When I told myself that leaving San Diego and heading across the country to Atlanta for college was going to be the hardest thing I'd ever do, that was the understatement of the year.

As a kid who followed a fairly unorthodox academic path in terms of moving between schools, I found myself socially behind all of my friends for the first fifteen years of my life. As I finished elementary school at an institution with only 150 kids and walked onto my middle school's campus alone and looked around at the 2400 students, I couldn't help but feel scared. It was like showing up to a party solo an hour before it ends and finding everyone already grouped up and deep into conversation, leaving you wondering why you even bothered coming. It felt like I didn't have a choice though, and I did what I could to keep myself afloat.

It is phases like that where you almost lose all hope. You hold onto that little thread of "I mean maybe things will change soon" just to keep yourself from giving up. And that's really, really tough. From trying to focus your energy on other parts of your life to stress eating the feelings away, the coping mechanisms seem endless. But I've found that no matter what, hard work will always bring good fortune.

To the high school friends who I knew would be worth it the day I met them, who dealt with my overly-passionate music obsession, who taught me not to overthink everything, who wasted hundreds of dollars on gas while driving around with me, who binged on pizza, pools, and Black Mirror with me, who climbed mountains outside concert venues at midnight with me, who teamed up in Spikeball with me, who destroyed the subwoofers in our cars with me, who ignored curfew with me, who didn't raise me but grew with me, failed with me, and graduated with me, thank you doesn't do it justice. You changed my life more than I can describe and I still can't believe I get to call you family. Yes, leaving California was extremely difficult, that'd be difficult for anyone who spent their entire childhood there. But leaving you was harder, and I can only hope that we all find each other again while paving our own paths.

Five years ago I wouldn't have believed it, but there are some people that you will meet in your life that truly change everything. People who make you fall over laughing just by being themselves or make you throw on a wide smile just by looking at you. When people say that only you can create your own happiness, I understand and agree with where they're coming from, but it's the other people in your life that help you discover what happiness means.

To my high school friends, I hope your life gives you everything you wished for and more because I cannot wait to watch you succeed.