Learning to Let People See the Real Me

My entire childhood was spent thinking about the next time I’d have to leave a place and go on to the next one. Every couple of years I had to figure out a new school. I remember lying on an air mattress on the floor surrounded by boxes one night before my freshman year. I was so frustrated by having to leave. I hated leaving. I hated school. I didn’t want to go. They made me.
The new school felt like another planet. I was the only person who didn’t know the slang words – everyone even listened to different music. It was like I spoke a different language, and I was so afraid that everyone could tell how uncomfortable I felt. I acted like I didn’t care in order to seem “cool”, but it was actually really hard for me. I was counting down to when I could be done with school for good. I figured I’d never have really close friends, and I’d just decided to deal with that because trying too hard would just seem weird.
I used sports to deal with my frustration. One day, a couple of months into the school year, I got a call while I was at our district competition. My grandma had cancer. Several of my teammates and my coach overheard the conversation and surrounded me. I knew my best event was coming up, but I wasn’t sure I could actually compete after hearing that news. With the team backing me up, I managed to make it to the starting block.
After I finished my race, I looked up to see all 40 of my teammates cheering for me. I got a huge hug once I’d made my way over to them. I realized then that things would have been so much better if I had been real with them from day one, instead of putting on an act. Letting myself connect with others made my entire High School experience so much better. I thought being “different” would make it impossible to make friends, but it actually meant that I had something to teach them all, because my life had been different from theirs. I learned something different from each of my friends. There is value in differences and in connecting with others. Being real and letting people appreciate and support you for being you is the best feeling. It helped me get through school and actually like the place by the time I was done. If you had told me freshman year that I’d end up not wanting to leave once I was a senior, I never would’ve believed you. But I’m just being real.

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