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I graduated from Mason High School, the largest high school in the state of Ohio, this past spring.

Growing up in the Mason school district, I developed severe anxiety.

This anxiety all stemmed from the idea that I was not good enough.

I attended one of the largest school districts, and the largest high school, in the state of Ohio. This made everything much harder, whether it was competing for class rank or a spot on a sports team. There was so much competition; there was always someone smarter than me, and someone more talented than me. Always. I felt increasingly average, like I had little talent, tiny in the shadow of my peers.

I played softball all growing up, and I was cut from the school softball team. Twice. I got good grades all growing up, and graduated high school proudly with a 4.5 GPA that I had worked my tail off for, only to learn that I didn’t even make the top 10 percent of my class.

Going to Mason High School was really, really hard.

Don’t get me wrong: I was unbelievably blessed to attend Mason; the opportunities present there are like no other school. There are so many incredible teachers, classes, and clubs available to all students. Students are very  prepared for college upon leaving. Unfortunately, however, the teenage years are swamped with the concern that plagues students most: how they stack up to their peers. At Mason, comparing yourself to others can be incredibly disheartening.

It can give you the false sense that you aren’t good enough, smart enough, athletic enough, or talented enough. The truth is, when you compare yourself to the 800+ people in your graduating class, full of diverse talent, it will discourage you.

But, you’re not 800+ people. You’re one person. You’re one person that has unique talents and capabilities of your own, whether you realize it or not. I don’t care if you didn’t get as good of a grade in a class as the person sitting next to you. I guarantee you there is something that you are better than them at; whether it be simply the ability to make people laugh. You know what? The world thrives on laughter. That is so much more important than a grade. Please, know that.

Friday afternoon, I learned that a student at my high school had taken his own life. I did not know him, I did not know anything about him, nor did I know the reason for his suicide, but I cried for him. I cried thinking of the homecomings and the proms that he would miss out on, the nights with his friends, and how he didn’t realize that life is so much more than high school.

I cried because I knew how he might have felt, lost in a giant school with giant expectations. I had felt that way, too.

Due to my anxiety, there were days I simply could not make it to school. There were nights I could not sleep. There were instances where I panicked and blanked out on tests, feeling so much pressure to do well, and I turned in a blank sheet of paper. There were afternoons where I would tear up at practice and break down later because I would push myself and push myself and I still wasn’t where I wanted to be.

It. Was. Hard.

But, you must know you are not alone in this suffering. You must know that high school is only a tiny fraction of your life. You must know that your health is much more important than your performance. You must know that there is so much more to life than what you accomplished (or didn’t accomplish) in high school.

I worked unbelievably hard in high school, and I am proud of that. Will anyone remember, or really care, in ten years? Even in five years? Not really.

People will remember how you made them laugh in a really stressful class. People will remember how you smiled at them in the hall when they were having the worst day of their life. People will remember how you texted them a joke or kind note, simply because you thought of them. People will remember those moments in which they felt you were on their side.

We must work towards seeing each other as teammates, not competitors. High school is hard, and attending Mason can be even harder, but you are all in this together. Lean on each other. Support each other. Love each other. Remind each other that you are, 110 percent, beyond good enough.

It will be hard, but you will finish high school. You will move on, to find out that life gets so much better, and is so much more. Please, help each other get there.

In doing so, we may save a life.

Side note: I saw a link shared today on Facebook, raising a funeral fund for the boy who took his life. You may donate here.

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