So much has changed in the years since we left middle school, waving goodbye to the familiarity of the gum-stained, winding paths we found ourselves taking to our daily classes. On the first day of our Freshmen year, we all tried desperately to recall our freshly printed schedules, refusing to peek into our still thinned out binders for fear someone may notice that we do not belong, that we are raw meat, hung for display, just waiting to be pounded into and shipped out to be eaten by the cannibal bullies. We ourselves do not notice this, but deep inside, instilled from birth is a filter and every year as we grow older, that filter grows more brittle and used. It isn’t something that can be bought from a hardware store and replaced. Nothing running internally can be that simple. As we all try so hard to mold into that stereotypical cookie cutter of acceptance, that filter becomes even more tainted and what we do not realize, is that it is connected directly to our heart. I do not mean the blood-pumping heart that keeps us alive, but instead, the one so many people seem to lack nowadays. The one filled with compassion and a love for life and yourself. How can you expect it to do its job of keeping out the rubbish of society when you automatically and whole-heartedly wish to dismiss its good-judgment and welcome the evil into your soul. Why must we wish so desperately to change ourselves for others? Is there something so beneficial in having to work so hard at being something you’re not? Walking swiftly through the commons, clutching your folder tightly to your body and adjusting your walk as you move, you question your every motion. As you pass a group of tightly knitted friends, you notice the circular woven formation their bodies have made, almost like a blockade, keeping out unwanted visitors like you and you cringe as you hear that burbling brook laugh coming from the girl with the waterfall curls on the right as she playfully pushes at a boy who has cracked a witty joke in her expense. Everyone wishes to have this family at school, but why must we pin-point that one particular group, so different from ourselves that we must adapt to fit into it? Friends will come into our lives often and possibly leave a strong or mild impact on them, but what makes them so special, is that they are hand-picked by us. We chose them to be a part of our lives. You only live once, so spend time with those who listen intently when you speak and don’t interrupt. Friends who go out of their way to make kind gestures, only to see you smile and laugh. Friends who will stay with you through thick and thin, but won’t complain or ever make you feel like a burden to them, but instead, an asset because that’s exactly what you are. So, as you maneuver your way through the claustrophobic halls of high school, disregard those closed off groups, for in the end, they won’t be reliable friends. They will kick you to the dirt for something better as soon as you let your guard down, letting your facade melt away like that of a lit candle. High school is just one big cliche. After graduation, you’ll look back and think my oh my now why did that matter so much to me? Because by then, you’ll have found your true self and isn’t that what growing up is all about? Finding yourself and being perfectly content with the person you’ve become? Settle for no less then what makes you genuinely happy and leaves you with an inner warmth that a nice cup of cocoa does, sprinkled with extra chocolate and marshmallows and swirled with a cinnamon stick on a rainy day when you’re stuck inside. Because that’s what friendship is. Even when you’re facing gloom and doom, you still have that peaceful feeling that settles your nerves and lays down the startled hairs that have risen in fright. That reassurance that everything is alright, even when neither of you speak, but just sit in each other’s company. Because in that unspoken silence is a gift so special, you cannot let it go. It’s love. A love for your friend and a love for yourself. It’s being comfortable in your own skin and never second guessing yourself. Love yourself for who you are because you are a unique individual and no one can take that away from you unless you allow it. Don’t let high school rip away your filter. Because that’s what keeps you, you.