I became friends with my middle school frenemy — here's what I learned
Remember in the movie version of The Princess Diaries when Lana (Mandy Moore) had it out for Mia (Anne Hathaway) for no reason? Lana was Mia’s greatest enemy, and while this wasn’t addressed in the film, one of the things I love about Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries book series is that Mia and Lana actually end up becoming friends! Movies and television have mostly shown us that our middle school and high school nemeses stay nemeses. One of my biggest pet peeves in storytelling is the portrayal of static characters because, in life, no one is static. We’re all changing, all the time. I learned this lesson first hand.
Flashback to the start of seventh grade — I was at a new school, a K-8 school. My dad had wanted me to go to this school over a traditional middle school because he thought I would get more personal attention from the teachers. He was certainly right about that, but socially, the school was difficult. There were small classes and most of these kids had been together since kindergarten. Alliances has been formed already, and I was an outsider.
So, of course, I clung to the only person I knew from my old school. Let’s call her Katie. Katie became friends with Heather, who was the cool girl. She wasn’t the most popular girl or preppy girl. She had her own separate group — semi-filled with loners, but Heather was their queen. I, of course, was desperate to fit in, so I did whatever I could to be friends with her. Quite honestly, looking back, I’m sure I was annoying — I had some growing to do myself! Still, what happened next wasn’t warranted.
It all came to a head when Heather, annoyed with me one day, wrote down all the things that she hated about me and read them aloud to my classmates at recess. I was completely humiliated. I started hanging out by myself, reading at a table during lunch. I came home crying everyday. I felt like I had no one to lean on. That year, I even tried to transfer to another school, though it didn’t work out. Our relationship continued to be rocky throughout eighth grade.
Then, high school came. Glorious, lovely high school with its huge group of students — band geeks, popular kids, drama club, etc. I didn’t have to hang out with Heather or even talk to her, though I knew she went there. Sophomore year, we happened to have adjoining gym classes — meaning as I was changing to go to my next class, she was also changing to go to gym. One day, out of the blue, she apologized to me for middle school and somehow, one thing led to another, and we were suddenly talking about Gilmore Girls. We realized we actually had a lot in common.
My parents, at the time, were not that jazzed about my becoming friends with Heather again. She had made middle school hell. It was hard for them to believe she could really have changed. I could have so easily held on to to the anger and pain I went through and blamed her for ruining my self esteem and a number of other things. But, instead, I decided to forgive her and it’s proven to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. We starting hanging out again and became genuine friends. We even both transferred to the same independent study high school together a few months later.
Flash forward a few years. Heather is now a nurse and I’m a writer. We live in different cities but still stay in touch. In fact, she’s the only one I keep in touch with from that time in my life. My relationship with Heather taught me that first impressions are not always correct, that people can grow and change. Thank goodness she did. I don’t know what I would do without her friendship.