11: A Fallen Friend Gets Back Up

11: A Fallen Friend Gets Back Up

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

A Fallen Friend Gets Back Up

A friend encourages your dreams and offers advice—but when you don’t follow it, they still respect and love you.

~Doris Wild Helmering

It wasn’t too long ago—reality is beginning to sink in—but a part of me is still in doubt of the change. Autumn is coming again and the leaves in our old school are already turning crimson and orange. I remember last autumn, when we were the best of friends and worst of enemies. We fought over having the highest average in class, the Art Award, the English Award, and everything we could possibly compete for. Back in those days, we discussed our future, our dreams, and our goals. You were always full of them, while I was always confused about what I wanted to do with life. I was only in eighth grade, after all. But you seemed to be wiser than your age.

“I’m going to go to Harvard to study law when I grow up, just like my cousin. I’m even starting to study for the SATs,” you’d tell me all the time during recess. Then I’d laugh, telling you that we hadn’t even reached high school yet. But then, you were always thinking one step ahead of all of us. While most of us only cared about going to the hottest party of the year or dating the cutest boy in the grade, you only cared about your future plans and grades. I remember how you always were with grades—you wouldn’t even be happy with a ninety-nine percent. Whenever you didn’t get a perfect mark on an assignment, you would go up to the teacher (and drag me along for support), to ask what you had done wrong.

That’s how you used to be. It’s strange how a person can change so quickly.

It started off with you meeting some new friends from another class, and they invited you to a party—one of the cool parties. I was bummed because you got invited and I didn’t. Now that I look back at it, I couldn’t be more grateful that I wasn’t invited, because that party was where it all started.

The day after that party, you started experimenting with alcohol. It started with only a few sips per day, then a couple of gulps, and then an entire bottle at once. You were only thirteen back then, and I thought you were joking when you told me how you got drunk. You said vodka and rum made you feel like you were floating. I simply thought you were trying to strike up an interesting conversation on a boring day. One day, you said I should come over to your house and try drinking because I would like it, and that it made everything so much clearer. I agreed because rebellion sounded fun. I never did, though. My lost conscience came back to me at the last minute.

A couple of days later, I saw you going over to your popular friend’s place for lunch. That day, you came back extremely late and the teacher made you stay after school to explain yourself. You lied and he let you off with a warning. It didn’t matter what lie you ended up telling the teacher—what mattered to me was how you were slurring your speech that day and how your breath smelled of alcohol. I even had to support you while you walked because you were so dizzy afterwards.

It was then that I realized you weren’t joking. It was serious. Your old intelligent self faded quickly, and the only thing you cared about was booze and popularity. On the outside, you pretended to be happy so you could keep up the new popular image. But after a while, everything starts to show—especially to me. The deep cuts on your wrists, hidden by heavy bracelets—cuts that only I noticed—told the entire story.

More and more your mind became clouded. Later, you even fell victim to eating disorders because you felt “fat” next to your popular friends. When I followed you into the bathroom, I saw you puking your guts out. You would do anything just to keep up with them. And after starving yourself, you decided to start wearing revealing clothing.

A long time ago, I told you that I wanted to be one of those cool, popular girls in our school. And then you told me, “Popularity isn’t anything—just because something looks cools doesn’t mean it actually is. Once you grow up, people won’t hire you based on how many people you have dated or all the popular friends you had.”

It’s strange how the advice you gave me then was the same advice I tried to give you, but you refused to take it. “Who cares about grades anymore these days? Get a life,” you told me when I tried to tell you what you were becoming. Your grades dropped and our friendship dwindled.

Seeing what those people were doing to you, I started to oppose everything about them. I even threatened that if you ever got drunk again, I would tell your parents and our teacher. You became angry with me. You said that all I ever wanted was to get you in trouble and that I’m no fun to hang around with. Then, you started to skip class and said that I ratted you out whenever you got caught. You even spread rumours about me—hurtful and untrue things. And after a while, I became angry as well. Angry at what you had become, angry at how I couldn’t stop you, angry at how you treated me, angry at everything that made you this way. Unsurprisingly, we ended the year on bad terms.

Later that summer, I heard that you wouldn’t be coming to the same high school as me. Your parents wanted you to get away from those people, after they found out what happened when you were caught skipping. I was happy for you, but a little sad at the same time. At my high school orientation, you gave me my birthday present and a card with a smile. I guess being away from those people did make you feel better after all. Either way, I accepted it with a simple “Thank you,” because I didn’t really know what to say.

“Thanks for being such a great friend to me,” you wrote in the card.

I read that line over and over again. The meaning in that simple sentence overwhelmed me and I called you. We talked for a while, and for once, you sounded like my old friend again. Your voice sounded so much happier and livelier than when I had last heard you talk—as if you are actually content again. Even though you won’t be in the same school as me from now on, at least everything is starting to go right again for you. That’s the best thing that can happen. I hope that in your new school you will be able to find yourself again and reach the goals that you had once set for yourself.

The trees in our old school are turning crimson and orange again, and I hope that this autumn will be a beautifully sweet one for you, with new friends and a new start.

~Carol Wong

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