You Learn

This story is based on a 18 year old girl Evelyn and her view on the world. It takes place in her last year of high school and the experiences and truths she learns a long the way.


1. Ordinary People

For millions of years people have spent their lives asking ‘what is the point?’, thousands of civilisations trying to understand the true meaning of life. I’ve only been alive for seventeen years but I am also looking for these answers. Just like them, the millions of people who have come and gone from this planet, I want to be remembered. They have shared their stories, their thoughts, their dreams and their lives. Whether they knew it at the time or not, their stories have made a difference. Life is constantly changing, but when it comes down to it, there are still things that we have in common with the generations before us. Just like that big question.

I want to try and understand what the point of all of this is, because in the end, don’t we all just live in pain in some way or another and then die. Why do we put ourselves through that? Why, if there is a higher power out there in the universe, does it put us through it too? I wanted to know that I made a difference while I was here. I’ve only been on this planet for such a small amount of time and I expect to live for many more. I just hope that in that time, I will be able to make at least some sense of this. I want to come to understand my path, my experiences, and my fate, whatever that may be. I’m only a teenage girl in the twenty first century but my story isn’t so different to those who have lived before me. At least, that is what I believe.

That’s why I feel a sense of duty to write everything down. I would like to think that I would be remembered much further in time than my children, and my grandchildren, but for all the people who come after me. For all the young people who may be reading this and understanding whole heartedly what it means to be young. To be essentially imprisoned in expectation, in norms and in the rule of people who see vulnerability and feed on it.

I wandered across the cafeteria with my arms full of new text books for the year. There was loud chatter as people buzzed with excitement, sharing with their friend’s stories of their summers away. I quickly spotted my best friend. She had managed to get us a table in the chaos. I started to smile as I pushed my way through the crowd to get to her. My heart felt lighter seeing her, even though we’d just spent the entire summer break together.

“Hey,” I said as I dumped by pile of text books on the table with a loud thud.

I was barely able to make out the greeting Sadie gave me with her mouth full of her sandwich. I’ve known Sadie my whole life. She can be a little crazy sometimes but she has the biggest heart of anyone I know and probably will ever know. She finally finished off her sandwich, and it was clear that she had some news for me. I pulled out a chair, sitting across from her. 

“Hey, so I got invites to the first part of the year, yay me. So it’s me, you, Harriet and the boys Friday night, what do you think?” she said with absolute enthusiasm.

She just presumes that’s the only way I want to spend my time, I guess that’s because that’s the norm. See, it happens even within your own friendship circle. Nothing is ever simple. People always swarmed to Sadie. I guess it all comes from her confidence. She always found it very easy to meet people and make new friends. It wasn’t exactly that easy for me. I wished so much that I had the sort of self-confidence and assurance like Sadie had. I never had a large group of friends, just a few close friends that I could rely on. I suppose that made me lucky but I still wanted to be that person who could walk into a room and get noticed. You don’t realise that being treated like a human being that actually existed was so difficult until you reach high school.

“Yeah, that sounds good to me," I said as I started to flick through my text books.

 I glanced up at Sadie. “I’m glad the teachers aren’t loading us up with too much work in the first week."

“Oh yeah, so am I," Sadie said, although she never really cared for school. 

She was always happy enough handling it with whatever she could come up with on the night before. I think it’s honestly because she struggles and doesn’t want to have to face it until she has to. She would never admit to that though. School isn’t her thing and I get that. In some ways I wished that I could be like that because it would mean a lot less stress. Self-pressure would be virtually none existent. The idea of cruising through life must be appealing to everyone. I noticed Harriet making her way over to our table. I hadn’t seen her the entire summer. I was startled by her thinner frame but what hit me most was that her beautiful eyes were now dark and sunken in.

“Hey Harriet, how was your summer with your aunt and uncle?” I asked.

“What do you think? God, I would love to have an aunt like yours, Evelyn” Harriet replied as she slumped into her chair. I couldn’t help but notice that the only thing she had on her tray was a bottle of water.

“What happened this time?” Sadie asked. She didn’t even look up. I didn’t even realize that she was listening, she was staring so hard at the screen of her cell phone.

“Well…they put me in this god awful dress. It was something you would wear to costume party but as a joke. I just wanted to spend my Sunday watching the big game, because you know, I’ve got to keep up with these things for Jeremy, but of course I had to attend some boring church service instead. Anyway and then this…” she suddenly seemed transfixed. Frozen in time. She just sat there stunned. Her mouth still left hanging open. I quickly turned around to see what was going on to catch her attention so abruptly, I should have known.

“Hey girls,” It was Jeremy and Dean.

“H-Hi-Hi Jeremy” Harriet stuttered. I couldn’t help but feel terrible for her as I watched her cheeks flush up bring pink.

“You’re looking a little warm Harriet. Did you just have gym?” Dean asked as the boys came and sat down amongst us. He was just teasing her. He knew what was going on, we all did. Everyone except Jeremy. I smiled and started to dig into my food, I was absolutely starved.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t fit into this world. Sometimes I feel like I came into this world too early, or too late, or something. I landed on this planet…wrong place, wrong time. That my life just doesn’t make any sense. I don’t even make sense. I feel this absolute loneliness, but I’m not at all alone. My life is filled with people. I keep myself busy. It’s just that the majority of people don’t understand me. They don’t all matter to me. I still can’t understand how people constantly say ‘quality over quantity’ but this idea gets thrown out the window when it comes to the people around them. People don’t make judgments about those people and think about who is best for them in their lives, they just want to appear ‘popular’. It feels like all these people are just floating around me and there is no true connection. I feel disconnected from everyone around me. I don’t even understand why I am here. At least, for now but this wasn’t something that could change overnight. Not even in a month. So is there really any point in trying?

It started out just as usual. The cafeteria was packed and loud. Everyone was practically shouting to hear over the top of everyone else. I was surrounded by my friends at the table where we always sat. Another strange thing, why are there so many unwritten rules in high school? We were just talking and laughing but slowly something caught my attention. Clayton was standing in front of Jeremy’s table with his tray in his arms. I couldn’t quite make out what Jeremy was saying, but it was clear as a bell by the look across Clayton’s face that it wasn’t nice. Clayton was looking like he was ready to crumble. Everyone else started to notice what I had. The busy, crowded room, had fallen silent. All eyes were now on the situation. Clayton’s face quickly became red. I felt sick to my stomach. Clayton went to walk away, attempting to ignore the harsh words. I knew it couldn’t have been over between them. It never was with Jeremy. He holds a grudge. Once he doesn’t like you, you have no hope. The girls who were considered ‘popular’ weren’t any different. Day one you are labelled, as if you have big red writing on your forehead and that kind of thing is always hard to erase. Jeremy stuck his foot out. 

“Clayton!” I blurted out. My voice echoing against the quietness. He tripped over Jeremy, crashing to the floor with an instant bang. He lay frozen on the floor. I jumped from my seat without a moment’s thought, as this overwhelming urge to run towards him came over me. Someone had to do it and it had to be me. Dean tightly grabbed my arm and he pulled me back around.

“Evelyn, don’t!” he hissed. His face was so close to mine that I could feel his breath on my cheeks.

“Let me go," I demanded. The popular kids were now in fits of laughter. I managed to break away from Dean’s grasp and rushed towards Clayton. I felt all the eyes land on me now. The entire contents of Clayton’s lunch was now all over his clothes and his face.

“Come on," I said. He clutched my hand and I managed to pull him to his feet. Clayton’s eyes locked with mine. “Thank you” he mouthed and we quickly rushed out of the cafeteria and into the empty corridor.

“How can you let them treat you like that?” I said as I gently started to wipe his face clean.

“I’m gay. I’m different. I suppose it comes with the territory.” Clayton said.

“It can’t be like that. I mean, that’s just not fair,” I said.

“I know” Clayton said as though he had heard it a thousand times.

“Why do they even care? It’s got nothing to do with them,” I said.

“They think it’s unnatural. They see I’m vulnerable and so they go in for the kill. I think most people grow up acting like that. Their parents believe it, so it’s just something they follow. Great parenting right?” Clayton said.

“Well, who wants to be normal anyway? We’ll win in the end. The bullies just push us, and we just push back harder. You can’t let them get away with this. They can’t just win," I said.

Clayton sighed. "I hope you’re right."

“I am right. The longer you hang around me, you’ll come to realise I always am about these things” I chuckled.

Clayton finally managed to smile… “I was surprise that you would help me out."

“Really? Why?” I asked.

“Isn’t it obvious? You’re with Dean Morgan. Enough said” he said, getting in a huff now. He was over it, I don’t blame him for feeling like that. I quickly felt awkward.

“I’m not like them," I urged, but I wasn’t really sure I could fight it at this point.

“Yeah, I know. That’s pretty clear, to me anyway," Clayton said.

“Who do you hang out with? I don’t really see you in the cafeteria much,” I said.

“I, uh…well, I don’t really have any friends,” Clayton said.

“That’s not true,” I said.

“What are you talking about?” he replied, seeming shocked my certainty.

“You do have a friend. Me." I smiled.

You never know who you are going to fall in love with, until you are. Until your heart aches in a good way. When you’re with someone and you’re the person you’re meant to be. I believe that love can change the world. There is such beauty in love. When you’re born, from the moment that you take your first breath, you have no idea who that person will be. That’s where destiny and fate come into play. In the warmth of the womb people become someone, they become who they are destined to be. For some, I guess, it means that they will fall in love with a girl or fall in love with a boy. They take that first breath and they are that person. It is inside them and there is no point lying to yourself about who you are. People should just be able to accept who they are because it was out their hands. It was just meant to be. 

In the world there is a picture of what is perfection and along with it the idea of right and wrong. These views are shaped by the majority by becoming the norm and the expectation by the people who just fall into the easier category. So when people are born out of this norm that is when things get difficult. Some people are born destined to love someone a lot like themselves. Boys fall in love with boys. Girls fall in love with girls. Just because of this occurrence suddenly people believe they deserve to be less happy. Everyone deserves to live the life that they want. Everyone should be able to be who they are and to be able to feel free enough to accept that. In an ideal world it would be this way. Everyone would just be themselves, they’d be unique individuals. They would be able to break away from whatever may be tying them down. I truly believe this is where people would find their joy and light in their version of the world. Life would just make sense in their own, unique, beautiful way. In the real world though, for the most part, the world is a cruel and harsh place. Because if something as natural and beautiful as falling love, can change how people look at you. It means that it builds a wall between you and everyone else and that is a frightening place to be.

“Life isn’t like the movies, Evelyn, you’ve got to get that into your head. You keep expecting your love life to be a fairy-tale,” Dean said as he paced the floor. His arms crossed, he wouldn’t even look at me.

“I should be able to expect that. I deserve to be treated with respect, Dean. Don’t you realise how you are treating me and treating other people. You treat some many people at school like absolute crap,” I said as a hard lump in my throat had formed. I was trying not to cry in front of him. Dean suddenly stopped and turned to look at me.

“I’m not like Jeremy, I don’t do anything, Evelyn.” I couldn’t believe he thought he was innocent. It was never as simple as that.

“Exactly. You don’t do anything. That’s the problem. You just stand back, instead of standing up. You can’t just watch this happening, it makes you just as bad as Jeremy and all those other guys. You just can’t bear to damage your reputation, did you ever think you could use your reputation to do something about this. You could stand up to them, but you don’t because you are weak. You walk around like you think you are some big hero, but you’re not and you never will be” I said as I walked over to the door and opened it.

“Evelyn," Dean begged.

“You can leave now,” I said as I stared at the floor, my eyes welting with tears.

 Dean quickly walked out and I slammed the door behind him. I looked up, letting the tears roll down my cheeks. Truly though, I shouldn’t have been upset about it. Dean wasn’t the kind of person I wanted to be with. I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that I had known that for a while. Today it was the last crack that had to be made for whole thing to collapse.

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