Through her eyes: A millennial girl takes on Central Florida
By Alisha Ashford
Growing up, it seemed like a social achievement of some sort to have many friends and to fit into a group at school. The more friends you had, equals the cooler and the more loved you were.
However, in high school, as I began to discover my passions and goals in life, it became harder to relate to the people around me. At an earlier age than most, I realized what I wanted in life, and it clicked for me that the social hierarchy of high school was no longer something I cared to entertain.
My downfall in that area was my expectation for everyone else around me to have the same mindset. I didn’t understand that it takes a while for young people to learn that the real value in life does not come from materialistic things, from social status, or from how many parties you get invited to. It can be hard to realize that all the striving to be popular and fit in is meaningless after graduating. As I grew to feel more misunderstood in my thinking, I became a part of this paradox where the more friends I had, the lonelier I felt.
This feeling of being misunderstood caused me to detach myself from many aspects of my high school experience.
I decided not to attend my prom, I stopped going to football games and most school events, and eventually, I left to spend my senior year of high school as an exchange student in Spain. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy any of those typical high school things, I just felt that it was pointless if I didn’t have a community of people who understood me to enjoy those things with.
Before I left to be an exchange student, so many of my friends guaranteed that we would keep in touch and we surely would not grow apart. That, however, was not the reality. The truth that I didn’t want to admit to myself was that I invested more time in forming a large group of people that I could call my friends for the sake of looking popular than I did in growing strong friendships with individuals that were genuinely there for the long haul.
During my year abroad where I met some of the most down-to-earth people I have ever known, I learned that there are many people that align with my views in life and that can build me up as a person.
I didn’t have to do life alone anymore!
I made friends that saw so much beauty in each day, that strived to live life deeply and fully, and that cared more about being themselves than about what others thought of them. Upon returning home from Spain, I felt encouraged to seek out people like them that could run alongside me. I have been blessed enough to find that in just over one year and it has taught me a lot about what friendship and community means.
Today, I do not have nearly as many friends as I did in high school. But, I think that’s because of the way I define friendship. I would much rather have 10 loyal friends than to have 100 friends that don’t stick it out through tough times and don’t see the real me. Friendship to me is not found in the number of people that I can post Instagram photos with, nor in how many will show up to a party with me.
Friendship is found in someone who will show up at my house when I’m feeling down. Friendship is found in keeping one another accountable and pushing each other to be our best selves. Friendship is found in people who are okay with just sitting in silence if nothing needs to be said. Lastly, friendship is found in those who aren’t afraid to share both laughter and tears with each other.
Proverbs 27:17 has never been more relevant to me than now.
“As iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another.”
Aside from finally finding friends that love and understand me, I have finally met people who sincerely make me a better person. They call me out when I can do better, they speak kindness and truth into my life, and they encourage me to pursue my dreams. Now, all those cheesy quotes about surrounding yourself with good people that used to be written on the posters of classrooms in school are pretty much what I live by. I only wish I had taken that advice earlier.
Alisha Ashford is a graduate of Lake Mary High School that spent a year in Spain through a student exchange program. She is currently a journalism major at Seminole State College.