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Message to Readers

My final draft for the contest! I did a lot of editing and reworking based on comments I received earlier, so thank you all for giving me the opportunity to fix it up-- and tell my story.

Journey of Tears

September 20, 2019

    “I’ll call you every day,” I vowed, hugging my best friend as I held back my tears, which were threatening to erupt and cascade down my face like a gushing waterfall. Lexi didn’t answer but squeezed me tighter, and we stayed like that for a solid five minutes, wrapped in each other’s arms—hiding from our doomed fate.
    Across the room, a tall boy with chocolate brown eyes watched our embrace. I met his gaze, feeling my heart crumble for what seemed like the millionth time that year as he turned and walked out the band room door. So much for mustering enough courage to talk to him. Then again, it would have been so much more painful had I done so.
    Lexi and I broke apart and I, realizing I was about to be late for the bus, rushed out the door and towards my new life, greeted once more by the familiar Texas heat. The tears I had been struggling with eventually escaped, and I found myself silently weeping as the bus pulled away from the school.
    On the walk home, my friend Ellie joined me. And we were sobbing messes together.  
    Four days later, I landed in dreary Pennsylvania with a bruised soul and a past that I would never be able to dismiss from my mind. A thousand scenarios of what could have happened had I stayed with my friends plagued me and kept me chained in the dark, that recollection of the last day of seventh grade latching onto me with a grip of iron.
I had made connections, and then I lost them. Friendships were forged, then broken. Memories were created—then forgotten. But, amidst this heartache, I learned to get up again. Because in the end, my connections were not lost. My friendships endured on, through hour long phone calls and random texts and Direct Messaging on Instagram. My memories stayed intact as well, not as dusty books shelved in the abandoned library of my brain but as bittersweet movie clips, available whenever and wherever.
    Despite my fear of starting over, of the unknown, I somehow plowed through, because not only did I have those old connections to look back on, but I also created new ones. In seventh grade I cried myself to sleep because I felt so alone—but three years later, at my sixteenth birthday, my tears spilt for a different reason.
    “Just open it!” the girls crowded around me chorused together. There were fifteen of them, all donning a variety of costumes according to the theme of the party: come as your favorite character. I, of course, chose to adorn myself with a TARDIS dress on behalf of my beloved television show, Doctor Who.
    “Okay, okay! Geez,” I responded with a smile, though my mind raced with anticipation. My friends claimed they had saved the best for last, but what could possibly be inside this tiny, pink box?
    I unraveled the bow and pried the present open, my fingers curling over a letter inside. I read the contents aloud, discovering that this gift had once been top secret and nicknamed Operation MSC: Make Sophia Cry. It further explained that for two months, my “favorite people in the world” had been conspiring behind my back on how to make my birthday extra special—and they did this by developing a montage for me.
    The video was twenty minutes long and more than fifteen girls appeared on screen, including teachers, all recalling favorite moments and jokes as well as kind words about me in general.
    So yes, I did cry at the end of the film. The mission had been accomplished. My shoulders hunched over and I covered my face in embarrassment, but it was impossible to swallow down the emotions swirling within me as I was enveloped by a giant hug comprised of a dozen girls.
    A thought occurred to me in that split second.
    Back in seventh grade, I cried myself to sleep because I felt so alone.
    In ninth grade, I wept because I had never felt more loved.
    This out pour of goodness I received on my sixteenth birthday made me realize that whether we like it or not, we’ve all made an impact on each other—that compliment you gave made the girl walk more confidently, that simple hello made the boy smile a little brighter, that small introduction to a stranger became the foundation for a friendship (or, in reverse, that hateful comment you left on Instagram destroyed someone’s self-esteem, your purposeful excluding of the class outcast caused them to doubt their worth). This impact, positive or not, influences our direction in life—our next connection.
    I made connections, and then I lost them. Friendships were forged, then broken. Memories were created—then forgotten. But while I could have chosen to give up on starting over again, I didn’t. I kept fighting. Had my heart hardened from losing friends in Texas, I never would have met the amazing people in Pennsylvania or given them the chance to become my new friends. I never would have experienced so much kindness or compassion. My own impact enhanced my connections and constructed new relationships built on love, kindness, and generosity.
    Humanity has the possibility to light up the night or drown in the darkness. In the grand scheme of things, then, we are stars. Constellations. We’re not scattered randomly. We’re placed in the lives of others to either brighten it or drag it down. The people we leave behind may continue without us, but an echo of our footsteps are imprinted on their hearts forever.

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