Not My Cup Of Tea: A Story In Seasons

May 21, 2017
By LaurenBreach, Austin, Texas
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LaurenBreach, Austin, Texas
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Author's note:

I was inspired to write my piece as a way to document how I have grown over the course of the last year and as a way to self-reflect. I hope by reading this, others take the time to reflect on how they have grown over the last year and gain comfort in the reality that change is constant and 100% normal.

As someone who likes to track her growth through journaling and photography, I could think of no better way than to combine this, as well as my passion for storytelling, to create the product before you today.
After contemplating my progress throughout the many months and years of my life, I stumbled across the idea, while daydreaming, of creating a collection of works, one for each season of the past school year, to document lessons learned as a form of self-reflection. Later adapting to fit my needs as a writer, as well as patterns I recognized, I soon incorporated, along with these lessons, my struggles with my mental health, my successes and the process I underwent, and am still undergoing today, to overcome challenges presented to me, specifically that of forging new friendships and letting go of old ones.
This past year has been a particularly enlightening and trying year for me. I’ve had many amazing experiences that will forever shape my character as well have undergone periods of both clarity and struggle when it comes to my mental health. I’ve learned a lot about myself and learned to accept myself for my flaws as well as to remain open to new experiences and ideas, something I hope to convey to you within the pages of this collection of works.
While each moment within the collection was handpicked and carefully crafted through the use of diction to capture my own emotions during the time of the specific event or experience, each one is unique in the sense that each person who reads my piece will draw their own conclusion on whether my piece depicts my past year in a very dramatized, self-centered way or in a truthful, candid way in order to speak my truth.
Leaving my piece open to interpretation and judgment, while a challenging thing to do when it comes to something so personal, is something I hope will resonate with its readers and allow them to reflect on themselves and their growth over the last year. Additionally, I hope that by reading my collection readers will take comfort in recognizing that we are all ever-growing and changing and that that is perfectly normal.
With this in mind, I’d also like to remind readers of specific, purposeful aspects to take note of while enjoying my piece. One of them is the use of the past tense. The use of this tense is intended to remind readers that one can recount the past without dwelling on it and allowing it to consume them, an important lesson I learned that is an overarching factor in how my piece was collected and formed. Additionally, I have included images from each season and period in my life, to give readers a peek into my experience while still leaving room for imagination so that my piece can be received differently by each reader.
All in all, I hope you enjoy my piece. Writing it proved to be therapeutic and allowed me to better grasp and appreciate how I’ve changed since last June. I hope from reading it you gain a better understanding of yourself, of growth and the importance of looking back after a challenging time to reflect on how far you’ve come.

The perfect thing to pair with endless summer days is blueberry tea. It’s something I found myself drinking constantly throughout the summer months and something that now leaves a bittersweet taste in my mouth, just like the transition from summer to fall.
My first days of summer began a few weeks after school let out. Days seemed to stretch on infinitely and the time I did not spend at work was filled with hours of lounging, watching Netflix, and talking on the phone into the early hours of the morning with my best friend, Olivia Rose.
After just getting out of a relationship and struggling with the reality that one of my closest friends no longer cared about me, I was in a time of transition. I spent a lot of time over those months journaling and on more occasions than I’d like to admit listening to The Smiths for hours on end. To say the least, this was a rough time in my life. But as the summer progressed I found more and more clarity.
With the help of Olivia I pieced myself back together, or so I thought and started to learn to live with the hole in my heart that my friend had left. Abruptly losing connection with someone I’d known for years broke me in many ways during those first few months, but by the end proved to be good for me, paving the way for a newfound sense of self-love and a period of stability in my life.
However, even after growing as a person that summer, as the first day of school approached, I began to worry about the new year and what it would hold for me, burdened by the thought of confronting the hateful words that had plagued me throughout the summer months. I’d spent most of the summer pushing down my fears and wallowing in self-pity and wasn’t prepared to take on any additional responsibilities. Still too afraid to admit that I needed to move on from a toxic friendship, I spent the final days before the end of break taking little time to care for myself and to process my emotions in a healthy way.
At last the first day came and I found myself thrown into a whirlwind of work. Over the summer I’d forgotten how demanding school was and found myself struggling to balance pre- cal assignments and world history chapters which soon began to pile up. In an attempt to bear this new load I began to push down negative thoughts and emotions. Hoping to keep them at bay I began to ignore my own struggles and focused my attention on clubs and homework assignments, burying myself in new projects and plans for the future.
During this time things seemed to only get worse. Between moments of happiness and what I deemed clarity or for lack of better words, proof that I had been “healed”, negative thoughts invaded my mind. Of the many days since the start of school, there were few I truly recognized as being as close to perfect as possible; one of these few days being August 27th, the day of the annual Austin Pride Parade.
That day began like any other. I rose early and groggily pulled on my cross country uniform followed by a pair of sweats and a scratchy sweatshirt with the school’s logo embroidered on its breast. I quickly washed my face before slinging my camera bag over my shoulder and heading out, driving towards the school with only the light of the lampposts lining the highway to guide my way.
At last, I arrived at school and greeted my teammates who like myself were sleepy and excited at the promise of Smitty’s barbecue and an intrasquad meet. Unlike others there, however, I was looking forward to something much bigger than brisket and the first meet of the season, I was looking forward to my first ever pride parade.
After struggling to find comfort in my sexuality and to finally admit to myself that who I was was valid, I had at last, in the middle of my freshmen year, let go of the hateful comments from ancient relatives and homophobic churchgoers and accepted that I was gay. In the long run, this fact wasn’t as life altering as I’d deemed it back then, however coming out, dating for the first time and finally attending Pride were somewhat monumental events in my adolescence. That said, one could assume how excited I was, knowing I was only a few hours away from an event I had dreamed about for what felt like years.
After the meet and after grabbing lunch at Smitty’s up in Lockhart, Texas, I headed home to get ready for Pride. I showered, did my best to style my now overgrown buzz cut, and applied an assortment of bright colored pigments to create a dramatic eye look. After some final finishing touches including rainbow highlighter and drawing on thick, black winged liner, I once more headed towards school, dressed strictly in an array of bright colors, my camera strap resting firmly on my shoulder.
When I arrived at school I was overcome with a wave of emotion, I could hardly contain my excitement. On the ride to Pride I, and my fellow LGBTQ+ classmates jammed out to iconic queer hits such as “Girls like Girls” by Hayley Kiyoko, my personal favorite, as well as “Girls, Girls, Boys” by Panic at the Disco and “I Kissed A Girl” by Katy Perry. With high spirits, we made our way downtown, for many of us this being our first time ever attending Pride.
As we filed off the bus I was hit by how real it was. Unlike most of my dreams, in which my high expectations went unmet, Pride was everything I’d dreamt it to be and more. Everywhere I looked the world was awash with vibrant colors and an atmosphere of amity. Everyone in that moment could feel a positive energy and the overflowing love in the hearts of those in attendance.
As the start of the parade approached, I and the group of students I was with made our way back to our designated spot in the parade which we had abandoned an hour earlier to explore. As we made our way back the sun began to set and I was filled with a mix of excited and nervous energy.
Abruptly we began to move as we made our way down the parade route. The evening light casting long shadows across the faces of the crowd as they came to life, the first float making its way steadily down Congress Avenue to the delight of those in attendance. My heart lurched as we began to march, brought up by a group of girl scouts adorned in plastic beads in a plethora of colors. I waved a pride flag I’d received just minutes before from a group of cheerful students passing by as we began the long trek. Quickly my nervous energy was replaced with pure joy.
As I ran down the winding streets high fiving the crowd I was met by an outpouring of acceptance. I received many kind words and cheers and a few waves from friends who also happened to be at the event, the combination of the two together almost deafening, blocking out the hate from a nearby group of protestors that carried a bright yellow sign that read in large, harsh print, “Homo Sex is SIN”. While following the route we passed a few other groups carrying signs displaying similar messages, but I remained unaffected. I loved myself and my community and no amount of hate could discourage me from loving me for who I am or cause me to go back into the closet where I had felt alone for so many years.
As we neared the end of the route my euphoria began to fade. I then regained a more level head and couldn’t help but feel thankful for all that I had. An event like Pride was truly amazing in terms of validation and helped me reach another level of self-acceptance as well as allowed me to acknowledge how large and beautiful my support system was as someone who identified as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
After regrouping following the end of the parade we, at last, piled onto another yellow school bus and headed home. My feet ached from the parade and from the meet earlier in the day, however, at that point, I was almost completely oblivious. Overcome by the event I spent the ride home processing, talking with friends, and belting out the lyrics once more to “I Kissed A Girl” with a new gusto.
Finally, after a quick drive, we climbed off the bus and headed our separate ways. With a new spark and inner strength, I finished up the final month of summer and headed into autumn, where new challenges await.

Towards the end of autumn, I often found myself sipping a steaming cup of chai tea over a good book while sitting at my kitchen table in the early hours of the morning. After cross country season came to a sudden end in late October, I made a point to take advantage of my new ability to wake without much trouble before 6:00 am.
At first unsure of what to do with these two extra hours of free time each day I spent the first week or so simply watching the sunrise and scrolling through my Twitter feed. After realizing I could be more productive and make better use of this time, I turned to literature. Within a few days, I had devoured The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and by the end of the month of November had stumbled across amazing literary works such as A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson and Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown.
Taking on a new approach to early mornings I had months before faced with dread, I was, in my mind, a new person. I’d made peace, for the most part, with my summer struggles and was ready to turn the page and face a new chapter of my life.
With new friends, an optimistic mindset and a “kill them with kindness” type of attitude I felt unstoppable. I was on top of the world and ‘pesky’ challenges that had sent me spinning in the past could no longer shake me, I was untouchable. However, little did I know that come winter this attitude would simply prove to be destructive. But at the time I was unaware of this fact and carried on with my life with a strong sense of self and confidence.
To say the least, in my eyes I had a new lease on life and planned to take advantage of it. For the first month or so of autumn, I trained hard and directed all my energy into bettering myself. Almost every week I had some sort of social gathering to attend and when not with friends, I often could be found pursuing one of my latest passions, whether that be photography or carefully manicuring my Tumblr blog’s design and feed to perfection.
Among these new passions and an increase in extracurricular engagement was my now manageable workload. With the aid of a planner and an unrivaled amount of energy, I was invincible. I took on new tasks almost every day, easily filing them away and accomplishing them with ease. I had reached an all-time high in terms of productivity.
With this newfound success, I had a short-lived ‘golden age’. For me, these months were a time of learning, discovery, and growth. I made many new positive memories during this time, one of them taking place on the morning of November 24th, the day of the 26th annual Austin Turkey Trot, a five-mile race in benefit of Caritas, a non-profit organization fighting poverty, homelessness, and hunger.
On that fateful morning in November I barely managed to get out of bed and start my day. After hitting snooze on my alarm roughly five times over the course of twenty minutes I was debating getting out of bed altogether. After having trouble getting out of bed for the past few years on account of my crippling depression, this was one of the first times in a long time in which I failed to start my day due to sheer laziness. I was simply exhausted, and the fact that my room was freezing and my duvet was practically calling my name didn’t seem to help my cause, therefore I couldn’t think of any better of a reason to simply go back to sleep.
However, knowing that I had a responsibility and a promise to uphold, after another 20 minutes I finally managed to get out of bed and start my day.
With a newfound energy, probably on accord of my uneasiness at the thought of running five miles after having done little more than walk around the block to my mailbox each week. With this energy and the clock reminding me that if I didn’t hurry I’d be late, I threw on my favorite, extra warm running leggings, a gray, fleece-lined windbreaker and a comfy t-shirt before joining my father, already dressed and in good spirit, downstairs.
With my racing bib, phone and water bottle in hand I made my way to the car. As we pulled out of the garage I noted that the sky was still dark. Crickets chirped and beside a beautiful sunrise off in the distance, the peace was undisturbed. ESPN radio played softly in the background as early morning sports radio hosts droned on about a football game a couple nights before as we made our way to pick up my friend Khammila who would be running the race with me. Having raced together in the past, I looked forward to once more running together again. Thanks to running together during cross country and keeping a similar pace, we were a good team when it came to anything of the long distance sort.
After making a quick stop for gas and another to pick up Khammila, we once more turned our sights towards downtown. As we drove we passed an assortment of different building–some crumbling, others having not stood in their present spot just a year before. As we neared the location of the starting line I pointed out the building I had worked at as an intern the previous summer as well as different spots to meet up in the case that one of us got separated.
At last, after what felt like an eternity, we reached the barricade blocking cars from the race route. With an hour to kill, we hopped out and set out in search of coffee. After walking in circles for 30 minutes we eventually stumbled upon a hotel and got our morning caffeine fix. After using the bathroom, taking a very brief nap and fueling up, we made our way back to South 1st Street Bridge where the finish and start line were located.
Just in time, we arrived at the starting line, filling in with the group of racers who like ourselves had chosen to forgo the $5 fee to have their race time recorded. As we waited we waved to racers in the timed race group as they passed by, among the group fellow classmates and family friends. As the last racer passed our group sprang to life, the race had begun.
For the first mile or so we were upbeat, practically throwing ourselves with enthusiasm down a sloping road while making small talk and passing by those who chose to take a more relaxed pace. However, as we approached mile two our coffee fervor was long gone and our previously high energy levels had reached a very clear low. Slowing to a jog we took the next mile slow, waving at my father and sister who happened to be working at a water station along the race route.
Turning yet another corner we followed a downhill stretch that provided us with the perfect opportunity to gain momentum. Pushing through the pain that had begun around mile two in my left foot I sped down the road, Khammila close behind. By the time we reached the end of the slope the pain in my foot had subsided to a dull throb. Lost in thought, I almost missed the familiar voice calling out, “Khammila!” from behind us.
I turned just in time to see Andrea, a friend of ours who had attended our school back in middle school, practically sprinting our way. On the brink of giving up by that point, our spirits lifted thanks to the addition of a third member to our group.
After that, the race passed by in the blink of an eye. With a new energy provided by banter and excitement as a result of reuniting with an old friend, the previously grueling task of completing the race became much more tolerable. Almost out of nowhere came the final bend.
With one last push, we made it, crossing the same bridge we’d stood on less than an hour before. Out of breath and aching, we hauled ourselves up a steep hill to the front lawn of the Long Center, where volunteers had laid out a variety of post-race snacks. We each selected a fruit of our choice and treated ourselves to a post-race cookie and a cup of water before saying our final goodbyes as Andrea’s parents came into sight.
Waving goodbye one last time after exchanging contact information Khammila and I made our way to our waiting car. A now livelier bunch than we’d been before the race.
From this day I took away many things. First, I learned, as cheesy as it may sound if you put your mind to something you can accomplish anything. Having never run a five-mile race before and coping with an injury I could’ve very easily given up, but with the proper mindset and determination I was able to complete a challenging task and gain something quite valuable from it.
Additionally, I took away the understanding that things happen for a reason. If we hadn’t have hit that rough patch we would’ve never reunited with an old friend nor made the memories we did that day.
With this take away I moved into the winter months, oblivious to the fact that all good things must come to an end.

When bundled up in a sweater after breathing in the harsh winter air during a long run, the perfect drink to soothe one’s throat while cuddled up indoors with one’s favorite book or furry friend is African nectar tea with a dollop of honey. During the winter of 2016 to 2017, I found myself spending many nights with a cup of tea, a good book, and my thoughts.
The winter months were notably difficult ones. After enduring a long and trying first semester I was happy to settle down and spend my break curled up inside. However after a much-needed rest, just weeks after school started up again and after ringing in the new year with Olivia, things started to pile up and I was once again consumed by an endless list of tasks to complete.
Once more faced with the challenge of balancing my life that had transfixed me at the start of the first semester I was forced to cope. Again, following in my previous footsteps, I fell into a pit of despair. Within weeks the thought of class made me absolutely miserable and I could barely muster enough strength to get myself through each passing day.
With this onset fatigue and fear of burning out, I was at a crossroad. Yes, I wanted to sink further and further into sorrow but I also wanted nothing more than to get out of this slump and carry on with the same enthusiasm I’d had during the fall months. Unsure of where to go from here I remained lost, until a call to action came my way, pulling me out of my slump.
Come January 20th came one of the most impactful events of the season or as I’d consider it now, looking back, my year; one that I will carry with me into my old age, the day of Donald Trump’s Inauguration.
Just days before Trump’s Inauguration a series of texts and messages had circulated my school regarding a walkout in protest of Trump. With some skepticism many students spoke openly, asking around, hoping that one of their peers might be going or that someone would validate their feelings of opposition. While initially, I was hesitant, when the day finally came I walked out of school wholeheartedly, dressed in all black after taking part in a school-wide blackout to show unity and resistance moving forward under Trump’s administration.
The sky was dark as I reluctantly made my way out of bed. I’d spent the night tossing and turning with a mix of excitement and fear, knowing that while I would be standing up for what I believed in the following day there were still unanswered questions regarding what the next four years would hold under the administration of a close-minded, hypocritical president. With a heavy heart and a desire to crawl back into bed I made breakfast, collected my camera as well as a few SD cards, packed a light bag and set out for school, dressed in a harsh shade of black, contrasting the usual plaid and pale blouse I’d worn every day for the past five years.
After a grueling, traffic-filled drive I arrived at school and was met by an outpouring of support. While everyone had their own personal connections and reasons to stand up against hate, we were a united front in the sense that we all shared an empowered stance in knowing that we, as youth, would have the chance to have our voice heard.
As the day progressed students became more and more inspired. By midday, walkout plans were settled and in place and the blackout, arranged by a group of eighth graders, had proved to be a success. When the clock finally struck 3:00 pm I practically sprinted down the stairs alongside fellow students also participating in the walkout.
I was hit by a wave of passion and shock as we made our way out the school’s back doors, I couldn’t believe it, I was actually doing this. Within minutes I and a group of roughly 30 students were far beyond the safety of school’s chain link fences and were making our way down South Lamar Boulevard. After regrouping at Torchy’s Tacos and meeting with the Austin group Immigrant United we continued on our way, with an increased drive and passion thanks to a bullhorn in hand.
After marching for what felt like hours we rounded the corner and turned onto Barton Springs Road. Just a few blocks from our final destination, the group was practically alive with energy. After receiving multiple honks, cheers, and waves of support as we cried out in opposition to the 45th President of the United States, the group was charged with a new sense of purpose. We were one, we were strong, and we were ready to take a stand.
With even higher spirits after a quick detour in which we stopped to grab dinner, we continued on our way and at last made it to our final, much-awaited destination, Auditorium Shores. Immediately we were swept up and embraced by the crowd. Within minutes our group had become one of many in a sea of people; people from different background with different stories and reasons for coming out, all gathered beneath the blazing Texas sun, ready for what lay ahead.
At last, the time came and we began marching once more, our trek far from over. With my friends beside me and an anger towards the United States president within me, I made my way down Congress Avenue, just as I had five short months earlier. However, while the size and spirit was reminiscent of Pride, the fire fueling the crowd was a very different one. Whether it be fear, anger or confusion there was not the same outpouring of love I’d experienced at Pride but rather an outpouring of strength, emotion, and determination in face of the unknown future that lay ahead.
The group once more came to life as we approach the end of the march, only one bridge standing between us and the end of our empowering evening. Before stepping out and finishing the march I pause for a brief second and took in the moment, knowing that it would last in my memory forever. With one final glance at the array of faces and signs bearing clever slogans, I crossed the bridge ahead of me, bringing with me an indescribable sense of pride I would knowingly carry into the trying times ahead.
At last, the march came to an end and I parted ways with my group before heading home, my mind racing, consumed by thoughts of the future. I took a deep breath as the sun set on that day, knowing that while the next four years would test me, that I had a voice and that it would be heard.
With this newfound courage and understanding of the world, I moved into the spring months, now quite a force to be reckoned with.

There’s nothing better than a chilly spring day and nostalgia paired with a cup of warm mint tea and a pastry or two. Over the course of the spring of 2017, I found myself constantly reminiscing over a scalding cup of tea in the presence of close friends while watching raindrops cascade down the windowpane of my new favorite writing spot.
The spring months proved to be tough ones. After barely making it through the first few weeks after returning from spring break I was faced with coming to terms with my mental illness. While I’d shied away from it throughout the year, at times wondering if I’d “made it up for attention” (which I had not), it had reached a point at which I couldn’t continue to let it go unchecked.
So then began the process of falling to pieces, seeking help, getting it and hoping for the best, facing my fair share of arguments with my parents during this time over which treatment plans were realistic or out of the questions, our opinions varying greatly on the matter. But before things hit the fan I did have a few good times. At the start of the month, I had a hopeful outlook and brought with me words of wisdom my grandmother used to say to herself during the annual spring cleaning.
“Out with the old, in with the new,” I told myself upon entering spring, hoping the words would inspire me. However, within a few days I felt this mindset fading and come late March I found myself restless. In some ways, I felt like I was unstoppable. But just like in the summer, every now and then, albeit less frequent at first, negative thoughts and a veil of numbness encased my mind.
Under rainy skies, I became consumed with thoughts of the future. I contemplated various things; subjects varying from where I’d go to college, what tattoo I wanted to get among many other hypothetical, increasingly more extravagant situations. And as these thoughts took shape I began to realize quite a few things.
In the span of a month, I realized that I still had a lot of growing to do. Specifically growth in terms of going outside of my comfort zone. While at this point in time I still had a month or two left before spring’s end, I felt it was important to focus on making a change now rather than in the future. That is why on April 6th I chose to attend an event at the Contemporary Austin Museum for teens interested in art and social justice. Setting off into ‘the unknown’ I went alone, without a plan or a friend to reach out to if I felt myself drowning.
Following the end of the school day after a particularly exhausting day of coding alongside my fellow classmates at an event hosted by Microsoft, I wanted nothing more than to collapse into bed, wrap myself in a cocoon of blankets, and lie there–forgetting how trying my week had been. However, having already told my friend Zoe who helped plan the event that I would attend, I slipped out of my uniform into ripped jeans and a flowy black tank top and made my way downtown, trying not to overthink things too much.
After zigzagging through traffic and receiving some well-meaning but misguided directions from Siri I arrived three minutes late to the event. Thankfully I soon found that I was not alone and joined a group of latecomers.
After signing in, getting a wristband and making awkward small talk in the elevator I arrived at the Moody Rooftop where the event was to be held. I was immediately greeted by my friend Zoe. After saying a quick hello, Zoe rushed off to tend to hungry guests in search of lemonade and “free snow cones” that had been talked up by a person by the name of “AJ”.
Without the presence of Zoe, I felt very alone. This caused me to quickly busy myself, and I soon set my focus on making buttons and creating a journal using tissue paper and a spray bottle that left my hands stained with ink in the days that followed. I worked for what felt like ages, willing myself to make conversation.
However, all that came of this was a quick exchange between myself and a girl sitting across from me about borrowing a stamp which as one might guess wasn’t the most engaging conversation I’d ever had. After failing once more at making small talk I felt a tad bit discouraged as I made my way to the discussion part of the night, located on the second floor.
As I entered the discussion room I was greeted by a few council members who thanked me for coming. I quickly made my way to a seat located in the back of the room and settled in. The discussion began a few minutes later and centered around Donald Trump, missiles in Syria, and the changes and shift in mood that had occurred since election day. After a few failed attempts at speaking, I finally spoke up, although my nerves got the best of me and caused me to trail off during the three times I contributed to the discussion. At last, the discussion came to a close and, leaving with new insight, I made my way back to the rooftop.
When I arrived I was met by blaring music blasting from a set of speakers adjacent to the main stairwell, followed a few minutes later by an announcement for an open mic night. While not up to performing myself, I sat to listen and met a kind, eccentric girl named Beatrice. She went on the stage and performed a spoken word while I took photos in the fading sun of the skyline. When she finished I introduced myself and we sat down at an empty table and put the finishing touches on our journals, talking about poetry and AP classes.
After talking for a few minutes we were soon joined by a girl named Dorothy who had also enjoyed Beatrice’s poetry. The three of us worked on our journals together for the remainder of the night, chatting about finals, poetry and you guessed it, contemporary art. By the end of the evening, I felt more secure, discovering I wasn’t the only one who’d come alone and that those present were accepting and thoughtful.
At last, the night came to a close and we headed our separate ways. In the fading light, I made my way to my father’s car, which was waiting idly a few blocks from the museum. Before stepping into the car I turned around only to see Dorothy heading towards a car parked just a few feet farther down the road. With a goodbye and one last wave, we parted ways, content with the eventful night we’d spent at the museum.
“How’d it go?” my dad asked as I took a seat next to him and turned up the radio.
“Great,” I said smiling to myself. He nodded before hitting the gas and driving off into the night.
As we round the bend, leaving the museum behind us, I was proud of myself. I had learned a valuable lesson. Moving forward, into what would be trying months, I kept the lesson I’d learned that night with me.
That lesson, one I learned from Beatrice, being to always push yourself to go outside of your comfort zone. After a positive experience at the event I realized that while something might be scary at first, you’ll take away something new that no matter how small will change you.

Seeing that you’ve made it this far I’ll make the assumption that you’ve finished reading my piece. That said I’d like to take this time to reflect.
Looking back, I see a shift in myself and sense of worth over the last year. While throughout the last twelve months I grew as a person, in many ways I remained the person I’d been for the most part prior to the summer of 2016.
Over the course of my piece and the time portrayed in it I continued to struggle with my mental health. Starting first in 2013, my mental illness over the years has played a key role in myself, my life and my approach to the world around me. It has caused me to undergo periods of emptiness and lack of motivation and contributed greatly to the times in which I struggled to keep balance, mentioned within my piece during the early months of each semester. Additionally, during these months I remained an open-minded person. While I did gain new insight into the world around me as a result of new experiences, prior to the time mentioned in my piece, I had previous to these events also remained open-minded as a result of surrounding myself with a diverse group of peers. While yes, I had new experiences and was forced to confront my mental illness in new ways, the themes of struggling with a mental illness and being open to new ideas remained consist before, during and after the time in which the collection of stories covers.
Moving into how I changed during these months, I can list an almost infinite number of ways in which I was impacted. First off, I became more outgoing, from having to become proactive in terms of making friends and finding ways to remain social and active while coping with hateful thoughts and struggling to find closure. Additionally, I became a generally wiser person. Going through multiple life-altering experiences over the period of twelve short months I came out as a more thoughtful person. While at first naive and quick to dismiss my problems, by the end of this time I had learned that it is important to listen to your thoughts and to acknowledge your emotions rather than to simply ignore them and sweep them under the rug. Finally, I think the biggest change I underwent was in terms of learning my self-worth. As a result of an increase in free time I found and delved into my passions including photography, writing, and art. Due to this, I came out more appreciative of myself, my abilities and the process I had undergone.
All in all, after these months I emerged stronger than ever. I took steps, not mentioned within these pages towards addressing and getting help with my mental illness and powered through times when all I wanted to do was give up. That said, while I struggled along the way, I do not in any way regret this last year and would not change a thing. I learned many valuable lessons during this time that I will carry with me going forward into the next year of my life.

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