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When I was a freshman in college, I had a pretty tough time making friends. I went to
events, tried to be social in classes, and even reached out to girls on my dorm floor to see if they
wanted to hang out every once in a while…which was terrifying (interacting with new people is
spooky sometimes). It took me a solid couple of years to find a good group of friends to surround
myself with, and I couldn’t be more thankful for them now. I’m also incredibly proud to say that
I have friends that I’ve known since kindergarten who are still by my side. The thing that all of
these beautiful people have in common in my life is pretty simple: they’re all role models to me
in different ways.

My best friends in the entire world came into my life when we were just kids. I grew up
with them, and I’d even go as far to say that they helped raise me. This might seem like I’ve
gone a little too far (I promise I’m not discrediting all of the hard work you did, mom and dad),
but hear me out. The things I went through with these friends were a crucial part of my
development, and I truly and wholeheartedly believe that if I had never met them, I’d be a
completely different – and potentially not as happy – version of myself. My childhood best
friends were actively in my life during my first mental illness diagnoses, my weird teenage years,
and so many other highs and lows that came with becoming who I am today.

The friends I met in college, though they haven’t known me that long, I’m confident will
be in my life for as long as they’ll allow it. I’ve learned so much from the people I’ve met here,
as well as grown up with them in just the last two years. I am beyond lucky to say that the people I surround myself with, both from earlier in my life to now, are the greatest role models I can ask
for. I know my friends are equals to me in almost every sense of the word, but I still look up to
them and seek guidance from them in almost everything I do. Here’s why:

My two best friends from home are some of the most patient people I’ve ever met.
Whether it’s listening to me vent about my reoccurring problems or continuing to be there for me
after I feel like I have nobody left to talk to, they are my rocks. I strive to be as patient as they
are every day.

My friend who lives about five minutes away from me has always dedicated her home as
being a safe space for me. Not once has she ever turned me (or anyone she loves, really) away
from a warm meal, a living room to sleep in, or a shoulder to cry on. She is truly the most
compassionate 21-year-old I know. I strive to be as nurturing as she is every day.

One of my biggest supporters has never once judged me because of my mental health
symptoms. When I’m having a panic attack and I reach out for comfort, he doesn’t tell me to
simply cheer up. He doesn’t just ignore me and plan to check in later to see if I get over it by
myself. Most of the time, he doesn’t understand exactly what is going on, but he still sits by me
and offers support by asking questions. I strive to be as accepting as he is every day.

These are just a few of the most prominent examples in my life. Of course I have other
role models that I don’t really know personally (Amy Poehler if you’re reading this, please be
my friend), but I still am able to see the importance of modeling my life after the incredible
people I get to surround myself with.

If you have friends like these in your life, I encourage you to never let them go. In
addition to this, I hope you are able to continue meeting great influences on your life as you
grow older. As human beings with dreams and ambitions, it only makes sense to totally immerse yourself into your life with people who will do nothing but support you. And at the end of the
day, I hope you find people that will help you be a better you.

I am a senior at MNSU studying Social Work! I have a passion for educating people about self-care and mental health.
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