I’ve been mentally preparing myself for the final season of One Tree Hill for a while but honestly there isn’t enough preparation that could make this goodbye any easier. I know this sounds lame but television shows have become family to me. You grow with the character as they develop in their imaginary world, you learn lessons as they make mistakes, and eventually you hurt for them, feel for them whether its hate, love, fear, anger, or sadness. One Tree Hill has been on since 2003, I didn’t really start watching it until it was in its second season but it didn’t take me long to fall in love with it. Each week I would jump into their lives, I would root for different couples, shed tears when tragedy hit Tree Hill (which was far too often), and I would scream when a character went off the rails. One Tree Hill is known for its outlandish characters, every season has had at least one psycho character who is terrorizing the main characters. Whether it’s a psycho nanny, a stalker who pretends to be Peyton’s brother, or an unstable young woman who looks exactly like your dead wife. There wasn’t much One Tree Hill hasn’t done in the past nine years and for that I am grateful. The show wouldn’t be the same.
I remember watching ‘With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept’ for the first time, its one of the show’s most notable episode in which a bullied student brings a gun into school. A sensitive subject that can often be taken in the wrong direction, it wasn’t in this case. There was so much feeling in that episode, I get chills just thinking about that episode. The voice-over by one of the main characters Lucas sums up the episode, ” Does this darkness have a name? This cruelty, this hatred, how did it find us? Did it steal into our lives or did we seek it out and embrace it? What happened to us that we now send our children into the world like we send young men to war, hoping for their safe return, but knowing that some would be lost along the way. When did we lose our way? Consumed by the shadows. Swallowed whole by the darkness. Does this darkness have a name? Is it your name?” With a show that tends to simplify storylines and ignore logic, this episode had something more, something indescribable. It had life, a meaning. To this day, watching that episode is hard, I can’t get through it without crying. It is one of those episodes of television that will make you take a step back and re-examine life. As someone who has been bullied and mistreated at school, I knew the feeling of hopelessness and despair. I would have never taken such extreme measures but I know where this character was coming from. It was a brilliant episode.
In the past few years, One Tree Hill, has become a lot more to me. It wasn’t just a television show anymore. Coincidentally three years ago I went on vacation in southern North Carolina, only thirty minutes away from the fictional town of Tree Hill, the show is filmed in Wilmington. I begged my parents to take my sister and I on the studio tour, where we were led around by production assistants and shown different sets. We got a closer look at Nathan and Haley’s house peering inside their bedroom, kitchen, living room, and Jamie’s bedroom. You could run your fingers across the grand piano Haley played on several different occasions or you could take a closer look at the family pictures on the shelves. You saw where actors spend endless hours, bringing to life characters that we’ve come to love. I didn’t see any filming that year but I wandered around town where I took a picture outside of the location they used for Karen’s Cafe and Clothes over Bros. I sat at the same seat where Nathan gave Haley the bracelet from the Cracker Jack box. Everything became real. It wasn’t another show that was filmed on a Holly wood lot, its location was a character of its own.
While I visited Wilmington the past few years, I was fortunate enough to meet Austin Nichols (Julian), Robert Buckley (Clay), Stephen Colletti (Chase), and Sophia Bush (Brooke) and it was incredibly gratifying knowing that the actors behind the characters you love are so kind to fans. I developed even more of a crush on Mr. Nichols after meeting him, he left the sketchy location for Tric on his bike at night, denying a ride from a crew member. He laughed after my mom told him that I’ve been waiting for this moment for years and I said to him that I wouldn’t go that far. He was patient as my mom fiddled with the camera, trying to figure out how to use a digital camera. Mr. Buckley jogged over to see the fans while filming a scene at the rehab center, talking to the fans and offering to take pictures even though the crew was waiting on him. I didn’t want to keep him from filming so I didn’t get a picture with him. Another cool thing about filming is learning about what’s to come with the show like Buckley’s character Clay was doing scenes with a little boy who no one knew about and later watching the show you see that plot-line unravel. When I waited on filming the second time to see Austin and Paul Johansson (who left the location without knowing the fans were hoping to see them), who filmed a scene at a bar, every was confused as to why these two characters were interacting at all. A few episodes into the show you find out that they form an unusual bond while trying to find Nathan. Mr. Colletti was also very sweet, he had filmed all day in Tric and came out after Austin did to sign autographs, talk to fans, and take pictures. He asked what we thought about Chase’s love triangle with Alex and Mia, in which I frankly told him that Alex couldn’t be trusted and was kinda a slut. He thought that was hilarious. Now Sophia Bush, can I tell you that I’ve honestly been waiting to meet her since I started watching the show. She was the last of the One Tree Hill cast members I’ve met so far and what a way to end my trip and my memories with the cast. She was down to earth, adorable, and the type of actor a fan loves to meet. She had a crowd of fans around her, she took time to make conversation and meet the requests of her fans. Just before I was getting my picture with her I realized that my camera had died, I later learned that I put the battery in wrong (doh). In the end I had to use my mom’s camera phone and I also learned that you shouldn’t talk while taking pictures.
I grew up with the show. I found myself while watching it. It helped me through hard times, I had re-watched the episodes when Haley lost her mother right after my grandpa passed away and I was a mess already. My grief was overwhelming and hard but Haley’s character didn’t just skip through the stages of grief, I understood her anger, her fear, her sadness, and her acceptance. The characters lead me through the darkest of times in my life. It was the hope amid a sea of despair.
One Tree Hill has taught me many, many things. Growing up and even now I don’t have many friends, televisions shows and their characters became those friends I’ve always wanted. One Tree Hill gave me many people I would be proud enough to call my friends. Haley taught me to be brave and that its okay to be different. Lucas taught me how to follow my heart even if it hurts. Nathan taught me to keep trying even when the odds are against you. Peyton taught me how to survive. Julian taught me how to chase my dreams despite what others think you can and cannot do. Mouth taught me that what I do matters. Millie taught me that zero is not a size and that I should always be true to myself. Chase taught me to stand up for what I believe in. Clay taught me fortitude. Quinn just made me insanely jealous of her good looks. No. She taught me how to look beyond what’s on the surface. Brooke taught me that I was enough. This is something I’ve been thinking about lately. Usually I identified with Peyton the most but I’ve come to realize that I’m similar to Brooke. Always wanting to be loved and searching for the praise and acceptance deserved. Brooke was such a layered character once you got past the pretty face and pom poms. She was the sad, little girl and I still feel that way sometimes. So thank you Brooke, because of you I know that I am enough. Smart enough. Pretty enough. Talented Enough. Thank you One Tree Hill for being there. For leaving and coming back. Thank you One Tree Hill for saying goodbye.
I lost one of my favorite parts of my childhood but it’s comforting to know that you will always be there when I need you. There truly is only one Tree Hill.
I just returned from my vacation in southern North Carolina and it was weird being in Wilmington without One Tree Hill there. Despite the two movies being filmed in the streets of Wilmington there was an emptiness. The location used for Karen’s Cafe no longer had the awning up or the fake door. To a fan it was sad seeing a key location in the story of One Tree Hill ripped away. Ironically the building was being used as base camp for extras working on a movie. With the Rivercourt being torn down several months ago, it felt like they were stripping away apart of my history. So I said my final goodbyes while writing this, sitting across the river from where the Rivercourt used to be. I drove past Tric one last time. It is never easy to said goodbye.