My first birthday away from home was far better than I had expected. In all honesty, I was incredibly nervous coming into it. I felt that those I had connected with here at school couldn't provide the same love and comfort as those I had always celebrated this special day with back home. Boy, was I wrong. It turns out, this birthday has shown me far more than any before.
Today, I learned the importance of being entirely, wholeheartedly, unquestionably comfortable in my own skin I rediscovered the me that has been missing since I ventured into the great unknown that is Waltham, Massachusetts. Without the kind words of those with whom I grew into the man that I am today, I would not have had the same memorable experience that I did on this, my 19th birthday. Words can't convey the gratitude I feel for those who have taken the time and effort to reach out to me with meaningful sentiments of love and gratitude. To feel appreciated for who I've always been has reminded me of the importance of staying true to the man that I was when I left Memphis on August 23rd.
For whatever reason, I haven't at any point felt quite right since arriving at college. Of course, it's a massive transitionary period, one that poses several taxing challenges. That said, I wasn't close to prepared for the trials that lay ahead upon graduating high school. It's taken a great deal of time to settle into a rhythm in which I'm relatively at ease - 'relatively' being the key term. It's difficult to leave home - leave everything you've always known - for an unknown city filled with unfamiliar faces. And, as I've faced these difficulties, I seem to have gotten away from who I've always been. I'm proud to say that who I once was - who I was happy with - has returned to me.
This birthday has been meaningful in so many different ways. For one, the love with which my home friends reached out to me has touched me in an ineffable way. My best friends, my friends, my acquaintances - their efforts to ensure that I felt special today affected me in ways I never knew possible. My family and my informal family, compiled of lifelong friends and caretakers, have reminded me of my roots and inspired me to return to who I once was. My new friends, the people who have made my Brandeis experience what it's been, have given me hope for a bright future - one in which I can act perfectly natural.
It's with utmost sincerity and heartfelt gratitude that I say thank you to each individual who played an integral role in making my birthday experience as memorable as it was. Ironically, I went into my 19th thinking that this year's birthday was insignificant. I couldn't have been more wrong. This birthday has changed the course of the rest of my year, and I fully intend to carry this rediscovered confidence and refreshing momentum into my 20th year of life.
With love, appreciation, and gratitude,