when my parents told me we were moving to Idaho, I was not happy. “I’m going to turn into a hillbilly and no one is going to like me,” I thought. It was hard enough in a class of 80 kids, so I was not excited to be moving into a class of 23 kids. That said, I wasn’t the happiest kid in California. I had a few close friends and great sports teams and coach- es, but sometimes I felt like people didn’t like me for who I was and how I acted. Everyone was the same in California. They all seemed to wear the same clothes, have the same interests, and act all the same. So why would I want to be different? Even though it felt wrong inside, I wanted friends, and I didn’t want to be different. I would try to act like the people around me so I would not be judged. Still, I didn’t want to start over in the middle of middle school. Despite my reservations about moving, before I knew it, we had packed up the car and loaded my pets, two dogs, a bunny, and a hamster and were off to Idaho. While we were driving, I told myself and my parents that I was doing fine and I was going to actually act like my outgoing and loud self. I didn’t want to end up how I was in California, sad and not myself, again. For the first month I was very sad. I get very shy around people I don’t know and stress myself into staying quiet. Also, I didn’t want to make friends when I first came because I wanted to go back to California so badly. Even though I hadn’t been myself there, I still didn’t want to act like myself in Idaho. I was afraid of being judged for being different. Then the winter trip rolled around. Right before the trip my parents tried to persuade me to be myself and make some friends, and on that trip, I became one of the best versions of myself. I was a leader. I may have gotten made fun of for truth or dare, but it felt good to be noticed for once. Everyone was talking and laughing together as if we had known each other forever. I did ASMR with Alex and Izzy, and at one point I was asked to stay up till 1 in the morning to play cards with Alex. We planned it during the whole day hike, talking about eating her shot blocks and protein bars till dawn. That night, we waited for our fellow classmates and teachers to fall asleep, and even though I eventually fell asleep, it felt good to be included. I had finally made a friend who actually wanted to hang out. I was so excited! After this trip I realized I had to be myself because I had nothing to lose. Because of the trips at my school, I have been able to make so many friends. So far I’ve gone on five trips and I haven’t been disappointed with any of them. In Hell’s Canyon, four other classmates and I got pretty tired on the hike, and were considering jumping off Suicide Point (no pun intended!). We became a hiking group, talking and playing games the whole way. Some people got a little salty, and war broke out with a plastic spork, and one angry Ruby. On that trip, I gained my best friend. From finding those Minecraft trees to having sniffling contests and being dare legends, I felt so happy when I got home. In my move to Idaho, not only did I not turn into a hillbilly, I made friends who help me stay grounded in who I really am.
© Mia Hansmeyer. 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.