Once I was 7 years, my momma told me to get some friends or else I'd be lonely. What I didn't realize was that those people would become family.
I'm not going to lie, I'm the kind of person that gets attached very quickly. If I start watching something on Netflix, I need to binge watch the entire series, which becomes a little complicated when you're balancing your GPA and a social life. I get attached to people in particular. Maybe it comes from being bullied so much growing up, or maybe I'm just a giant teddy bear after all. When people ask me how many friends I have, I tell them I don't have friends, I have a family.
Your family is not defined by blood, it is defined by your bond.
I have relatives that I have no relationship with, and I have relatives who were there for me once, but who I rarely talk to me anymore. These people are not like family to me, I have people who have pulled me out of a million situations where I would've drowned without them.
I love my blood family, and I will never stop championing them for all the things they have done for me, but I can't forget the people who have been there too. When I was 5, I met the kid who became my brother. We both got put in time out because he did something stupid and I laughed. This stint in the slammer was the start of a bond that has stood for 15 years and will stand long after we're both in the ground. Jon has been there for me through the good, the bad, and the dirty, and vice versa. He may be in the Navy and will soon be shipping off to Japan, but he's my brother, and nothing can change that.
When I was in high school, I was told that the students in the applied technology classes were the "bad kids," and I should stay away from them. When I went into my construction class, I learned how wrong they were. Spending 3 hours with people every day for a year forces you to talk to those people. And what I got was some of the most supportive, loving group of people I could've asked for. They may be the first ones to throw jabs at me and even make the occasional joke about my stutter, but they're the first ones ready to fight when anyone else tries to. Money does not buy loyalty.
Camp Shout Out is a camp where youth who have struggled with their speech their entire lives can finally be themselves. A place where we feel at home, a place where we can feel comfortable. If it wasn't for this camp, I don't know where I'd be in life. These people are spread across our great nation, but they're always a text message away. To all young people who are out there struggling with who they are, I promise that you'll find people who are like you, who understand you. When you find those people, never let them go, and never take them for granted.
There are so many people who I want to mention in this article, but I don't have the word count limit to express how much they mean to me nor would you have the patience to read through all those names. If you're one of those people, you know who you are. To you all, I say thank you. Thank you for never leaving, even when things got bad. Thank you for showing love to me, especially when I had none for myself.