One Tree Hill has developed alongside my life for the last nine years. As the final season concludes, I’d like to share my appreciation for its creation and its characters lives. I have met best friends because of the show, and we have bonded over the show, even nicknaming ourselves after the main females. Special stories like this provide a mutual interest and a base for inside jokes and memories, special occasions, and starting points for self-disclosure.
I moved from Kansas City to Warrensburg a week before I started high school. Two of my best friends, members of what became The Lemon Squeeze Posse, were in my Spanish class. Though we each remember slightly different exact times when we spoke as the first time we talked, we started talking about One Tree Hill, which was starting its second season that fall. I remember sitting on the opposite side of the classroom, overhearing a conversation about One Tree Hill, and wishing I could join because I loved the show. At some point, Chasity, Danielle, and I were seated close enough together to discuss the show.
From there we have grown together as the characters evolved on the screen. We eventually nicknamed ourselves after Haley, Peyton, and Brooke, our alter egos corresponding with our characteristics. They dubbed me Haley, or Tutor Girl, as I was the studios bookworm who might follow a similar career path as Haley’s teacher and rock star one (mine might include me as a teacher, writer, and singer-songwriter). We even likened my first kiss experiences to Haley’s experience with the tool Chris Keller, including their names being the same.
We passionately discuss the goings-on in Tree Hill, and we use their experiences to describe our own. By our senior year, we had matching Tree Hill Ravens hoodies and had made t-shirts that matched yet corresponded with our character. We made the shirts during a sleepover for my birthday and wore them or our hoodies each week on One Tree Hill’s air day. Certain periods allowed us to watch the episodes together. A Lemonade Party (what we called our sleepovers) on the final day school freshman year revolved around the second season’s finale; Danielle and I did dinner and One Tree Hill with the guys we were dating once; the three of us watched some episodes together our senior year of high school. After the series finale, Chasity and I will Skype to cry together and look back on the show and our lives during its run.
The show continued to play a similar role in my college life. I developed a friend and mentor relationship with Erin, and we ate dinner and talked about our lives each week before watching One Tree Hill together. Again, it gave us a starting point for mutual interest for initial bonding. As the characters got older, they demonstrated even more admirable qualities. As I could look at Erin and see how her strength and experience has led her to a successful, happy life, I could also see how the struggles the characters overcame led them to the places they went.
Since it’s a drama, audiences anticipate just that; it’s what makes the story continue. Yet ordinary life also contains its daily struggles, unexpected surprises occurring regularly. These characters, not totally unlike anyone else, have experienced estranged parents, bullying, loneliness, deaths of loved ones, breakups, crushed dreams, failures. Yet they have followed Nathan’s advice “Just keep shooting and deal with the pain. Somewhere along the way, it’ll get easier.” They get back up again and maintain that life is good. They exhibit strength, integrity, perseverance, devotion, grace; they experience their dreams coming to full fruition (each character finds success in his or her professional endeavors; each also has that dream threatened yet always makes it possible again), love, support, family.
One Tree Hill will conclude its nine season run, but my life and the friendships formed alongside the show will continue. Always and forever, we have the bonds we formed and the lessons we learned as we too struggled to find our way in the world, building community, chasing dreams, and developing values. I tearfully say goodbye to the characters I watched evolve on the screen over the years. As Karen tells Lucas in the first season finale, “There is only one Tree Hill.”