RelationshipsI’ll never forget how isolated I felt as a teenager. From a young age, I struggled to connect with my peers. Always one of the bigger kids in class and a year older than the others, I stood out as different. And having ADHD didn’t help matters – it was hard to sit still or focus when my mind raced a mile a minute.

Between my larger size, hyperactive energy, and immaturity, I found myself regularly on the outside looking in. Recess and lunch periods were some of the loneliest times as I’d watch groups of friends play sports from a distance. Making plans after school seemed impossible when I had no close friends to invite.

As the years went on, being perpetually left out took a severe toll on my self-esteem and mental health. I started to believe the negative thoughts telling me I was weird, annoying or unlikeable. My joy for learning diminished as school became a recurring reminder of how isolated I felt each day. More than anything, I wanted to feel a sense of belonging instead of walking through life alone.

It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I hit rock bottom with loneliness and realization dawned – if I wanted change, I needed to make it happen myself. That’s when I found a glimmer of hope after applying the lessons in my upcoming book called The Teenage Guide to Becoming Successful. The lessons on strengthening relationships are especially pertinent.

I started to embrace my quirks rather than suppressing them. Once free of the fear of being different, I felt empowered to connect with others. The next step involved improving my listening skills to truly understand perspectives different than my own.

Armed with new confidence and communication tools, I deliberately sought out classmates in between periods to learn about their interests too. Simple greetings in the hallways grew into longer conversations and loose friendships. My inner circle gradually expanded to include peers I’d smile and wave to in the halls each morning.

As time progressed and bonds deepened, opportunities arose for genuine collaboration. Studying together in the library and partnering on group projects allowed me to build rapport and trust. Celebrating each celebration’s milestones, from sports to academic achievements, fostered a supportive community dedicated to lifting one another up.

One pivotal moment came during my junior year when our civic leadership class faced a crisis that tested the strength of our relationships. Our presentation was at risk due to an ill partner, but drawing on lessons of teamwork and commitment, I stepped up to delegate tasks so we could still succeed together. The experience proved just how far strong connections can carry you through challenges.Screen Shot 2023 07 06 At 6.51.22 Pm

It brings a big smile to my face when I look back on my transformation from a lonesome outsider to feeling a true sense of belonging within my friend group. Discovering my people opened my world in countless ways and gave me lifelong resilience.

Sharing my stories of struggle and triumph through relationships, I hope to show readers that true belonging lies not in perfection but in embracing our imperfect selves among those willing to walk alongside us. My gratitude is endless for the mentors who revealed to me the transformational nature of human connection.