Since 2011, I have attended a total of six schools. This means new homes, new friends, and new life experiences. From Billings, Montana to Bellingham, Washington, through these new places, I have been molded into the person I am.

Today I would like to tell of the lessons I have learned through being the "new kid." For each school I have attended, there is a piece of knowledge to be shared.

McKinley Elementary.

First day of Kindergarten

Chloe Delestrez

Being a kid is underrated.

I had attended McKinley Elementary from kindergarten until the middle of my sixth-grade year. McKinley was located in the heart of Billings, Montana. Being a little behind the times, middle school wasn't an option until you became a seventh grader. Back then, the idea of growing up and heading to the "big kid school," was all the rage. Long were the days of hand-holding and guidance of elementary school. We were much too old for that. Sixth grade only enhanced my growing impatience.

My days of elementary school came to an end faster than I had anticipated. A "for sale" sign had invaded our front lawn, where my poorly constructed forts used to reign. The house I once used as my canvas, lacked any sign of my crayon scribbles. Right in front of my eyes, I witnessed my childhood being put into boxes. My only definition of "home" was being altered. I was no longer in familiar territory. Why hadn't school prepared me for this?

McKinley was the foundation for my education. From the way I would read to the way I would write, my skills were being neutered in its environment. I made my first friends during recess and developed my first crush during snack time. If someone didn't like me, a simple "I'm sorry" would cure all. Broken hearts were easily fixed and any scrape would soon become a scab. Children are invincible. As a kid, you never really understand how good you've got it.

I guess I never really considered myself to be the new kid at McKinley, my true lesson came when I left. Looking back, I understand that leaving Montana was a turning point in my development. I had to get out of there sooner than my classmates. It was time for me to welcome the great unknown. Leaving Billings, Montana was my version of growing up. Although sad, I now have a place that will always be considered the root of my childhood.

Lakewood Middle School.

Sometime during the seventh grade.

Chloe Delestrez

Everyone is lost when they are finding themselves.

I started middle school November of my sixth-grade year. This means the incoming sixth graders for that year had already been settled in for two months. Cliques had been formed and lunch tables had been chosen. All of which would remain a consistency throughout my time there. Unfortunately, I was unable to establish myself quite like they had.

Lakewood Middle school, located in the country-side of Arlington, Washington, was a wakeup call. Middle school, in general, is a confusing time. Our minds and bodies are altering, and we just are starting to figure out who we are. I was a little behind the pack. I had never experienced this sensation until this point. No one had prepared me for this new shift in my life. I was the new girl, after all. I had taken the form of a lost mouse in a maze of classrooms: left without a hand to hold or a map to rely on. All I wanted was some form of guidance. The things I swore I was ready for, I realized that I wasn't. My vision remained cloudy, as I had yet to understand who or what I was becoming. I was scared.

The thing is, I wasn't as dazed and confused as I assumed I was. As my sixth-grade year started to progress, so did I. My support system was starting to take shape. I had my parents and my grandparents to walk me through the obstacles I was facing. I had my brother to be silly with while we played "Wii Bowling" in our bedroom. And surprisingly enough, I had friends: Caitey, Annie, Sarah, and many, many people who cared about my existence. I had others in my life who were just as blind as myself, yet they wanted to conquer together. Despite everything we were going through, we wanted to be there for each other.

My time at Lakewood showed me that being lost is a part of growing up. Sometimes you have to lose sight of your path, to understand the different routes available to you. It is OK to not understand where you are going, and it is more than acceptable to explore while you're at it. Life is a journey you don't always need a roadmap for.

Mount Baker Middle School.

First day of eighth grade.

Chloe Delestrez

Being kind will always be "in."

A year later, my dad's job transferred him to a suburb outside of Seattle. Just like my experience at Lakewood, I was starting school smack dab in the middle of my seventh-grade year. I already knew what to expect, and figured that it would take me some time to adapt. Yet, I was dreading every second of being the "new kid," once again.

Mount Baker was like any other middle school in Washington state. With classes and passing periods, like my previous middle school, everyone was just as lost. My first day was full of introductions and of people watching. Being alone wasn't anything new. All that changed during my last class of the day. Sixth period had rolled around, and I was somehow stuck in woodshop. Dreading the semester to come, I plopped myself down at the table, not realizing that someone was right next to me. Little did I know, that person would soon end up being one of my best friends there.

Woodshop was the turning point for me at Mount Baker. I was welcomed with open arms by all. Through that class, I made a bond with five people who hated table saws just as much as I did. We connected over our mutual dread of sixth period. Somehow, this made the experience all the better.

Through this tight-knit group, I found multiple long-lasting friendships. The thing is, these people did not have to be as kind to me as they were. Out of the goodness of their hearts, they allowed me to be one of them. I learned a whole lot through my woodshop experience, none of which had anything to do with wood. I learned what true kindness is. To this day, I thank the universe for this.

Auburn Riverside High School.

Freshman year homecoming.

Chloe Delestrez

You shouldn't have to beg others to love you.

The year was 2014, and I was about to start my very first year of high school. Going into everything, I assumed I would have the "typical" high school experience: filled with parties, and drama, and so many boys. I was determined to make my time in high school the best four years of my life. It didn't quite work out that way.

The summer before my freshman year, I fell hard for the boy next door. The relationship we started to develop was what I had always dreamed of. We would stay up until the break of dawn, pouring our hearts out to each other over text. He attempted to teach me how to skateboard around our worn down little neighborhood. While I would stumble and fall, scrapping my knees violently on the pavement. Looking back, I understand that the dynamic of our "relationship" was impractical. He was sixteen to my fourteen, we were worlds apart. I know that I knew this then, I was just too blindsided to stop myself.

School began in the fall, and whatever we had started to fizzle out. Out of a desperate attempt to keep him around, I asked him to go to homecoming with me. He reluctantly agreed, and the plans were set. Although, that is not exactly what happened.

Homecoming that year, he stood me up. I had received a text the night before saying "maybe next year," no explanation or context, yet I knew what he meant. With those three words, my heart was shattered. How could someone I cared so deeply for do this to me? I didn't know, and I didn't care. After hours of pacing and sobbing, I decided to make the following night an amazing one, despite his selfishness. With the news in the back of my head, I had planned to attend the dance to show him that I didn't need a boy to have fun.

My mom detangled my hair and stuffed my locks into curlers, while I toyed around with the minimal makeup skills I had. With Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself" blasting through my iPod touch's speakers, I began to spin around my bedroom like the princess I knew I was. As time progressed and the dance was an hour away, I headed downstairs to show my parents the finished product. With soft smiles on their faces, they had greeted me with a corsage. It was almost as if they knew the chaos that had happened the night before, but they didn't. They did it out of the kindness of their hearts and the love they had for me. Their small gesture was the foundation to the lesson I would soon learn.

I attended ARHS for only a year of my schooling, but the impact of this message stuck. It took a few more heartbreaks and sleepless nights, but it is now obvious: those who want to love you, will. It is as simple as that. Begging others for their time and affection is a strain on yourself. You can't force people to care about you the way you care for them, that was something that took a lot of strength to learn.

Burlington-Edison High School.

Graduation!

Chloe Delestrez

Those who want to stick around, will.

We moved one last time as a family in 2015. With this, I was able to finish my last three years of high school at B-EHS. The number of lessons learned from the ages of fifteen to eighteen is a lot. I could spend numerous articles talking about the life experiences I acquired within that time frame. Instead, I am going to keep this one a bit broad.

Once settled into our new home, I knew I did not have to proceed with caution. Somewhere deep inside, I knew this would be the last school I would have to adapt to. At least until I attended college. From then on, I decided to open myself up like never before. I joined choir and drama, I even dabbled a bit in softball and my school newspaper. I found people who truly understood me. The environment I was in, allowed growth unlike ever before. The relationships and bonds made at B-E allowed me to become the person I am today. Within every tragedy or triumph I faced, I had a group of individuals to lean on. I finally found my herd.

Graduating from high school was a massive accomplishment. Five homes and five schools later, I was able to wear that cap and gown. I flaunted it. I was a runway model and this was my staple piece. Somehow, I had made it.

The people I have met through my whereabouts have stuck with me. Their lessons and their presences have allowed me to understand the world like never before. Those who remained a constant, even when my location wasn't, are the ones being honored here. Sticking around for a nomad like me, couldn't have been easy. I now have friends in four different counties in Washington.

Those who want to be in your life will make an effort to do so. Despite distance and travel times, the ones who love you will make an effort to be there. I couldn't be any more thankful for those who do.

Western Washington University.

My parents first time visiting me at Western.

Home is wherever you want it to be.

Fall of 2018, I moved to Bellingham, Washington for college. It was the first time in my life where I was packing my bags alone. The move went by problem-free. I even avoided crying when I hugged my family goodbye. This concept wasn't anything new to me. Moving, being the "new kid," and redefining myself has always been in my blood.

Moving house-to-house for the majority of my life made me reevaluate what "home" truly is. I no longer consider a building with framework to be where I find solace. Home is wherever you want it to be. It can be in your car with the bass turned all the way up, or when nestled in the corner of the library with your favorite book. Home is an abstract concept. It is up to you to define how you see it.

Moving to Western really solidified my thoughts on this. I do not consider my little dorm the place where my heart lies. It is nothing more than a shelter from the elements. For myself, I am my home. I am the place where I find the most comfort. Most importantly, I can never be bought or sold. The lease will forever be in my name.