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I’m just the unwanted friend

After starting high school I’ve made some new friends, but I don’t feel like I really belong yet.

Give it time, says our elder. It will get better!

Dear EWC

I’m a freshman in high school. All but one of my friends from middle school went to a different school where they’re making tons of friends and having a great time. Meanwhile, my friend and I were on our own for the first four months of high school. I know it’s not that long, but it seems like years when there’s just two of you and everyone else is in some giant group. Anyways, I eventually made a lot of friends and lunch isn’t something I need to worry about anymore. It’s just that I don’t really think that these new friends know me. I knew a few of the people in the group and made friends with the rest easily, but I’ve mentioned that my birthday is coming up soon and I feel like they don’t care. One of my friends who went to a different school just got a new pair of shoes from her new friends for her birthday and mine didn’t seem to give it a second thought. They’re good people but I joined the group much later than anyone else so they all know each other better. I feel like I’m forcing myself into the group and that no one really wants me there. It feels like I’m running around, trying to get in on some inside joke that I’ll never understand. It’s like that feeling when you try to say something but no one hears you. I can make friends pretty easily but I have a lot of self-esteem issues and I’m not sure if I’m on track with the whole ‘unwanted friend’ thing or just paranoid. I miss my old friends and I wish I was back in middle school. Any advice?

Peace-of-Mind replies

Yes: easy advice to give, not so easy to take. The answer is simple. It’s time. That’s it — just time.
You are right — they don’t really know you. And that’s nobody’s fault. Friendships take time to build. Think of your middle school friends. I bet you weren’t as close after four months of knowing them as you were at the end of middle school. It took time to develop that closeness. Friendships are built on shared experiences and common stuff that happens in day-to-day life. Each time you do something with them (go for pizza, study for a midterm, hang out at lunch), you are building that relationship. Something funny (or sad or crazy) will happen and you will all react. Then, you’ll have a common story to share with each other and others. Eventually, those inside jokes that you feel you will never understand will become a part of you and your friendship with this group. Right now, you just don’t have a long shared history with them, so when they laugh about something that happened last year or even five months ago, you can only smile and be polite. Same when you try to say something. If you talk about something that happened in middle school, they can only smile and be polite. They don’t have that shared history with you, so it’s not as exciting as something they can relate to. But if you can be patient and give it time, you too will be a part of the group’s history.

And — just a side note. You say your friends that went to the other high school are making tons of friends and having a great time. I don’t know how you know that (FB? Instagram? Texts?) but remember, things aren’t always what they seem. You might see a picture of them hanging out the movies with their new BFF’s, but that doesn’t mean they are having a great time. They are doing the right thing, building that friendship, but inside, they may be missing their old friends and wishing they were back in middle school, too. The shoes were a nice gesture, but they are just things. Your true gift — close friendships — may not come on your birthday, but it will come. I promise!
Hang in there and let me know how it goes! I’ll be thinking about you… and wishing you all good things!

Letter #: 419414
Category: Friendship

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