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Going away to college is a big deal where I come from. Most people who grow up here, never leave. Most people who leave, end up coming back. Today was the first time my group of girlfriends from high school got together this summer and I was dreading the reunion. Why should I have been so concerned about seeing the people I grew up with? I felt crazy. And maybe I am a little bit.

Growing up here means that everyone knows who you are and you are held at the same standard your entire life. People see you as this molding and the idea of breaking that image is unheard of. Therefore, I have always been the quirky, awkward one in my group of friends. I don’t exactly have the best conversation starters and people laugh at my jokes more out of being polite than anything. However, it’s how life had always been and I didn’t really mind. It was who I was and they still loved me for it.

I went to college though three states away from my home state going south while mostly everyone else went more north. I didn’t have any friends from high school at this university and I saw it as my fresh start. Instead of being the quirky, awkward girl, I became the quiet girl. It made life so much easier to just have people think that I didn’t have much to say. If only they knew that I had plenty to say but was too afraid to speak up in case I would embarrass myself just like I did at home.

So for two years, I have developed this new reputation that I have come to really enjoy. I prefer to be quiet so I’m able to hear everything. But today I was so scared to see my old friends because they wouldn’t expect me to be quiet. They would expect the old me. And I didn’t want to go back to that. It made me uncomfortable.

A few hours before I was supposed to leave, my heart began to race, my chest became tight, my head was pounding and I felt like every muscle in my body had stopped working. I was stuck. I never feel as vulnerable and scared as I do during these panics and it is a hopeless feeling. I try to control them but sometimes they just spiral out of control which it did today.

My dad came into my room to find me curled up in a ball and sobbing because I had to go see my friends tonight. People I love! And I was scared. I was anxious and nervous and worried. However, my dad just held me until I stopped crying and told me something very important.

He told me that the words that I don’t say tonight will not be remembered ten years from now. However, the memories I make of enjoying their presence will stick in my head for years to come. He told me that it doesn’t matter if I don’t say anything as long as they see that I care about what they say. They weren’t going to force me to talk because they’ll have plenty to talk about themselves.

He also told me that as important as it is to care for other people and their lives, I must take care of my needs first. I shouldn’t be selfish but I shouldn’t change who I am just to please others. He told me that I was strong enough to stick to my roots and be who I am. Not what someone else tells me or expects me to be.

I’m writing this because I’ve struggled with this for many years. I’ve always looked at myself as I think others see me instead of just looking at myself and being happy with my image. Its a hard road to go down if you aren’t on that journey already. I know I have quite some ways to go.

Remember this though: you are made to be you. Never try to be someone else because that role is already taken. You have a responsibility to play your part and not steal someone else’s lines. Then you just have an awkward silence in the middle of the play where you’re supposed to be. You have a purpose in this world and it is just as important as anyone else’s.

The show must go on!

Keep to your roots,
Southern Charm

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