While thinking on this month’s topic about mentors, I remembered my English 101 professor at the College of Southern Nevada (CSN), Professor Howell. He was one of the English professors that had the most impact on my life. In his class, I discovered the power of writing. Although he could be a stickler about his paper requirements, Mr. Howell focused on getting us used to writing with voice by being authentic about our opinions, thoughts, ideas, and real-life situations. There was no busywork, worksheets, tons of homework, or even active use of the textbook. We had a journal prompt with every class and one thing he did really care about was participation in class.
One of the first papers that we wrote was the “memoir.” The memoir could be a paper about a significant event in our lives, good or bad, that shaped the person we are now. Before this class, I never had the opportunity to be so open and vulnerable in my school writing like I was given with the memoir assignment.
As we were discussing our responses to the daily journal, Professor Howell shares a few words of wisdom that stick with me to this day,
“You can lie to me and those around you, but don’t lie to a journal.”
It dawned on me that just like writing in our journals is sacred, writing should also be an authentic reflection of our experiences.
With academic and research writing, the writing process can feel robotic and void of emotion. Like a simple exchange of information with no emotion behind it. Mr. Howell’s words completely changed how I viewed writing. I took the memoir assignment as an opportunity to vent about personal struggles I was going through at the time.
I had just gone through turmoil in my social life with a best friend break up a month prior. I chose to write about this situation for my memoir. After reflection to the point of becoming a hermit, finding spirituality, finding ways to enjoy my own company, and of course, one pandemic later, I realize now how it was a forced start to the journey of loving myself.
Two years after I originally wrote the memoir, re-reading the memoir takes me way back. Back then I felt like the memoir was my best piece of writing. Today that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Cringeworthy, cryptic, and fake deep one-liners aside, I realize now that my best friend and I also met at a time where I decided to stick up for myself.
Growing up extremely shy, quiet and oftentimes feeling like a misfit that didn’t fit in anywhere, I never had a big group of friends. Going to school and getting good grades was the easy part for me. Finding ways to connect with people and expressing myself—that was hard.
From Freshman to Sophomore year in high school I hung around friends with whom I went to middle school. After two years, these friends had joined clubs, sports, and extracurricular activities and made new friends that joined the group. We no longer had things in common and we naturally drifted apart but I still hadn’t met any new people. I had zero athletic ability and wasn’t interested in any of the other activities offered at school. I would meet my “friends” in the morning after taking the bus and eat lunch with them but I came to the realization that I didn’t matter to them. I could have stopped coming around to meet them and they probably wouldn’t have noticed. I felt completely invisible surrounded by my “friends.” I knew something had to change.
Towards the end of my Sophomore year, I decided to start talking to different people in my classes. Through friends of friends, I found a new group to join. This was how I met my best friend. Looking back, this moment of deciding to make a change in my life was one of the first times where I chose to love myself. It was scary putting myself out there for the first time in my life.
But the possible embarrassment of getting rejected by a new group and trying again, far outweighed the constant feeling of being an unwanted side character in someone’s life.
Fast forward to about five years later in late 2018, I had started to feel this similar feeling with my best friend. At this point in our lives, we were both focused on school, our jobs, and our future careers. After recently receiving her associate’s degree in criminal justice, my best friend was busy training for the police academy while working full time in retail. I was busy juggling a couple different jobs in order to pay rent, going to school full time, and being involved on campus as a leader of a student organization. We almost never spoke or saw each other during this time except for a few times when we would make last-minute plans with each other.
When we would eventually meet, it would get harder to connect with each other. Again similar to how I felt in high school, I was feeling replaced and cast aside. My friend was getting close to one of her coworkers and I still regarded my best friend as my only close friend. This combination of never seeing each other, not feeling the same connection when we did get the chance to see each other, and feeling replaced made me wonder why we were still friends.
Five years into our friendship I also realized that she knew everything about me and I still felt like I knew nothing about her. The only thing I knew for sure was that she could be an intense and complicated person with lots of secrets. She often refused to talk about her childhood. She was also obsessed with true crime and the lives of serial killers. I never thought much of this. She was a quirky true crime girl and she did want to be a cop one day but it was sometimes unnerving how spot on her intuition was about people.
Sometimes being with her made me feel nervous. She could read people like a book. No one was allowed to have secrets around her. She was very aware of how impactful this gift was and wasn’t afraid to use it to her advantage. Knowing people better than they know themselves gave her power over others and she often succumbed to manipulating others for personal gain. Although she never directly used this gift on me, I never felt safe. I knew she was much smarter than me, could take whatever she wanted from me if she felt like it and I would have no idea.
For the above reasons and more, I decided to permanently separate from my best friend of about five (almost six) years; maybe seven. In hindsight, this decision did seem rash, but knowing my best friend and how she could hold a grudge indefinitely, knowing how we both held a special place in each other lives (at least I think we did), and how we were both unique people who struggled with letting people in I couldn’t just drift away out of her life. Talk about a perfect recipe for trust issues. Drifting away, no longer meeting up, and eventually having to ghost her didn’t feel right. Doing that would have felt like breaking up with someone through text or a phone call. I also didn’t want to drag this out over months or end up changing my mind. This friendship deserved a proper goodbye. By January 2019, I no longer had a best friend.
In the back of my mind, I also knew that I needed to grow out of this extremely shy persona and learn how to make new friends. Being the type of person who needs an extreme push to make a move, I knew that this would be the type of pressure I needed to put myself out there once again but only after I learned how to heal myself. I know this sounds really crazy. Putting into a place a plan that would cause me a lot of pain so that I could learn how to heal and become a different person as a result. At the time I felt like school and work were going great but at the same time, I was feeling like I was not getting the support I needed emotionally from my friends. I needed more friends but I didn’t know how to do that. Because I only ever had really close friends, I didn’t know how to juggle different types of friends. I was starting to go into that repeating cycle of feeling inadequate and insecure about who I was. I’ve always struggled with wanting to be a more outgoing, more loud, more opinionated type of person. I didn’t know how to navigate being myself. I felt like I needed to completely change who I was and I would only accomplish such a drastic change with drastic actions.
Writing this now in 2021, If I had known the world would be catapulted into a global pandemic I don’t think I would have taken such a huge risk. I decided to end one of my longest friendships because I thought the world would continue to function as it always did when I was ready to rejoin it. I never could have predicted that by ending this relationship I had doomed myself to spending the first year of the pandemic completely alone.
2020 was an intense year for everyone. 2020 took something away from every single one of us. Millions of people worldwide were forced to stay home indefinitely. Thousands of people got laid off from their jobs. Thousands of people tested positive for COVID-19. Thousands lost their lives.
The year 2020 and the global COVID-19 pandemic forced us to face a harsh truth about what it means to be human. If you’re breathing, you still have something to be thankful for.
Near the first anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic and two years since the fallout with an important figure in my life, I’ve come to learn that mentors can be found anywhere but none is crueler than life. When we need soft lessons, we attract soft mentors. When we need harsh lessons, we attract harsh mentors. Different schools of thought are still trying to explain why we have all chosen to be here and live through the year 2020. We are still living in this brand new world created by COVID and while we’re still processing what has happened in the past year, sometimes all we can do is accept that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger..
About the Author
Jamie Rauda-Sanchez is a Senior Psychology major at UNLV and a Blog/Newsletter Intern for LYF. In 2019, Jamie started her journey towards bettering her mental health and increasing her self love. With firsthand experience on the healing power of art, music, and writing, she now hopes that sharing her experiences will help others in their journeys. After graduation she hopes to pursue a career in mental health counseling.