Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I'm so glad high school is over.

When I was spending the year in France, I had a big day where three things happened to me at once. It was December 17, 2001. Today is December 18, which is close enough that I'll consider it the six-year anniversary. So that's what we're going to have to discuss.

I had arrived in France on August 28, two weeks before 9/11 happened, so by the time December 17 rolled around, I had been living there for almost four months. I was in a public high school in a rural area where students came from tiny villages within a 20-kilometer radius. Originally, I had thought that I was the only American in the school, but I found out on September 11 that there was one other, Andre. I found this out because we were at school when the attacks happened (with the time difference, it was about 3 p.m.), and everyone was staring at us to see how we'd react when we all found out.

Anyway, I guess an experience like that can really make you bond, because even though Andre and I would most likely never have become friends if we'd been living in the US, we became really close over the next few months. We hung out all the time (probably not good for our progress learning French), and he was there when my wallet got stolen out of my purse in downtown Toulouse. He was the one who lent me money to call my parents from a pay phone, sobbing, to ask them to cancel my credit card.

Andre had originally been scheduled to spend only one semester in France, but he changed his mind while he was there and tried to extend his stay for the full year. However, he found out in November that his school back home wouldn't accept a full year's worth of credits from our French school, so he couldn't stay for an extra semester unless he was willing to graduate from high school a year late. Which he was not.

So, on December 17, at six a.m., he left. A group of friends saw him off at the train station, where he took the TGV to Paris to catch his flight home.

At about 10:30 that morning, at school, we had a break between classes and I went to the computer lab to check my email. I had one waiting for me from my boyfriend of a year and a half, who was in college in Canada. He emailed me every day, but this one was titled "Do not read this at school."

Think about it. If you want someone to do something, what's the best way to get them to do it? Tell them not to. Obviously I can't leave an email with a subject like that untouched. So I opened it. And in it, he broke up with me.

I totally fell apart. He was my first serious boyfriend, the first guy I'd ever been in love with. When I had gone to France and we had discussed the overseas long distance thing, we had agreed that if one of us decided that we couldn't take it anymore, we would tell the other over the phone. He had promised me that if he broke up with me, it wouldn't be over email.

I cried for the rest of the day. Everyone stared at me, and teachers dismissed me from classes. Being a foreigner definitely has its advantages, and one is that you don't always have to explain yourself.

That night, my French host parents went out for dinner, just the two of them, and the kids, myself included, all went to bed. I couldn't sleep. It was the first time I'd experienced heartbreak and it was awful. Nothing had ever prevented me from sleeping like that. I just couldn't deal with the pain, and I couldn't even call Andre because he was on a plane back to the US. The phone rang while I was lying in bed, but I didn't answer it, and everyone else was asleep or not home.

When my French parents got back, I got out of bed to say hello to them. My host mother was listening to the voice mail, and just as I got into the kitchen, where she was standing, she thrust the phone into my hand. I put my ear to the phone just in time to hear my mother say, "I wish we were there to be excited and jump up and down with you! Congratulations!" I called her back and it turned out that she had just received my acceptance letter--I had gotten into college (that link is there for those of you who keep asking where I went to school).

I had applied early decision to only the one school, and if I hadn't been accepted, I would have had to madly fill out college applications from abroad, which would have involved lots of FedExing and stress and crappy, last-minute personal statements. I had already had to do that with my National Merit essay, and the idea of doing it for multiple college applications makes me wonder what the hell we were thinking when we decided we'd bank on me getting into the one school I applied to. But luckily, I did, and also luckily, I didn't answer the phone when my mother called, because I would not have been able to fake excitement on the spur of the moment.

It's funny, remembering that day. At the time, it was so awful, and so momentous, and I was so exhausted that it just felt like cruel irony that that day was the one when I got into college. Even though I was so tired, I didn't sleep all night. I was too upset about my boyfriend, and felt too alone, and the time when I wouldn't be in France anymore and I'd be in college and supposedly have friends and whatnot just felt so far away.

And now I'm on the other end of it, and college was great and I have never regretted my choice to go to the school that I did, and I'm so lucky to have the friends that I made there. And Andre and I are still friends, although we hardly ever talk, and the amazing thing is that I'm still friends with that ex-boyfriend as well.

Do you have friends now that back in the day, you never would have expected to stay friends with?


  1. Good story! Although kind of crappy he broke up with you through email. That's high school for you!

    I am also still friends with my high school/college ex-boyfriend. He called me the other day to tell me he's buying a house with his girlfriend - I kind of wished we weren't friends when he told me that, but anyhow...

  2. I'm in touch off and on with some people from high school. And there are those That I haven't talked with in YEARS, that I know if I managed to somehow track down phone numbers, we'd just pick up where we left off, one of them being my first boyfriend (7th grade - I dumped him because he was too clingy).

  3. Over email? That's so high school boyfriend break-up, but yuck!

    I don't speak with anyone from high school. I don't know why, but most of us have moved far far away, and I'm terrible at keeping in touch with people. For real, I have a serious problem. I think it can best be described as lazy and self-involved.

  4. considering i didn't, you know, DATE ANYONE in highschool, i didn't have any experiences quite like that :-) also no particular traumas when i was in france.. (although my lord, i was a senior in COLLEGE for 9/11. heh.)

    i guess it's pretty weird that i'm still friends with one guy from college, though, who i sort-of-dated for yeeeaars and who was maybe not so nice to me on many occasions. we go way back though. hard to dismiss all that.

  5. You were in high school in 2001? Wow. I was a year away from the 10 year reunion I did not attend.

    I'm not in touch with anyone from high school. I'm so different than I was back then...We were drifting even before I graduated. We kept in touch a couple years, then let it fizzle. I don't regret it. All things for a reason.

  6. Breakup emails are the worst! Such a cop out way of getting out of facing your emotions. Surprisingly not only high school guys do that haha

    I can't say i've really kept in touch with anyone from high school, i didnt really date then either. I still am friends though with the college ex who broke up via email. He's getting engaged and keeps asking me for help with the ring choice. It is soooooo odd.

  7. I first want to say that I think it is so great that you were able to study abroad and have so many great experiences. I love hearing about them.

    3 of my best friends, have been my best friends since the 7th grade. We’ve all changed a lot over the years, but have stayed friends through it all (oddly, none of the 3 of them are friends with each other, they are 3 completely separate relationships). Another of my friends and I have had 2 major fall-outs. We always find our way back though; it’s weird.

  8. I broke up with someone over email once. THE SHAME! Your poor little broken HS heart.

    When you referenced 9/11 and HIGH SCHOOL in the same sentence I was taken aback. I forget you are younger because you don't SEEM younger.

  9. I think that the friends you have in high school are significant mostly because they're your first semi-adult friends. It's always weird to look back and see what kind of person you were back then, reflected by the friends you had. It makes for good stories though, I agree.

  10. Oh my, you're a young 'un aren't you? That's a very bitter sweet story.

    My closest friends are my 4 high school buddies. None of us live in the town where we grew up, but we can all drive about an hour to a central location to meet up.

    It's the kind of friendship where you can not see each other for months, but when you do, it's like no time has passed at all.

  11. JMC--I dumped my first boyfriend, in 5th grade, for the same reason, although I wasn't eloquent enough to put it in those words.

    Tessie--I don't FEEL younger than all of these people whose blogs I read who are commenting here about how young I am. So I will take what you said as a compliment.

  12. I am not friends with anyone from high school still although I know many of them as aquaintences - I moved out of my home area when I got married so I fell out of touch with some of them...

  13. Oh, it IS a compliment, for sure!

    I had my head pretty much TOTALLY up my ass when I was in my early 20s. Unlike you.

  14. First break-ups are just the worst. You have no idea at the time how you are ever going to get better.

    I am really great friends with some people I went to high school with, but didn't know well in high school. Its funny how life turns out.

  15. honey, thankyou for sharing this intensely personal story. the ache of a broken heart is like that of no other....

    but look at you now, lady- you're all the better for it. :)

    xoxo, bb

  16. Oh my heart just BROKE for little high school Jess. Really.

    But all is well that ends well and you definitely have a happy ending.

  17. I am still very, VERY close with some of my friends from high school. As in we all live (4 of us) within a mile radius of one another. Weird. However, we were not all that close in high school and only became so the summer after our senior years, but now...super tight.

  18. such a great post. it felt like a roller coaster ride, and that was by only reading what you went through on that eventful day.

    being broken up with by your first serious love in a foreign country over email?? i want to hug 2001-jess. or, you know, present-day jess too :)

  19. my best friends are girls i met in high school and it surprises me all the time. because i always thought you made your best friends in college.

  20. I'm still friends with two girls from high school... they were very petty, jealous girls and our friendship ended abruptly. Years later I call them to hang out when I come into town. It's wierd to think about, but I'm glad we all got over it.

  21. What a schmuck, breaking up with you through email after SIX years! I mean, isn't there some kind of cutoff period?

    Although, good that you were a big enough person to forgive him and remain close.

    I only have a couple of the friends I had in high school - everyone else is new, and I think I'm better for it.

  22. Woah. That was quite a day. I'm glad something good came to soften the bad.

    I've ended things over email when the "things" were just a few dates worth, but a full-fledged relationship?? That's cold.

  23. What a crazy day! But the way I look at it, it's kind of lucky that your first real heartbreak was followed immediately by a sign of the GOOD things to come.

    I studied abroad in Paris in spring 2002--we were there at the same time (I was in college, though)!