There’s a part of me that wants to go ahead and tell everyone exactly what they want to hear about these past four years of high school. That it was an amazing period of growth, some of the best years of my life, a place where I could challenge myself, learn and flourish.

And while a lot of that is true, it’s only half of the picture, the half that most people prefer to hear about. Why? Because nobody wants to dwell on the all nighters they had to pull in order to ace exams, the awkwardness they felt in stepping out of their comfort zone to try new things, the friends that they simply lost touch with over the years. It’s this, the messy stuff of high school, that gets swept under the rug.

But all of it, the good, the bad, even the downright ugly, makes up reality.

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During my time at New Providence High School, I’ve gone through it all; from moments of feeling as though I was on top of the world, to having to start from scratch after hitting rock bottom. Oddly enough however, it’s these experiences that have left me with some of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned throughout the course of my education. Learning to deal with difficult situations, picking myself back up, and slowly learning to have faith in myself, is what has made me who I am today.

In that sense, I’m thankful to have attended school in New Providence, because yes, the community is wonderful and supportive, the classes engaging, the teachers passionate. But make no mistake – it’s not a place where anybody is spoon-fed or served on a silver platter. No, to find success here, you have to work for it, move out of your comfort zone a little, truly push yourself to achieve your full potential. In the words of an old teacher who summed it up quite eloquently: you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable in order to find success.

And that, perhaps, is the greatest lesson I’ve taken away from this school. It’s what’s pushed me to explore more in life, from the little things, like auditioning and performing in my very first musical this past spring, to big life changes, as I prepare to start college across the country in California. It’s made me more conscious, more daring, in the decisions I make every day. It’s made me want to explore deeper, to run faster, to stretch farther, to love harder, to want, to hope, to dream.

And for that, I am forever grateful.