Illustration by Maxine Crump.

I’m 15 years old and a sophomore in high school. My parents recently decided that they are going to divorce and now my mother is moving us all the way to Wyoming. I’m on top of my social game where I live now, and I don’t want to start over and learn how to play the game. What if the kids don’t like me or I don’t like them? I guess my question is: How do other people get through crap like this? I’ve asked my friends and they don’t help and my parents aren’t any help either. I would love a response. Thanks. —Sophie

Sophie-Soph! What you’re going through can be so scary. As someone who’s lived a bit of a transitory life since sixth grade (I’m a junior now, for reference), I always find myself feeling this way before a move. But thanks to those experiences, I can offer up a few sincere, albeit a little clichéd, scrawlings of advice.

One of the most important things to do is get yourself acquainted with the idea of change. As scary (obvious?) as it sounds, things are going to be different. Navigating this new space will force you to learn quickly, about the ways things work at your new school, yes, but more importantly about yourself. During the first few months, names and faces and interactions will wash over you. Listen to yourself when deciding which ones seem like the right fit. Giving yourself choices—about whom and what you’re interested in getting to know better—will hopefully allow you to feel more authentic and comfortable as you get acquainted.

It’s also important to remember that being new means a clean slate—not only for you, but for your peers as well. They’ll have no memories of how into the occult you were in middle school (speaking from experience), or the times you spritzed someone with spit because of your braces (still speaking from experience), and you’ll be just as clueless about their histories. That’s liberating! You don’t have to build a new persona or mend the tears in your old one. Just be you. If people even take your newness into account, it’ll probably stem from a place of glossy-eyed awe and expectation. They will want to talk to you as much you want to talk to them!

I’d also encourage you to be open to the unexpected. Some of the closest bonds I formed at my old school were with people I hardly knew the first year I was there. And some of the most meaningful vignettes of my high school experience have taken place during weekend rehearsals, gym class laps, or car rides with relative strangers. One of the unspoken truths about high school is how transitory the whole experience can be. People tell you that these four years are fleeting, but they leave out how the interactions are too.

I hate to sound Hallmark, but everyone’s had and going to have moments of feeling all alone while walking through the hallways. And it’s not like you’ll dissipate completely from the memories of your old friends! Pleasantly mundane goings ons and spicy memes can reach them in an instant, including when/if you’re ever lonesome. This probably isn’t news, but I hope it was helpful to hear it filtered through someone who’s been through it too. Sophie, my dear, I believe you’re going to be just fine.

P.S. I’ve been on a few road trips through Wyoming, and it’s always been like drifting through pastoral paintings 💘 —Danny

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