The Friends We Leave Behind

Of all the people who were the hardest to break away from, not counting my grandmother, were my friends.  I always hoped one day I would go back to Mexico and reunite with them or at least see them again.

In Mexico, Secundaria is the equivalent of junior high in the U.S.  Students spend three years in Secundaria before they move on to Preparatoria or high school.  Students in Mexico spend three years in Junior High and three years in high school for a total of six years.

This is a very important time in the life of any young person, where they go through tremendous growth emotionally, mentally and physically.  For me, this was also the time when one of the biggest changes in my life took place; moving to another country.

After graduating from my neighborhood’s well-known private catholic school, my Mom chose a public junior high school for me because it was near my grandmother’s house.  It was also within walking distance for me, so I’m sure that weighed in on my Mom’s decision as well.  Other kids ended up going to other private junior high schools further away from the neighborhood.

I knew that attending this particular public school would mean I would not see my elementary school friends again, but I was okay with that. I would just make new friends at the new school.  And that’s how I came to spend my first year of junior high at Escuela Secundaria General Dionisio Zavala Almendarez, a public junior high school near my grandmother’s house.

Things there were going great for me.  I made friends very easily and soon I became one of the most popular kids in my classroom.  This was way different from my previous private catholic school.  Changing from a private catholic school to a secular public school was such a contrast.  There, I met girls who were more down-to-earth; they didn’t care so much about appearances.  Of course, there were some mean girls who thought they were better than everyone else; you will always find those types everywhere.  But with so many students in my new school, keeping away from such girls was fairly easy.

I had a particular group of girl friends who made me laugh and who I made them laugh in turn.  We all went through difficulties together, such as the time when we had to sing in public in front of our music teacher in order to pass our class.  We all went together to the tardeadas, teenage parties organized by the school to raise funds.  We listened to music together and talked about who we liked and didn’t like in school.  The end of that first year was coming in fast and by then we looked forward to our next year together and to the new adventures it would bring.

As that first year of junior high came to a close, a time I still treasured as one of my happiest school moments, my mom announced that we were moving to another country.  And to make matters worse, it wasn’t for sure that we were coming back to Mexico.  As the words came out of my mom’s lips, I felt my world came crumbling down.  I immediately felt the sadness take hold of my heart.  I had just turned thirteen years old, an age already full of changes and inconveniences, and now this.

I believe that I became a little depressed, but at that time, I couldn’t name it as such.  After letting my friends know that I was moving to another country, they hosted a few dinners for me as a way to say good-bye.  But once the school year came to an end, I refused to go out at all.  Going out reminded me of all the things, people and places I would soon leave behind, and I hated that.  As a result, I secluded myself from my friends and became withdrawn.

I understood my Mom was doing the best for her daughters.  She wanted us to have better opportunities growing-up.  And as a single mother living in Mexico, she didn’t have much support from anyone.

Children and teenagers understand more than parents give them credit for.  They understand when a parent has to make difficult choices such as moving to another country and that this does not mean the parents loves them any less.  However, these choices still hurt and parents should be mindful of their children’s feelings and allow them to grieve properly.

It is now that I am older, a mother, a wife and with the Wisdom that God gave me, that I understand that this type of experience in once’s life requires proper grieving.  A child needs to grieve about leaving their comfort zone behind, their country, their friends, their extended family, in the same way a person grieves the loss of a loved one or the pain that follows a breakup.

Even though it’s been twenty-five years since I left Mexico, that sunny, sad afternoon still makes me cry.  It makes me cry because it was Mom’s decision to move us to another country and I had no choice in the matter.  Because I could not change things, because I had to say good-bye to my grandmother, my awesome friends, my neighborhood, my country, everything about my life in Mexico and exchange it all for some distant, unknown land up north.

I did go back a few times to Mexico after being settled in the U.S., but it wasn’t the same.  I was unable to locate my friends; some of them moved away, stopped writing to me and just lost touch with one another.

It was heartbreaking as a new teenager to understand how distance and time can wither a relationship, similar to a plant when you don’t take care of it.

I have a few pictures of my junior high friends taken during a regular school day.  Just four pictures of them.  It is all I was able to take with me when we moved.

As an adult, I thought I had moved on from that period of my life after I moved away from my country; however, these repressed memories lingered in the back of my mind, never truly disappearing with time.  Whenever I looked at the pictures of my friends or my life in Mexico, my memories were tinged with sadness.

I now hope to return to that place where I left a piece of my heart behind.  I no longer hope things were different.  I am thankful for my friends at that time in my life.  Those moments, as fleeting as they might’ve been, will forever be treasured in my heart.

God has been instrumental in my healing process, God showed me that this period of my life is too important to ignore.  As a young preteen I was forced to put this part of my life in the “backburner,” not knowing how to properly handle it and by being forced to put aside my feelings for the sake of what was best for my family.  Most of all, I am thankful to God for giving me the courage to go back to that period in my life and heal properly from that heartache.

My friend at Escuela Secundaria General Dionisio Zavala Almendarez
My dear friends in Junior High School May 1994
Primer Grado “A” Escuela Secundaria General Dionisio Zavala Almendarez
My best friends from Secundaria or Junior High School in San Luis Potosi