Thank You, High School

This year, on Wednesday June 27th, 2018,  I was declared an official high school graduate. Four years ago, on Tuesday September 2nd of 2014, I began my first day of high school. To say these past four years have flown by would be an understatement. I remember my first day like it was yesterday. The fact that this past June was the end of this long four-year era has me flabbergasted. I say long loosely. After all the newly formed friendships, the cherish-worthy memories, the heartbreak, the tragic losses, it’s all over. I have mixed feelings. But all I can say right now is: wow.

Starting with freshman year, it truly did feel like entering a whole new world (cue Aladdin here). I felt like a fish out of water, uncomfortable and anxious. I was a total introvert. I refused to talk to anyone and avoided making friends at all costs. You can imagine how fussy and scared I was when my teachers proposed the idea of icebreakers. Those were THE WORST! It took me a while to break out of my shell and make new friends, but eventually I did, and I’m happy to say some of those friends I made four years ago are still in my life to this day. It really was the beginning of a new era. Introductions to new faces, and reuniting with old ones. Along with making new friends, I had to realize who was good for me and who was poison. Cutting someone out of my life has so far been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. Whenever I look back at all the hard decisions I had to make regarding my inner circle, I immediately remember two quotes: “Decisions are the hardest to make, especially when it’s a choice between what you want and what is right” & “Sometimes it’s people you love the most that you must keep at arm’s length”. The highlight of my freshman year was getting out of my comfort zone. I really didn’t think it was possible, but I was proven wrong. Thanks to grade 9 I am a much more open-minded, optimistic and friendly human being. The worst part of freshman year was discovering that I indeed have depression. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from that experience, it’s that the first step to solving a problem, is that you have a problem. If I had to sum up my first year of high school in one word, it’d be: friendship.

Sophomore year was a super game-changer for me. So much happened in 10 months, that I was left at the end of the year feeling breathless, shocked and bewildered. I came out as bisexual, I met my new best friend, I lost two of my best friends, I told the guy I have a crush on that I like him, and I had my second plastic surgery. Yes folks, this all happened in the span of 10  months. Grade 10 was definitely the year of change for me, both physically and mentally. There was so much loss and so much gain in just ten months. It was almost like the perfect balance, the perfect storm. Sometimes it was almost too much to take in all at once because it seemed like it was just one thing after another. It was like a rain cloud followed me wherever I went for ten months. Out of all the things that happened that year, coming out was the biggest experience not only of that year but my entire high school career. My entire life changed. It felt like I was a whole new person, a whole new identity. But I’m still the same guy everyone has known for all these years, just with a new added piece to who I am. As told in my a previous blog post, I had the best coming out experience I could have asked for. I could not have asked for a better response from the guy I had a crush on, who is the reason that sparked my sexuality and eventual coming out. No, we didn’t end up together, but I was given clarity, acceptance, and love. No more, no less. Best part of the whole damn year? Coming out. Because even though it brought many challenges and changes to my life, it made me into the strong, badass and outspoken person I am today. I wouldn’t change anything. Worst part about Grade 10 would have to be the fact that my locker was only a few feet away from my crush’s locker. Yeah, talk about figuratively dying. The word I’d use to sum up this year would be: strength.

My second last year of high school started with a big slap in the face. The guy I had a crush on in grade 10? Yeah, he moved away three days into the school year. Poof. Gone. I didn’t know how to comprehend what had just happened. I know I probably sound over dramatic but it’s true. I was in legitimate shock. Him leaving changed everything. And then I started to think, maybe I needed this. Maybe this was supposed to happen in order for me to get over him. Maybe, it was meant to be. It was then that I learned the valuable lesson that not everyone is meant to be in every chapter of your life. Some stay for a couple chapters, some stay for a page, some for a paragraph, and others for a magical life-changing sentence. I had my first boyfriend. That happened. It ended after a week, nothing special. Grade 11 was an instrumental year for me in many ways. Not only was it a year of strength, but it was also a year of pride. I spent a lot of grade 11 embracing my sexuality and exploring the newfound world of being bisexual. Along with that, I auditioned for my school’s annual Christmas talent show to say a motivational speech I wrote myself. In the speech I not only mentioned my sexuality but also other things regarding the LGBTQ+ community, racism, gender equality, life & inspiration, etc. Because of my sexuality and the school’s religious views, I was declined the right to present my speech at the talent show. You might think that I was filled with disappointment. Maybe I was, but just a little bit. Because if there’s one thing I know, it’s that: sometimes we need to lose the small battles to win the war. I wasn’t done, not yet. Overall, grade 11 gave me my old self back. But this time it was different. My new/old found self was stronger, braver and bolder than ever. My old self couldn’t come to the phone. Why? Oh, because he’s dead. Best part of grade 11? Having the courage to speak my truth in front of hundreds. Worst part? Saying goodbye to someone I never thought I’d have to say goodbye to. The word that sums up this year is: pride.

I walked into my senior year like a badass. I remember that very morning. I remember exactly what I was wearing and the exact song I was listening to in that moment: white uniform shirt, black uniform shorts, black socks with my black converse, and ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ by Taylor Swift. My number one goal for senior year was to finish off on a good note with everyone, especially the people I didn’t necessarily get along with. Although I didn’t end on a good note with 100% of the people in my grade, I got a good 95% in.  My older sister, who went to the same high school as me, is now living on her own and has a full-time job. From the day she graduated to now, she’s unfortunately lost a few friends. I’ve had to see her cry many tears and attend too many funerals of friends from her school graduating class. You see it first hand, you see it on TV, you see it in the movies, you see it on the news, but you never think it could happen to you. Until the unimaginable, the unthinkable happens. In November of 2017, my graduating class and myself suffered the loss of one of our own. No one saw it coming. But that’s the thing about suicide: it’s always the person you’d least expect it to be. It was definitely one of the saddest things I’ve ever experienced with my own eyes and heart. Seeing the sad faces on my friends alike was utterly heartbreaking. The night I found out, I told myself, “We’re going to get through this. We are going to rise above. We will survive.” And sure enough, we did. Despite the long months of grief, by the time graduation came around, we all assured ourselves that their soul was with us in the room as we put high school to a close, accepted our diplomas, and drove off. What happened, it will not haunt us. It will strengthen us. We will carry them with us wherever we may go next. We will carry each other into everything that we do next, to remind us of who we are, and of who we’re meant to be. I ended senior year with my best friend taking me to prom and throwing on the gown and cap for my Mom’s endless pictures. Prom has never been my thing. I’ve always thought of it to be overrated. That is until my best friend destroyed the stereotype of straight guys taking their gay/bisexual best friends to prom. He really is one of the greatest humans I’ve ever met. As for graduating, never thought it’d happen. I’m probably just as shocked as you are. But I did it. I survived. I did it. Summing up senior year in one word: peace.

Overall, high school truly was a life changing experience. I walked in one person, and walked out another. The memories, the trials and tribulations, the obstacles, the hardships, the revelations. All of it. All of those things brought me to where I am today. And I wouldn’t change a damn thing. I have become a much better, stronger, braver, more confident and happier human being. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but that’s what made the sunshine and rainbows so valuable and precious. My Dad has always told me that the most valuable lessons are learned through pain. He wasn’t wrong. As much as I always hated high school and constantly bashed the school I attended, I don’t think I would have had the same experience if I attended another school. Everything happens for a reason, and I truly believe that I was always right where I was meant to be. I’m choosing to take all the lessons I learned, all the wisdom I gained, and share it with the world. As Master Yoda once said, “Pass on what you have learned.” I am choosing happiness.

To Alex, Danny, Koen, Alanna, Teya, Kathryn, and Kirsten, thank you for welcoming me into your lives and being apart of mine. I couldn’t have made it through the hard times without your help. I owe you one.

To Kagney, Sebastian, Alex, Gabby, Antonia, and Natalie, thank you for your continued support over the years and staying by my side to this very day. You’ve not only been there to see me shine, but you’ve also been there to see me in my darkest storms, and for that I am truly grateful.

But most importantly, thank you high school.

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