Woof, high school.
I feel that’s most people’s natural response. Truthfully, I really did love high school. These were some of my most transformative years, both in positive and negative ways. But overall, I really did love it and look back on my 4 years with positivity. I’ll admit, this is a long one. It’s hard to condense 4 years of memories, accomplishments, struggles, and relationships into one post!
Freshman year was your typical freshman year. Awkward, figuring it all out, figuring out who your “people” are, and learning a new schedule. At the time, I was on the B-Team cheerleading team with my best friends and loved it. Fast forward to Sophomore year, this is where things started to turn for me. I really came out of my shell – I had great friendships, loved cheering on JV, and had the start of my first “real” long term relationship. I was starting to find confidence & started understanding who I was as a person. Over all, fairly simple year with only a touch of your classic high school drama.
* Disclaimer: I wanted to add photos from early high school but didn’t get facebook until junior year of high school, haha!
Junior year was easily my most “successful” year, but was also one of my biggest downward spirals. At the end of sophomore year, our school held their annual cheerleading tryouts. Our high school was known (and still is) for it’s impressive cheerleading program, easily one of the best in the state. Tryouts were always stressful, but this year was particularly daunting. Most of my friends and I were trying to go from JV to varsity that year, making the weight of tryouts heavier. Lexington varsity cheerleading had such a high standard of excellence, and it truly does have a legacy and reputation for perfection, which made making this team a huge achievement. Seeing my name on the list put me on top of the world.
After making varsity, we had about one month left of class. I’ll never forget the day that one of our coaches pulled me out of class & let me know that I would be an alternate that upcoming year, my first year on varsity. This basically meant I was a part of the team and came to practices, but I wouldn’t compete with the rest of my team. If someone got injured, I would step in. I was honestly devastated. I had just achieved one of my biggest goals, but felt like I had been told that I wasn’t actually good enough. This was one of my first big “failures” in my eyes.
From here, I started a downward spiral of trying to reach my perceived “perfection,” I wanted to be good enough. I wanted to be tiny, tan, and blonde – that was my picture of perfect. I started eating the bare minimum. I’d skip meals, only eat sweet potatoes, chicken, and green beans. I lost weight over that summer and it had manifested into an eating disorder. I still have a hard time admitting that, but it has been something I’ve struggled with ever since. Seeing food as “good” or “bad,” always seeing my body as an imperfection and a frustration. There’s redemption here later on in my story. I also started going to the tanning bed and coloring my hair to be more blonde. I dressed up every single day for school, except for game days when we wore school colors, and never repeated an outfit. That was the nature of our school, dress to impress.
That long term relationship that started my sophomore year was still going on during junior year. High school relationships are messy, you honestly don’t really have any idea how to date. This relationship was good in the sense that we were best friends – but there was also a lot of jealousy and lack of trust. Even though we dated for almost 2 years, I think we would both agree that we were both immature and had a lot of growing up to do. Despite the messiness of our relationship, we walked through a devastating death of a friend together, one of his baseball teammates & one of my daycare best friends. Byron was tragically killed in a car accident and passed away on October 21, 2007. I have tears in my eyes as I type this, even to this day it is so surreal. Losing someone your age is devastating, it’s so hard to process as a high schooler.
Aside from disordered eating and a semi-rocky relationship, my junior year of high school was a year full of successes, wins, and overcoming obstacles. Later in the year, someone unfortunately got hurt at practice and I had to step in, so I was no longer an alternate and stayed a part of the competitive team for the remainder of the year. Our cheerleading team had a very successful competition year, and we won 1st runner up at state. I became Junior Class President, won the title of Miss Junior in our competitive school pageant, and had formed a group of best friends who were my favorite people to be with. I also started working out at Bodyshop Athletics, which is where I was introduced to FCA and prayer breakfasts. Lots of good, good things. But all the while, I was in such a dark place with my eating disorder.
Towards the end of junior year, my relationship ended after we had dated for close to two years. The summer after junior year was spent with my best friends. We went on many beach trips together & spent most of our days on the lake. We truly soaked up every minute before our last year of high school together. This was my first time being single for a summer, as well as really being the first time I had been single in high school (aside from freshman year). My need for attention was at an all time high, mainly because I don’t think I really knew how to be alone. I had a few “flings” during this summer that didn’t last more than a few weeks, so truthfully even during my “single” summer I wasn’t really ever single. I have some regrets from this summer, mainly feeling like I “led on” many guys and loved to flirt, but truthfully never really felt committed or in a relationship. It was simply unhealthy and I was trying to fill a void somewhere in my heart.
Senior year started off really well. I feel like we all cherished time together this year. My group of best friends called each other “our little family,” and I spent most of the afternoons and weekends with them. Friday nights were spent cheering at football games, and Saturday’s that fall were spent at cheerleading competitions.
I won 1st runner up for homecoming queen, was elected as Senior class secretary, was one of the captains for our cheerleading team, and I also won an award for SCCCA Cheerleading Scholarship. I was on top of the world and felt like I was heading in a really good direction. My disordered eating took a back seat during this year, I’m not sure why it eased off, but it did and I’m thankful for that. It didn’t rule my life during senior year. That fall, I went to Clemson for the very first time with my best friend Lauren and her mom. I went to my first Clemson game even though I was a “diehard” Carolina fan. I knew there was something special about Clemson, but it didn’t deter me from my desire to go to USC the following year.
December of senior year, I started a new relationship with someone who went to a different school. This relationship was more of the “real deal,” if you’d like to call it that, and we truthfully did have a seemingly anti-dramatic relationship.
Spring of that year is where the bittersweet started to set in. We had finished up our last football season, as well as our last competition season as a team. We started cheering for basketball on Friday nights, so most of my weekends were spent with friends or the guy I was dating. At the time, I truly felt like I was in a good place. I had healthy friendships, a mostly healthy relationship, and felt like I was leaving high school in a really good place. In reality, I was still a little insecure & was constantly meddling in other people’s business. Call it your typical high school drama.
Gearing up for spring break of senior year is where my disordered eating started to creep back in. I wanted to look and feel that perceived “perfection” again, so I started eating the bare minimum. This continued on throughout that summer. My energy stayed low and I never felt satisfied, it felt like I was constantly striving for something that was never giving me actual satisfaction. This perfection was unattainable and I was exhausted. Another factor in all of this was that the guy I was dating had a habit of flirting with other girls, which made me more insecure. I felt like I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, or perfect enough in his eyes. He would probably never, ever say that and I’m sure he didn’t feel that way, but that’s how I felt. Causing my downward spiral to go even deeper.
In May, I turned 18 and was at one of my all time lowest weights. Looking back on photos now, I can see just how small I was and just how distorted my body dysmorphia was. It’s sad to think back on these happy moments and only remember how disgusted I felt with my body.
Aside from where my headspace was, I truly did enjoy every last bit of our senior year. That year, the guy I was dating had his high school prom on the same night as ours. We both agreed that we didn’t want to miss our last prom with our friends, so we each went with a best friend to our own prom. Our friend group went as a huge group & we stayed up all night long talking and hanging out by a bonfire and soaking in our last big hoorah for senior year. Soon after prom and right before graduation, the relationship I was in ended after we had been together for about a year. He was going to Clemson and I was going to USC, we were honestly over the long distance thing and wanted to go into college open minded.
In June, we graduated from high school, class of 2009. Most of my best friends were heading to Clemson or another school and I was planning to go to USC. Truthfully, I didn’t apply anywhere else, only USC. The time around graduation holds some of my favorite memories. I got to speak at our Baccalaureate program prior to graduation, which was such a good push outside of my comfort zone. Graduation parties with my best friends, long summer nights, days on the lake, it was one of the sweetest summers. That same relationship picked back up soon after graduation, so we dated into that summer before college and into freshman year. My disordered eating was about to reach it’s all time peak that summer, and it manifested even more into freshman year of college.
Before I wrap up all of this, I just want to say that all my years in high school, my mom always made sure I had more than enough. We always went back to school shopping, she made payments on pageant and prom dresses every single year, even when I could’ve worn the same one two years in a row, & always provided in any way she could. She was at every single football game, basketball game, competition and every small event in-between. She was and has always been my biggest fan, throughout every win and throughout every loss.
Freshman year of college was easily one of my hardest self-discovering years. I struggled with loneliness and need for control only sent my eating disorder into an even deeper dark place. Freshman year will be a post all on it’s own, so stay tuned for next Tuesday for “Exposed: my hardest year.”