God bless change. And thank God for changing me. I am not the same person I was a year ago. I am even more grateful that I am not the same person I was three years ago.

Three years ago, I was broken. Lost. Confused. Anxious. Depressed. It seemed like I never did anything right and the people I surrounded myself with didn’t help. I was scared of confrontation, so I never spoke my mind. I wanted to love, but I didn’t know how to handle it when someone showed me unconditional love. I was so used to conditions. It was never about freedom for me. Growing up is hard on any teen, but my years were short of communication, trust, and friendships. I have always been a person to help others, the best that I know how to, so it’s hard when you know it’s wrong but try so hard to make it work. They don’t like me like this so I’ll change to fit their needs.

When I was in 8th grade, I was so nervous about high school. I knew nobody, and I was going to a different school than all my friends. I was going to be alone, and my good friend at the time told me some advice that I still carry around to this day. She said, “Dana, who cares? Seriously, who the hell cares? At any moment you can choose to be a different person, but I don’t think you need to change. You like Taylor Swift and One Direction — own it! Why should you have to pretend you don’t? You love singing in chorus, so sing because it makes you happy, no matter if it’s cool or not. Continue to read those cheesy romance novels, and do what makes you happy. You will attract people who want to be around you. That will instantly make you a happier person.” And it did for a while until I got so caught up in the midst of high school drama. I lost myself, I lost those words, and I lost everything.

Coming home the other day, Taylor Swift’s song, Fifteen, came on. I instantly burst into tears. It was like a recognition came over me. I found my fifteen-year-old self, I remember those words, and I was determined to never lose it ever again. BECAUSE WHEN YOU’RE FIFTEEN AND SOMEBODY TELLS YOU THEY LOVE YOU, YOU’RE GONNA BELIEVE THEM. So do not be fooled. You are loved by more people than you think. And you will be loved by many people in your life, some who don’t necessarily listen to Taylor Swift as much as you do but they respect that you do and will still hang out with you when you bleed through your pants on the first week of high school. Stay true to who you are, because you don’t need to change to be loved. I really felt loved the most when I stopped trying to be something I wasn’t. So take it all in, then breathe it all out. And for crying out loud, be kind.

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