I’ve always been quite the planner. Ever since I was in elementary school, I would constantly imagine what the future would look like for me. I wanted to be a doctor, a painter, a chef, a bartender, or even an EMT; I could go on. I had been planning out my life, my career, my relationships, almost everything I could think of. Thinking of all of the possibilities that life could offer gave me hope and motivation to graduate.
During my freshman year, I made myself cozy with the same group of friends I had stuck with since sixth grade. Sitting down on the bench in the lobby, I began to think about where high school would take me. I was apprehensive about the four grueling years I was about to partake in.
I was tall, awkward, and shy. My friends and I just kind of floated along. The fear of ridicule or judgment was something that always lingered in my mind; I wanted so badly to fit in with my group of friends or any group who would have me. I purposely made myself small, not wanting to make a bad impression on others. I joined theatre, learning something valuable about myself through the various productions. During my freshman year, I auditioned for a small role in Shakespeare’s As You Like It. When the roles were posted and the scripts handed out, I realized I had a singing line! I was the head royal minion, even getting a special coat, and I couldn’t have been happier.
The day before the show was put on, I made a big decision-I cut off the same bob with bangs that I had since middle school. As the clippers chopped off inches of the hair I’d had and loved for years, I became fidgety. What if I looked awful? What if my peers bullied me for it? What if? What if? What if? Thoughts flowed through my head like lava, slowly burying me in my own anxieties. When the blow drier turned off, the cold truth finally hit me, I had a pixie cut and my shield of hair was no longer there to protect me. This was a perfect example of a behavior I needed to grow out of; I needed to stop worrying about what others thought of me.
Sophomore year I had become more comfortable with my looks, but hadn’t found confidence, yet. Interested in photography, I would do photoshoots with my friends often. I had always been a little envious of their confidence and poise. I decided to give modeling a try, just for a minute. My friend, camera in hand, snapped a photo of me. For the first time in a while, I felt credence that I was photogenic.
In September of 2019, the start of my junior year, I peered around anxiously. I had no idea what to expect. The month of December was the hardest I had ever experienced. A sense of loneliness set in, the likes of which I hadn’t ever felt before. I let my anxieties about what others thought create a bubble around myself; I had pushed everyone away.
Then, when the pandemic hit last March, I did a lot of reflecting. I realized I had allowed what others thought of me to dictate my life. I needed to do something about the relationships I had thrown away, including my best friends.
Rekindling those key friendships was the best decision I ever made. My closest friends gave me the vital support throughout this past school year that I needed to graduate. Thanks to them, I’ve gained enough confidence to be comfortable with not having a completely solid career plan.
A year since I reconnected with my friends, I think I have finally learned to not worry at all. It’s such an important lesson to learn, especially as we all prepare to enter adulthood. “Being yourself” is such a cliché term, one which I’m sure we’ve all heard from a teacher or family member. But that’s because accepting who you are (and loving yourself for it) is going to be an indispensable life skill.