Being in high school is hard in general.

It is even harder when you are trying to figure out who you are, and put yourself out there for others to see.

During high school I spent a lot of time listening to music and singing other people’s songs. I would secretly write songs in my bedroom and go through my feelings by myself – whether it was happiness, sadness, or heartbreak.

I was scared that if I shared my songs with people, they would never be good enough. I was scared people would judge the quality of the songs and not what I was trying to communicate.

For many years, I played songs in a small coffee shop in my hometown. It was my safe space. They knew my coffee order and they encouraged my art. If any place were the right place, it was that one, but I kept my original songs to myself.

Then, one Friday night...

…I went into the shop, took a deep breath and I began to sing.

The first original I performed was called “Old T-shirts.” On the surface, it was about my first high school boyfriend but after many months of singing in my room, it had become more than that. It was about the courage to be honest and vulnerable.

The song was about taking a chance to be me. Maybe my friends wouldn’t understand what I was feeling and they would reject me for that. But they didn’t. When I got off the stage that night, my friends asked me who wrote the song. When I told them it was mine they couldn’t believe it.

My friends – and even my parents – didn’t know I had been writing my own music.

After that night, it felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders.

I felt like the most honest and authentic version of myself.

After I found the courage to put myself out there that first time, my friends and family pushed me to write even more. My relationships with my friends were stronger because I now felt like I could share anything with them.

And at the end of the day, I had given myself an opportunity to be the strongest version of me. The one who loved to write and sing. The one people wanted to listen to. The one who embraced her art, and invited other people to enjoy it along the way.

Putting my true self out there was scary, but once I did my experiences were better because they were shared. It meant even more to know we would be going through everything together.