“I’m an absolute disaster, and I love it.”

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Julie Freijat, co-editor in chief

When I think of my freshman year, I see this warped version of myself, with a docile composure and fragile voice staring back at me. Needless to say, things are quite different.

Aside from the messy hair and hoodies, I’ve developed far beyond what I could have even imagined.

It took some time for me to be comfortable with who I actually am. I’d spent so long reaching for this “perfect” version of myself. I straightened my hair, dressed a thousand different uncomfortable ways and held in the words I wanted to say.

I wasn’t the strange, spacey and often loud child I was before. I struggled with my self-esteem. I fell into a pit of depression, anxiety and OCD — a place I am still trying to crawl out of to this day. There are things I have struggled with that I will never be able to talk about — but there are other things I know are crucial to conversing on because it is so vital to my own mental health.

My point in rambling about all of this is that I’m still here. Despite the heartaches, mental breakdowns and sleepless nights, I’m still here — broken, but at the same time, still working.

I am incredibly excited to be leaving next fall for a place I have grown to adore. I feel as though throughout all of high school, I have existed as a fraction of who I am, unable to form a permanent, stable connection with most people. My anxiety crippled me to the point of preventing me from living like a normal adolescent. I was fearful of the future — something I felt was out of my control. I was literally too scared to be a teenager. It’s a blessing and a curse.

It wasn’t until Room 450 greeted me with a warm atmosphere that I felt like I could let go and be myself. Journalism has played a huge role in nurturing my social life — granting me the opportunity to meet and develop friendships with so many different people, and for that I am forever grateful.

I am looking forward to continuing my work in journalism throughout college. I want to indulge myself in the things I love and befriend the people who will understand my occasional absence as much as they enjoy my presence. I want to experience life without drowning myself in medication. I want to be me, unapologetically.

The next four years are probably going to be pretty messy. I’ve learned to accept that my general nature is messy. I’m disorganized, sometimes annoying and have a questionable taste in fashion. I’m not scared of it anymore. I’m an absolute disaster, and I love it.

Love is the one thing that has held me in place. Whether it was being loved, or loving someone else, the experience is enlightening. Let me tell you, there is no insanity like being in love.

I encourage you — whoever is reading this — to love with your whole heart. You don’t have to love everyone. At the least, love yourself.

Without self-love, I’ve lost the one person I can trust more than anyone in my life: me.

High school taught me relationships aren’t always permanent — and you definitely don’t need them to survive. The only constant person in my life is me. And while that’s frightening, it has become a daily reminder to practice self-love.

Truth is, I haven’t changed. I’ve come back home. Back to my slightly insane, laughs-too-loud, eats too fast and hates fish self. And guess what?

I’m still riddled with anxiety.

I’m still bad at math.

I still have frizzy, curly hair.

I still scream and cry. A lot.

And I’m OK with that.

Because, in the end, all I have is the girl I see in the mirror, and I am determined to love her.