August is a strange month for me and is a dreaded month for most of the youth across Southern Utah. “Why is that?” said the many voices in my head. Simple, the start of a new academic year.

It can be a frightening experience to start a new chapter of an academic career, but I’m here to tell you that it’s not that bad as long as you remember this piece of advice.

Don’t lose who you are.

Let me tell you a story. I was in middle school, 9th grade, and I was content with sitting in the back of the class during homeroom to just mull about.

Suddenly, I received a request from one of the most popular girls in class, which was a bit shocking for someone like me. She wanted me to sing with her in the school talent show.

As for the song, “Tangled” was popular at the time, and every adolescent girl and their entourage were obsessed with “At Last I See The Light,” which was the big love song of the film.

Long story short, I ended up singing with the girl, and we won second place. I’d never felt so alive in my life up to that point. My love for performing was fed like kindling to a flame, bursting at the opportunity to do more.

That confidence, however, was not to last.

Many of the “Jocks” started to pick on me, not physically mind you, but their words stung like a scorpion’s sting, but with way more puberty involved.

A lot of their insults were about my sexuality and theater background, meaning they asked if I liked “singing with boys,” and “do you want to sing a song with me?”

It scared me to no end, I felt like I was about to be tormented for the rest of my life up until graduation.

So, I transferred schools in the hope of escaping such harsh words.

Now here’s what I mean by “Don’t lose who you are.”

When I transferred to a new high school, I found a rather large group of friends who loved me just that way I was. Is this a pretty stereotypical scenario? Kind of, but it’s also a thing that kids tend to forget when they’re finding their place in the world.

Someone, somewhere, will love you just the way you are, and more often than not, you’ll find that they’re closer than you realize.

Don’t lose who you are means to not compromise on your character. Don’t give in to the pokes and prods of those wishing you harm, or just trying to get under your skin.

Life is beautiful because of the variety of people adorned across the planet. If we were all the same, then it would be so unbelievably boring.

Keep your head held high as you walk into that school, if someone is giving you trouble for living a certain way, then that person isn’t worthy of being your friend.

I wish you luck, and I know you can do it.

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