We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofAnnie Tolan
Last year I had to overcome a huge challenge in my life. In the summer of 2019 I moved from New York, where I had spent my whole life, to Virginia. I remember calling my friends to tell them. The tears in my eyes started to flood and I could see their faces become panicked. When I told them, we all started to cry together. Leaving the friends I've had since elementary school seemed impossible. I was trying to make the most out of my time left at my school and with my friends, but the thought of starting a new school and leaving New York was always on my mind. As time passed, the difficulty of things became more real. Opening brown boxes to store my stuff in became a daily occurrence. As I packed boxes my friends began to collect everything that they had that we shared or that reminded them of me. They came to surprise me and I felt emotional and nostalgic when we were all together to say goodbye. As time began to diminish, the reality of things set in: I was about to not see my friends again for months. I wouldn't be able to experience high school with them or make the memories I was looking forward to making. Getting out of the car to hug them for the last time was probably the most challenging moment of my life. Our tears dripped on each other's shoulders as I held them tight.

The summer ended quickly, and my journey to Virginia was in the making. In the long car ride, I thought of how scary this new place was going to be, and pulling into a new driveway was just the first step. Folding clothes in my closet and hanging things on my wall was the start of a new beginning. Since my mom's new job was at Roanoke College, she connected with people in my grade that I would have to meet. This girl and her family were invited over by my parents, and I had only known them about 30 minutes prior. I wanted to kill my parents at that moment: I had only followed this girl on Instagram! I had no idea who she was. I didn’t want her to come over to my house. Little did I know, one of my best friends walked through that door. She introduced me to new friends, new things, and made my move so much easier.

Soon It became the first day of school. We pulled in closer to the school and I had to walk to my first class. It felt like everyone’s eyes were on me. I had no one to talk to in the hallway. I walked into my first period class and sat in my seat as my teacher called names. I said, “here” in a meek voice. I was totally new so I didn't have a computer or materials that were provided by the school. As the teacher was talking to me, my anxiety increased. I did everything to hold back tears. The rest of the day went on and thankfully I survived. The first weeks were really hard. I barely knew anyone and tried to put myself out there, but for me that's really hard. I started to open up and find myself with some friends. I started to appreciate the change and surroundings around me. I was able to start sports I loved with new people and coaches and also appreciate the beauty of a new state.

Since this crazy, challenging, and scary experience, I have learned to accept change. Even if you're skeptical and are hesitant of something, the outcome can be better than you could have imagined. Without embracing change I wouldn't have the experiences and close friends that have made me into the person I am today.

© Annie Tolan. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.