Embrace your struggles. Embrace your changes.

“I didn’t believe the seniors before me when they told me that high school flew by for them. Here is another piece of advice: listen to them, because it really does.”

Nobody could have ever predicted high school would play out like this for me – that I would have experienced what I have, achieved what I have, became the person I have become.

Nobody is going to be shocked to hear it wasn’t easy either.

You are most likely going to face challenges if you haven’t already. Whether it is emotional, academic, social, anything at all, something may come up and you are not going to like it. I definitely came across my fair share of struggles. But through those struggles came growth.

I learned a lot from mistakes I made and the obstacles that came about, but I am grateful for what I gained from them. I found a great amount of strength within myself.

I learned that I had to keep my head up and keep moving forward because the reality is that life waits for nobody. But I knew that it was okay to not be able to do that at times. Sometimes, you have to take time for yourself to recover and cope. Sometimes, you have to cry, rant, or simply take a deep breath. And that is okay.

The best thing you can do is accept your emotions, persevere through them, and come out better than you were before.

Through these challenges, I also learned to count my blessings. I have paid more attention to what or who I have, and I have appreciated them more than I ever did before.

I have been graced with amazing people throughout my entire life, but especially during these past four years. My friends and family are incredible, to say the least. They have hugged me when I needed it, listened to my venting, let me cry in front of them, supported me in my endeavors, congratulated me on my achievements, and were my backbone throughout everything.

They are some of my most significant and wonderful blessings. They have been by my side every step of the way, and they have seen how I have changed.

I am nowhere near the same person I came in as my freshman year. I used to be reserved and insecure. I can say that I have broken out of that shell I was in. I have changed so much, from my social skills to my sense of leadership, to my ability to stay stable more often.

I have become a leader, more vocal, outgoing, and confident. And I love it.

I owe those changes to the challenges I triumphed, the people in my life, band, and newspaper. They shined a light on the potential I would have never known I had.

Band gave me a large group of people who showed me how to open up and have fun. It became my home away from home. Newspaper and journalism, in general, showed me I have a voice and that I can use it. I had never expressed myself so intensely until I joined that program.

Both of them gave me opportunities to be a leader, something I never would have seen myself doing without them.

I will humbly accept that I have achieved a lot in my high school career. I have been pit captain for two years in the band, was a junior editor for The Fuel my junior year, co-editor-in-chief this year, and was named the 2019 ILPC Print Newspaper Editor of the Year (which is still really crazy to say). I will also be honest – I had no idea what I was doing then, and I barely know now.

I knew it took hard work to achieve these things, but I was really just giving it a shot and hoping for the best. I didn’t expect to make section leader. I didn’t expect to be editor, let alone one of the best in the state. But I took a chance and gave it a shot anyways.

I am so glad I put myself out of my comfort zone, opening up so many doors for me. If you put yourself out there, you’ll find something for yourself. And even if you don’t find anything, you’ll learn what you enjoy and what you don’t.

High school has been full of surprises and changes for myself, but I have also found that the changes can go further than you as a person. Friendships may change. Goals may change. Entire plans may change. Change is inevitable, and it is something you will need to learn to accept.

As I approach graduation, I keep in mind that this is not the end; there is more life ahead of myself. With college and everything following afterward, I have to be honest and admit that I’m scared. Maybe scared isn’t the right word, but not knowing things has always concerned me.

I don’t know how life is going to go. I may have a plan right now, but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to go that way. Things may change, just as I have, and I will have to adjust to those changes. Diving into my future is a risk for me, but I know it’s something I have to pursue.

I think about the person I was years ago, even little kindergarten me, and I realize how far I have come. I would have never seen myself reaching the things I have, but I am so proud and happy that I did.

I didn’t believe the seniors before me when they told me that high school flew by for them. Here is another piece of advice: listen to them, because it really does. Make the most of your time in high school. Embrace your struggles. Embrace your changes.