Don’t Give in to Bitterness

Laura - Blue Bell, Pennsylvania
Entered on May 27, 2008

I believe in setting myself up for disappointment. This belief has caused me a great deal of heartbreak, but I can’t let go of it, because the alternative is all too ghastly. As Alfred Lord Tennyson famously said, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” I hate making myself vulnerable, but I have to, no matter how much pain it entails. To make oneself invulnerable to pain is to make oneself invulnerable to joy.

Sometimes it is difficult to sustain hope, until I remind myself of the substitute – bitterness. You see, a human soul can never really accept less than it deserves. So when people give up on finding the big intangibles in life – like love – their souls find little ways to take revenge that we’re usually not even aware of. The most trivial inconveniences start to provoke anger of an intensity disproportionate to their cause. I see this every day – people who have given up on themselves, people who have ‘settled’. I see it in the SUV driver who honks furiously, working himself into a blind rage when a student driver hesitates to make a left turn. I see it in the vicious gossip queen who always has the dirt on everyone else’s relationships but never mentions her own personal life. I see it in the so-called non-comformist who shrieks that he “doesn’t care” what other people think of him.

I don’t want to be like that. Yet I see bitterness creeping into my life every day – in the snide sarcasm that I try to pass off as my “sense of humor” even though it isn’t really funny at all. So before I roll my eyes, before I rush to a judgment, I try to remember what I’m really upset about.

More specifically, I don’t want to be bitter about high school. It would be easy for me to say that my classmates are vain and superficial. It would be, but for a few who have stood by me through thick and thin, even when I was depressed, even when I didn’t boost them up a rung on the social ladder. They have led me to hope that there is a spark of genuine warmth in all of you. I just have to be willing to find it. So I’ll keep putting myself out there.

If I shed a tear at graduation, I won’t be crying for what high school was, but what high school could have been, and wasn’t. I don’t believe in wishing away any part of my life. We’re always anxious to finish up and move on to the next big thing, whether it is college, family life, or “the real world”. I’m excited about college too. I can’t wait to get out of here. But it pains me to think that there are peers I have sat next to in classes every year since sixth grade, and never really connected with on a level deeper than “Did you finish the math homework?” High school isn’t over yet. We still have a few weeks left, and a couple more months of carefree summer before college starts.

So I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet. I’m giving all of you a chance to prove me wrong. I challenge you to give me a reason not to be bitter. Don’t think of this as an ultimatum. I realize it is partly my own fault as well; sometimes I’m too timid to step outside my comfort zone. I’d just like to feel connected before I leave. Some say its futile to try to reach out to new people in these last few weeks of high school. We’ll be leaving in a few months anyway, they say, and then we’ll probably never see each other again. This is true – but nothing in this life is permanent. Even if I never see you again, I’ll remember that day at the beach, or that time we went running together, or that long-winded phone conversation. And I believe that that moment of human interaction is an end in itself. That moment in which we step outside of ourselves is worthwhile, no matter what happens afterwards.

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting around patiently, with the most serene expression I can muster, for “change I can believe in”. And if I ever snap at you for no apparent reason, don’t take it personally. I probably just need a hug.