The school that put me together

When I started high school, I expected to leave it having undergone a complete transformation—and I am leaving it having undergone a complete transformation. However, it is not the transformation I was expecting at all. I had been expecting and hoping that I would leave high school with hair that was longer and less poofy and a dress size at least three sizes smaller than what it was. Instead, I am making my departure having undergone a complete mental and spiritual transformation rather than physical.

The small girl who first stepped onto the Apex High School campus as a Target-brand Vans-wearing freshman is not the same girl who will be making her final steps at the school within the next two weeks (this time wearing name-brand Vans, thank you very much). When I started high school, I had no idea who I was. I had talents that I had no clue how to utilize and no vision for myself in the future. One day, I would wear a monogrammed pink shirt with girly sandals, and the next I would wear a dark flannel and Dr. Martens. My half-hearted career choice at the time was interior design, even though I knew writing was my passion. My sense of self was nonexistent, and this was a fact that I knew all-too well at the time. I was a puzzle whose pieces were skewed all over the place.

However, as I spent more time surrounded by the bricks in the courtyard, the colorful senses of humor that belonged to my classmates, and the warm smiles from dozens of teachers, some pieces slowly started coming together. I slowly became more comfortable in my own skin, wearing clothes that made me feel like…me. Gone were the days of basing my outfits off what my sisters wore, and in were the days of wearing what I felt happiest in. The social aspect of my four-year long puzzle took a bit more time. I made my way in and out of friend groups, and shed my fair share of angsty teenage tears because of it along the way. They do always say that you don’t find your true friends until the end, and that was the case for me.

However, what really jumpstarted the establishment of my identity was a class I took sophomore year: Intro to Communications and Mass Media. If I am being honest, I only took it because my good friend told me it was an easy A. I didn’t even know what “Communications and Mass Media” meant. By the end of the first day, I realized it was a journalism class.  As that semester went on, I quickly realized that journalism was a way that I could utilize my passion for writing. I thrived and thrived until Ms. Levine, my teacher at the time, started informing us that Apex High School’s newspaper, the Legacy, was looking for writers. Given how much I had enjoyed writing for Intro to Communications and Mass Media, I simply could not resist applying.

What I did not realize was that it would be during my time as a Legacy writer that I would truly discover who I was. Going into the newspaper class, I had no clue what to expect; however, within a couple weeks, I had found my niche. That classroom was different from any class I had ever been in. The smaller class size and the relationship everyone had with each other made it feel more like a family than a class. Fear of judgment was nonexistent; there was no such thing as a bad article pitch, just one that was missing something, and my Legacy peers never failed to help me find it. It became more than a class to me; it was my safe space, my place where I could really just be myself…it became my second home.

I started Apex High School with no idea of who I was or who I wanted to be. When I thought about it, I had a hard time even envisioning a future for myself at all. I was a puzzle, and I didn’t even know where half of my pieces were. However, my teachers and peers helped me find them, particularly Ms. Levine and Mrs. McGee, who helped me figure out what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing as a career without even realizing it. Four years later, I am no longer that wide-eyed freshman who had no clue where she was going in life. Now, I am a rising freshman at NC State. I am a future journalist. I am Ashton Baysden. Four years ago, I had no clue what that meant. Now, I am a completed puzzle, and I would just like to say thank you to Apex High School and everyone at Legacy for helping put that puzzle together for good.

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