Moving puts value of friendship into perspective

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Jacqueline LeBlanc

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Photo illustration by Anna Wright

Olmsted Falls, Ohio only has a population of 15,000 people and is the quintessential example of small-town suburbia. After moving there in eighth grade, I soon learned Olmsted Falls was everything about the suburbs that everyone hates; it was small, and it was boring.

And whoever created the movie Mean Girls must’ve lived there at one point in their life.

I had the same sense of astonishment that Cady Heron, played by Lindsey Lohan, had in Mean Girls, walking into the Olmsted Falls Middle School cafeteria for the first time, as she did during the lunch room scene in the movie. Each table held a stereotypical “clique” that one would only imagine to see in a film. There were band geeks, cheerleaders and football players, kids with skateboards, kids with piles of books, kids who would not stop singing and kids judging the outfits of students who would walk past their table.

I never considered myself to be part of a clique. I didn’t play a sport, I didn’t play a band instrument, and I didn’t think my jeans and Wal-Mart T-shirt would be considered very fashionable.
So, I took a deep breath and chose my poison.

I walked to a table of theater and choir kids and asked if I could sit with them for the lunch period; they replied, “Of course,” in sing-song voices.

Now, I have no idea why I chose to sit with the choir kids. The last time I sang in a choir was in the fifth grade, and their constant dancing and singing and acting was a little too energetic for me to reciprocate, but I did not want to be known as the new girl who sat by herself during lunch on the first day of school. They were nice people, but their singing conversations and over-dramatic tendencies were just not my cup of tea.

So, hoping to make my way into a new clique, I joined the high school dance team. Now, it may seem shallow of me to purposely join a sport just to distance myself from my then-current clique of drama folks, but I did dance for five years prior to that, and I believed being on the dance team was a good way to begin my high school career. And as I predicted, I slowly began to move away from my former clique, whom I was only friends with for a few months, and made friends with the girls on the dance team. I became known as a drill team girl, and I was often found with other drill team girls and the marching band. My clique went to dances together and hung-out at the football games, and we occasionally interacted with other cliques. But when I was by myself and without my clique, my true, more reserved nature came out. I didn’t know how to be myself; my identity suddenly became blurred.

Thus, on the first day of junior year, I stood in front of RBHS without my clique, and I didn’t know how to function. I walked the halls, desperately searching for some form of familiarity, searching for a clique that I could see myself being a part of. But I had no clue. I was so used to my old group of friends that I didn’t know who to identify myself with. I was lost.

Weeks passed and I managed to make friends from various groups, but none of them seemed to belong to just one. I still didn’t have that clique, or group of people, to call my own. I had no answer when people asked who my close friends were.

I wanted to define myself by the group of people I hung out with. I wasn’t satisfied with my friends hand-picked from other people’s groups of friends. I wanted to feel like I was a part of something. I felt like I was obligated to find a clique.

But I wasn’t.

After interacting with a large variety of people,  I realized I liked befriending different people from different backgrounds. I met and I talked to people I originally imagined I had nothing in common with. I interacted with people that I never would have had a chance to meet had I restricted myself to a clique.

Everyone has a need to belong in high school. Being a part of something or being able to associate one’s self with a larger identity seems to be the most important aspect of high school, but it’s not, and it shouldn’t be.

Maybe my choir group of friends from eighth grade could have taught me some awesome dance moves, and I could be preparing for my Broadway debut this second, but I’ll never know. I didn’t realize that just because I was in their group, I wasn’t obligated to hangout with them after school or not talk to other groups of people.

At the end of Mean Girls, Cady Heron eventually finds her clique, but she doesn’’t allow it to dictate her life. She becomes friends with whomever she comes into contact with and is much happier than when she was a part of the infamous “plastics.”

In high school, nobody completely knows where they’re going or has figured out who they are, but it is a bit easier when you expand your horizons.

By Jacqueline LeBlanc
This opinion piece is labeled as such on the desktop version.
Do you feel the pressure to be in a clique  in order to fit in during high school?