“It’s just a spark, but it’s enough to keep me going.”

Being an only child my entire life has abundantly taught me about who I am as a person, and which people made the largest impact on me. I grew up around a higher ratio of males than females and learned to accommodate their ways of life into mine. I’d learned to view aspects of the world through males’ perspectives early on, which resulted in a deeper understanding of the similarities and differences between them and myself.

Have Your Voice Heard: Become an Odyssey Creator

The primary group of males who had an impact on my life were my cousins. Regardless of how times I played cowboys and Indians, Kim Possible, or some other sort of crime-fighting games growing up, I ended up learning several different methods of self-defense—skills I’m glad they passed on to me. Although I participated in those kinds of games and was always up for a boat ride in the canoe or a hike through the woods, I wasn’t categorized as a “tomboy.” In fact, I had never fallen into any stereotypical group; I roamed among everyone.

After being homeschooled until seventh grade, once I was exposed to public schooling, I embraced all of the opportunities these new faces offered me. I never had just one group I hung out with, the same girls or guys, I seemed to have one friend from multiple different friend groups. It was a factor about myself I’d never noticed; I liked having a little bit of everything—a little bit of every possible perspective.

One of the opportunities I was given was the dependability, the support, and the protectiveness the males in my life provided me. Until my first semester of college, I never realized the full impact these males made in my life. Looking back, I realized some of my strongest support and guidance had come from my best guy friends. They had helped me strengthen and improve my character.

In high school for instance, a time full of awkward emotions and challenging discoveries, I found that at my lowest of lows, I got the best bits of encouragement from those “guy friends” of mine. Sure, some may have found it strange for me to sit at an all-guy lunch table, but it was beneficial—they had become the older brothers I never had. It’s underrated, girl and guy friendships, and it’s a shame all of the positive actions or words of support go unmentioned.

I still remember specific scenarios where I would be having issues with one or some of my girlfriends, and I would receive such intellectual advice from my guy friends that was the solution to my situation. They cut straight to the point—no fluff, no artificiality. It was nice to have reminders of the important factors, rather than getting hung up on the petty ones.

I'd like to thank those friends of mine who: had so much confidence in me as I tried to figure out who I was as a person, assisted me with methods to talk to the boy I had a crush on, reminded me of how I deserved to be treated, informed me that I shouldn’t be someone I’m not despite what others were pressuring me to do/be, encouraged me to face my fears and “just do it" like their latest Nike hoodie encouraged, offered me food (gasp) whenever I was upset about something or in a panic, took time out of their evening to sit with me and discuss what was bothering me if I seemed troubled, had my back whenever I was uncomfortable, taught me deep life lessons I needed to hear when I needed them most, and finally, never judged me and accepted me into their group(s).

Whether it be from high school or from college, these relationships are ones I won’t ever fail to remember. I’m thankful I was lucky enough to get to know such great young men: one of which I’m now able to call my boyfriend.

So yes, I may spend some of my Friday nights eating pizza, watching them play video games, or listening to the in-depth analysis of the latest addition to the Spotify playlist, but in those nights I’ve found that I’m the most content.

To those who have been patient and understanding to me through life’s obstacles: I can never thank you enough for what you’ve taught me.