Essay 3 of 52: Ericka Olvera

I am emerging from a trip down memory lane and I keep cringing.

This past weekend, I picked up some boxes from my parents storage - boxes I hadn't seen in years. They were filled to the brim with old journals, letters, trinkets, and medals.

I took the boxes home and sat down on the living room floor last night, pouring through each one - reliving all the highs and lows.

My high school box held things like my graduation speech (better than I remembered), my diploma (smaller than I remembered), and old pictures (my face a bit rounder than I remembered). I found my dad's graduation blessing and the waterworks started after the first few lines.

I remembered old relationships and heartaches, big mistakes and little crushes.
But more than anything, I was overwhelmed to remember how HARD high school was for me.

There were definitely bright spots - English class and track and pole vault and soccer.
But the hard parts ... they hurt.

My high school years started confidently, armed with a strong group of friends, many who had followed me to youth group. We were freshmen, and we were careless in the best way.

Then came sex. And drinking. And lying to parents - all things I just couldn't do. Wouldn't do. And those friendships began to fall away - person by person until I was existing in surface-level friendships only. It was the loneliest I have ever been, the summer after my sophomore year. I went into that summer knowing I wouldn't be receiving any phone calls, any invitations.

I felt frustrated and angry at my parents. I made some really stupid decisions, like lying about a crush being a boyfriend. Spoiler alert - everyone found out. I spent a night in a tent during our church retreat, listening to my "friends" smoke pot and laugh about me in the tent next to mine. Still, years later, I can honestly say that was one of the worst nights of my life.

But Junior year. Junior year was such a blessing. I have an incredible mother and at her insistence, I spent a lot of time in prayer that summer, asking God to bless me with new friends. And by some odd whim, I joined the soccer team. I was fast and aggressive and absolutely starved for fellowship.

But Ericka Olvera. One of my all-time favorite people on the planet. She was a year younger than me and I don't even remember how we became friends, except that we did. She didn't drink or smoke or sneak out. She had the kind of house that everyone just wanted to be at. She was the kind of person everyone just wanted to be around. Sunshine.

We had notes and secret phrases. We drove in my tiny Suzuki X-90 and listened to All-American Rejects and Kelly Clarkson and talked about how much we loved Garden State. We drank cherry lime-aids from Mr. Burger and went stargazing at night. We had crushes on boys who didn't like us back and dated her older brother's friends.

So yes. There was a lot of bad in high school. And those memories will most likely always make me cringe a bit. But in-between the lines of my old journals is so much good. Grass stained knees and Otter Pops. Rides in my first car and bus trips to games. Laughter.

I can't say I'm glad for those first two high school years or the stripping of friendships, but I am so appreciative for what came next. And that even as a high school student, I knew what an oasis was.

Here's to you Ericka, and to all those out there who have been Ericka's to other people.

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