I’ve finally registered that I only have one more semester of high school to enjoy/survive through. As short and fleeting as it may sound, the seemingly never-ending days in Frisco have allowed me to reflect very heavily on the past four years and what the takeaway was all about for me, and I realized that I really want to share it with you all, seeing as most of y’all are also in the same boat or younger than me. So, up until graduation day, I will be writing a monthly column called The Takeaway, each post being about a lesson I have learned- probably the hard way, through high school and what impact it’s had on my lifestyle, character, and relationships.
I’ve chosen to start off with something that has really only recently become an issue in my life. It’s that unwelcome party crasher that weasels its way in, finds and drags you down even when you’re trying to hide from it, and is almost never, ever true but somehow holds the power to turn your whole world upside down: Rumors.
In my junior year, something weird started happening. I was becoming more outgoing, boys started liking me, my body was changing and people were actually beginning to notice me. Here’s the funny thing about getting attention, when you have something other people want (i.e. being in the limelight, a certain bag, praise, etc) they get uncomfortable. Uncomfortableness leads to doubt, doubt leads to jealousy, jealousy turns into desperation, and soon enough you’ve opened up a Pandora’s box full of truthful stories just waiting to be distorted into rumors.
And this is exactly what happened to me. I had my first real relationship and things quickly went downhill. Unfortunately, a lot of (excuse my language) shit got thrown my way. I won’t get into the semantics of who said what or who punched who (kidding), but here’s the bottom line: no matter how false or ridiculously exaggerated they are, or how much you pretend you don’t care, rumors. hurt.
When a friend nervously tells you that someone else is trashing you around school, or you walk by a group of girls glaring at you, or you’re accused of doing something that is so out of your character by people who don’t even have the slightest clue what kind of person you actually are, it HURTS. You can fake a smile, puff your chest out, and walk like you don’t hear the whispers or see the side-glances, but at the end of the day the mask comes off and all you’re left with is the pain you’re trying to ignore. For me, it even got to the point where I started questioning who I was, if I was in the wrong, what I could’ve done differently. I let these fake words define what “Joanne Xu” meant.
As tempting as it was, I never retaliated and eventually- GET THIS, like everything irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, it faded. People forgot as soon as the newest juice hit the market. The gossip stopped, the girls found their next target, my name was “cleared”, and it was almost as if the rumor had never even existed in the first place. Almost.
The thing with people telling you who you are is that with enough repetition, you start believing it too. For a long time after everyone else had forgotten about the rumors, I still continuously beat myself up for it. I walked around sheltered, like if I said something even remotely “out-of-line”, there would be someone right around the corner just waiting to make up another story about me. I was still recovering from the after effects while everyone, including the instigators, carried on with their lives.
I’m here to tell you this: please, carry on with your life. For your own good. Rumors are scathing and painstakingly embarrassing and horrible, but you are not. Sure, you’ll lose some people to the gossip blackhole. Your reputation may get a little bruise, but bruises heal with time. As cheesy as it is, it’s really in times of pain that you realize who your true friends are. The 8 people that defended me, let me cry on their shoulders, and took me out for pie are the same 8 people that I call my best friends.
I am still not perfect. There are days when I still let those silly words, strung together by silly people that find silly joy in hurting people, get to me. But if you’re going to take anything out of this ridiculously long post, please hear me say: they’ve got nothing on you.