned that I’m living the best life possible and all my life experiences happened for a reason, and that includes my isolationist junior year. Who knows if I would’ve had these experiences if I hadn’t gone through that? 

But the best part of all of this is that I can always look back at these shared experiences and so can everyone around me. 

Now when I’m forced to paint alone or to spend time with myself, I don’t dread it like I used to. The pandemic may have been a miserable low point of my life, but it’s important to reflect on the lessons learned from the journey with yourself. 

I’m not sure if my sophomore year self would’ve lasted this long without the pandemic. She would’ve left after being spit on by a basketball player or after being run over by the baseball team. And even though she may have been naive, she didn’t have the most important person by her side and now she does: herself.