This past September, I moved across the country during my senior year of high school. With a moment's notice, I left the comfortable and pleasant life I had lived for seventeen years, and was inserted into a new one. It has been a year of growth, memorable times, and new experiences. Although nothing could have prepared me for what was to come, here is what I want to tell my past self...

1. You can’t change who you are

Yes, you can start over. Yes, you can leave the past in the past. But, no, you can’t change who you are. Focus on being your best self, not a different self. You are who you are. A new location won’t change that...but appreciate the clean slate. There are no exes or former best friends here to put a damper on your experience. Take advantage of this. This is a rare opportunity.

2. You will get lost

You will forget where the cafeteria is and where your fourth period class is, and that’s okay. You’ll figure it out. It won’t take long. You’ll make some of your best friends simply by asking for directions.

3. Go to the games

You’ll make friends this way too.

4. Join join join

Join every single club that you can. And then stick with the ones who have people who you like in them. Dropping clubs that don’t work out for you doesn’t make you a quitter. It just means that you’ve figured out what you want.

5. Say yes

Say yes every time when people ask you to hang out with them. You will not regret this. Netflix can (and will) wait.

6. You will find your people

Trust me.

7. But until then...

Don’t be afraid of being alone. It’s better to be alone than with people who you don’t vibe with.

8. Sitting in the library is okay

You will spend some lunches alone in the library. Get ahead on homework. You won’t sit by yourself forever.

9. Good things take time

It may take you a while to be outgoing again. But you will get there. It can be intimidating being surrounded by hundreds (to thousands) of new faces. Naturally, you’re going to act shy. You’ll get out of your shell soon enough, though.

10. Keep your head held high

Stand up straight. Be the confident self that you know you are. If you’re not feeling confident, fake it. No one can tell the difference.

11. Stay Positive

Don’t be bitter that you left your old town. Moving happens. You’ll keep in contact with the friends who matter. Remember that friendship is a two way street. If a friend stops reaching out or replying, cut your losses and focus on other friends.

12. The past is in the past

Limit your “back at home we did things differently” stories. Focus on this home and on making memories in it. Most people won’t care about where you used to live.

13. This is your home

You will question what “home” means. And whether you will ever call this place home. You will. When you make the decision that this place is your home, it will be. You’re allowed to have more than one home.

14. Popularity is irrelevant

Focusing on being in the “popular crowd” will get you nowhere. Focus on finding friends you mesh with. If they’re not “cool” who cares? Soon enough, you’ll realize that popularity is arbitrary and it’s all about the friends who stick with you through the good times and the bad.

15. There will be people who will not like you

And it will hurt. You’ll feel judged and think to yourself, “They don’t even know me, how could they not like me?” Remember this the next time you’re quick to have an opinion of someone simply based on appearances/rumors. Judging people gets you nowhere.

16. People’s opinions of you do not matter

Try really, really hard to not care about what people think. People don’t think.

17. You don’t need new clothes

A lot of the kids are going to wear specific (and often expensive) brands of clothing. You don’t need to wear L.L. Bean Boots or Lululemon Leggings. What you already own is fine. Trust me. Save the money for some donuts. Or for college.

18. Write

You will be so thankful that you kept a journal. You’re going to look back on these first few months for a long time.

19. Everything is temporary

The bad times don’t last forever. Neither do the good times. This is a blessing and a curse.

20. Take deep breaths

You will be fine. I promise.

21. Pay it forward

And when you’re no longer the new kid, be kind to all of the other new kids who transfer to your school. It’s easy to forget how hard to is to be new. It is so hard. Be a friend to them. Give them your cell number and tell them they can text or call you anytime. Be a resource for them. It’s the right thing to do.