ABC Alum Chris on his Wilton connections – May 11, 2015

A shout out to Chris Payne (WHS 2008, Amherst College 2012) from your friends at ABC Wilton! Great to hear from you and thank you for your candid perspective.

Click here or see below for Chris’s story.

ABC Alumni Perspective: From Outsider to Lifelong Friendships

GOOD Morning Wilton is a proud sponsor of the ABC A Better Chance Wilton House Tour, taking place Friday, May 29. As part of our support, we’re featuring this wonderful program from all different aspects. Today, we’re thrilled to offer an article by a Wilton High School alum and former ABC program scholar, Chris Payne, (pictured above, front row, middle) on what it was like to come to Wilton feeling like an outsider and leave knowing that one of the most important things he gained from being a part of ABC was lifelong friendships.

I remember my first day at Wilton High School. I remember sitting by myself in homeroom, watching all of my fellow freshmen classmates reunite with each other. Summer had just passed and although I was new to Wilton and the east coast in general, I remember the unfamiliar faces around me seemed so comfortable in such an uncomfortable and foreign environment for me.

I felt like I was starting at such a disadvantage because these kids had grown up with one another and had the opportunity to build strong relationships with one another. I remember feeling so lonely and empty that first day, wishing I had never left Chicago. I thought to myself, how stupid am I to leave my friends and family? Why would I deprive myself of those connections that I had spent the last 14 years of my life developing in Chicago?

Sitting at that table by myself and just feeling like a complete loser was the first of many moments throughout my time in Wilton where the feeling of being different and an outcast really tested my confidence and self-esteem.

That hopeless feeling, mixed with butterflies swarming in my stomach was at full force that morning. But shortly after homeroom, as I saw down in my first official high school class, one individual changed everything. That morning in math class, I met Ben Fechter. Immediately, I knew Ben was a good person. It’s hard to describe why or how people decide to become friends, but Ben and I instantly bonded. I feel like I have a pretty good sense of people and I immediately knew there was definitely something different about Ben. His energy just made me feel comfortable and almost made me forget that I was an ABC scholar in Wilton and a newbie.

To Ben, where I came from or what I thought of myself didn’t matter. He wasn’t prisoner to the rules of the high school. He didn’t care who was popular or who fit in. He didn’t base himself off of any of those dynamics. As long as you were a good person and you didn’t disrespect anyone, Ben would treat you like a friend. He was just an extremely understanding individual. I felt like there was nothing I couldn’t talk to him about. Whenever I felt down or just frustrated about anything, Ben was the person I talked to. He never made me feel bad about anything. He made feel normal and that whatever I was going through was justified. That, to me, is truly the best gift that a friend can offer. There was no judgment, just the willingness to connect and understand.

Shortly after meeting Ben, and also due to the fact that we had a lot of classes together, I was also fortunate to be introduced to Ian Moubayed, Ryan Anderson, Alex Garcia, Sam Hyman, Patrick Hackett, Andrew Straw, Celso White, and Tyler Ketley. These gentlemen became my closest friends in the high school and remain some of my closest friends today.

I think one of the factors that made these friendships so important to me was due to the fact that I did not come from Wilton. I think when you’re younger and a part of the ABC program, you don’t really realize or care to realize how much the differences in one’s background factor into the status quo of society. Although you’re aware of the differences and understand that you are not really a part of a particular group, childlike thinking and the inclination to bond with people outweigh the world around you. However, these truths become more apparent and unavoidable when you’re older. For me, I felt like I was able to avoid giving in to those thoughts and pressures because of my friends. Nothing else mattered to us when we were together. We just wanted to have a good time and just laugh with one another. There was no pressure for anyone to be anything but themselves and that is what I’d say is the meaning of true friendships.

Even though college and post college life has changed a lot and although we’re all scattered throughout the country, we still make it a priority to see each other. My life in the Wilton ABC program was filled with a lot of ups and downs, but throughout it all, my connection with my friends was one of the factors that really made my time in Wilton one of the best times of my life to date. As we grow and face the countless challenges of young adulthood, we continue to support and encourage one another. I consider these guys my family and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

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