I never had a lot of friends growing up. I had a few close ones, which I suppose is all one really needs, and I loved them very much.

But I really longed to be popular and to fit in. But I was an odd ball, a bit weird…I was constantly writing poetry or short stories, had little interest in boys…I did not wear cool clothes and I was always very anxious, biting my nails, with serious acne and wiry hair. I was (and still am) a big nerd, always following the rules and trying to stay out of trouble. I was good and honest to a fault, which in the teenage world is a huge no-no. 

I was rarely invited to any parties. Nobody was particularly interested in how I spent my weekend. Even when I had a good idea nobody really gave it any weight because I was not part of the in-crowd. In form five, a girl was getting a video comment from all the other girls, a kind of farewell message. They were all crying, saying how much they will miss school and each other. I remember saying it was time to say ‘good bye to the old and make a renaissance into the new.’ The girl taking the video said very audibly ‘yeah, I think I’ll delete that one.’

You get the picture I guess. 

When I got to sixth form and at the very beginning of university, I made this huge effort to fit in. I had a stipend so I tried to buy cooler clothes. If I wrote poetry or a short story, I kept it to myself. I invested in a hair straightener and make-up to cover my acne. And for the first time ever, I looked like everyone else.

And dear god, was I miserable. 

Yes, I fit in.

Yes, I was more accepted.

Yes, I was invited to more parties.

But it all felt so superficial and forced. And the people who accepted my ‘new’ self were so vapid and self absorbed. I got bored of hearing their trivialities, the gossip. My face hurt from the fake laughing at some inane and unoriginal joke.

So I said fuck it. I could not do it anymore. I had to be me and if other people did not like it, then tough. 

I dyed my hair fire-engine red and left it in its curly and wild state. I donned a t-shirt that said ‘I love my cat’ in big pink letters, wore a pair of striped tights and a denim skirt and bright red ballerina flats. 

Yes, I got stares and whispers when I turned up to class that day. But I did not care. For the first time, I did not care. Because I was well aware of the alternative which was far worse. 

And there and then, at the age of 19, was when I finally learned that perhaps if people did not want to befriend the real me, perhaps they were simply not worthy of my friendship.

And with that came self-esteem and the ability to see myself as a person of value. 

And much to my surprise there also came an on-rush of new friends, who sook me out and shared my interests. I then realized that secondary school was not a reflection of what life in the real world is like. There is more, so much more.

Fast forward 12 years. I have the most amazing group of friends. They listen to me, value me and accept me for exactly who I am and do so without judgement. They read my stories and follow my blog. We have lively and interesting conversations. We really care about each other and we can be honest with each other. 

Back then, I never saw myself ever reaching this point. My self-worth was so low, I really thought that I was unloveable and incapable of friendships.  I thought I was too different and too weird.

And my group of friends, who I am close with now, also think I’m different, strange and weird.

But do you know what is the fundamental difference?

They love me for it.