Another person that has impacted my life a lot has been my grandpa. He is one of the greatest people I have ever met in my life. We do not always see eye to eye, but I respect him more than any other person. He is fair and good. I want to share the things that he has been through, way he has changed, and the parts he could use some improvement on. Whether I agree with him or not I have learned things that I believe other people would benefit learning about too.
The first time that I really appreciated my grandpa was when I was about eight years old and he suffered a heart attack. That was the moment that I realized that this guy is getting older and he won’t be around forever. After I realized how my life would be different without him, I think I started to do more for him. I would go cut his grass when he needed it and help him out in any way that I could because I never want to look back and regret anything.
My grandpa has always been really old-school and tough. He was hard on my mom when she was growing up. We always laugh because I brough out the soft side of this tough guy. He is someone that I can always talk to and I love to spend time with him. He is actually pretty funny too or at least he can get a little goofy when I’m around. I think that it is so cool that he learned how to loosen up. For example, he taught me how to drive and normally he is the guy that would get all worked up, but we laughed and had such a fun time together.
Now, there is a part of him that is still really old-school and that I do not agree with. He is a little bit on the racist side. That really bothers me especially because I am someone who grew up in the generation that I did. I was raised that we are all equal and that is not something he totally agrees with. I wish he would change. He also thinks that swearing and not praying everyday is bad and I don’t agree with all that either.
I guess the lessons that I learned and the lessons that I was people reading this to take from this is that you can’t change people. People are still good people even if their views don’t line up with yours. If even If someone is wrong, you have to respect them because if you don’t then you’ll be just as bad as them. People that are stuck in their ways don’t open their minds or hearts to other people’s beliefs, but you have to just know yourself. Sometimes it is easier not to yell and fight, but to be the bigger person.


My friend Max is a really big part of my life. I have known him since I was little. He was on my first soccer team and we really got along because we both hated to run and actually play soccer. It was funny. Max has always been the sweetest nicest people ever and he is stronger and braver than any other person I have ever met. And I can confidently say that because Max used to be Madison. He wasn’t Max until my freshman year of college.
When he was Madison, she had a ton of friends, played soccer, and was a part of girl scouts. She seemed like she was fine, like there wasn’t anything wrong. Eventually Madison started to dress more and more like a boy. She said she was gay. Everyone was more than okay with it because we loved her for who she was. I just wish that we knew earlier how unhappy he was when he was her.
Fast forward a few years and Madison came out as transgender. At this point it wasn’t really a shock to us because if I’m being honest, we could all see it coming from a mile away. The transition wasn’t an easy process it was a lot of him mentally and physically. But he was so strong and even though he had to go to a ton of doctor’s appointments and had to go to gender therapy he was excited to see where the road was going because every day he felt more and more like his true self.
I am so proud of Max because he did all of this transitioning without any family support. He only had his friends and it wasn’t easy. My mom is my number one supporter, but I couldn’t imagine going against her. I give max a lot of credit for standing up for himself and staying true to who he really is. It takes a lot of strength to do that and I am so proud of him every day.
Today Max is happy and healthy and so comfortable in his own skin. He is getting top surgery done soon and he is really excited to be able to look and feel comfortable, especially at the pool or other places like that. He loves himself now more than ever. I have learned so much about self-love and self-respect through Max. He teaches us all every day what true confidence is. It is not easy going against your family’s beliefs, but he did it for his own happiness and that is so incredible. I can’t wait to see what the future hold for Max and I will be there the whole time supporting him throughout everything.


Someone else in my life that I think I learned a huge lesson from is this guy named Paul. Paul is the son of my mom’s friend and coworker. I want to share his story because it is beautiful, and there are many different lessons to be learned through it. I think I have only actually met him in person a few times, but my mom has told me all about him. And his mom loves to talk about him to everyone, she’s really proud of him. All the odds were against this one guy and he ended up doing incredible things for himself and others.
When Paul was growing up he didn’t have the easiest childhood. His parents were divorced, and he was raised by him single mom. It was him and his sister. His mom was a fulltime teacher, but she was really sick. She had some sort of infection that would eventually cause her to lose her leg. He had to help her through that which isn’t easy. His sister got into drugs and ended up getting pregnant at a young age. Money was tight and his mom wasn’t going to be able to send him to a good school, so he worked very hard and got a a scholarship to Harvard.
He was going to school to be a doctor. He worked very hard, but he was going to have student loans for the rest of his life with the rest of what the scholarship didn’t cover. Harvard offered him a really good gig. He would spend two years in inner city Chicago and teach elementary school kids. They gave hm an apartment and a stipend to live off of for the duration of his time there. So, he did it and he ended up helping a lot of children that needed it.
After that he spent some time in Africa volunteering. He really changed a lot by being over there. My mom told me the main thing that happened to him and its heartbreaking. I guess that there was this little girl that would come to the village he was in and people used to lay food out for her to eat. Paul asked about her and she had no family, she was probably four years old, and nobody could afford to just take her in. Paul decided he wanted to adopt her and take her back to America with him. He talked to all the right people and it was going to happen, and then the day he was supposed to get her she never came to the village. He waited for days, but villagers said that she most likely died from an animal attack. This was hard for Paul, but it is something that is a harsh reality from other people in other countries.
I think that Paul is someone that I definitely admire in a lot of ways. From the way he takes care of his family and then the way that he takes care of others it is a really good quality to have. He is going to be a great doctor one day and I am so happy to see a good person like that succeed in life. The fact that he gives back all the time is so awesome and other people should take some notes from him. He is so smart and he worked so hard to be where he is today it is so cool to see someone work their butt off and for it to pay off so well.


Another person who has had a very large impact on my life and who has shaped me into the human that I am today is my father. I have mentioned him in previous blog posts, but I never addressed everything that I think I want to. I just want to put it out there that I do not want sympathy. I am happy that I went through a hard divorce because it has taught me so much about what I deserve in life and how strong I really am. I have grown up and I have learned so much from everything and I am grateful for the lessons because I am so much better for it.
My dad wasn’t always a bad guy. Up until I was twelve years old, he was actually pretty amazing. He is a police officer, so I thought he was so cool and brave. We always had so much fun joking around together. I remember watching shark week together every year. When I first started to play soccer, he was such a great support. He always wanted me to do my best so he would help me practice all the time. He even was my soccer coach one year and it was so much fun for us.
To keep it short and sweet, he cheated on my mom. But it wasn’t the cheating that ruined the relationship between us it was all the lying that he did after the cheating. He loved to lie about anything and everything even if it was something so little, he would lie just for the heck of it. I never understood it. He wouldn’t help with my brother at all, he put all that on my mom. He actually put all the hard parts of parenting on her and he just wanted the fun parts, but that’s not how that works. I saw right through everything and eventually after years of trying I kind of just threw my arms in the air and gave up. I was over it.
When something like this happens to someone or a family it is so easy to be full of hate. It is so easy to be angry and honestly, I had every right to be angry. And I was for a really long time. I worked really hard to be where I am today. My family has sacrificed a lot so that I am able to be where I am today, in school, happy, healthy. I am proud of who I turned out to be and I did it without my dad and I am so proud of that.
I think that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. I think that I was dealt the cards that I was because I could take that pain and conquer it. I know what I deserve in life more now than ever. My mom has a really great boyfriend named Brad now and he is amazing. She learned what real love and what she deserves in a relationship too. I couldn’t have done any of this growing without her. I am grateful for my past and so excited for my future especially because of how strong I am now. I guess if I could say one thing to my dad it would just me “thank you.”


I used to be friends with this girl named Alaina. To this day I will say that she is a friend. We have had our ups and down in our friendship to say the least, but in the end if she ever would need anything, I would be there for her. I like to think that she would say the same about me, but, either way it doesn’t affect my views. We have been through a lot together and we have grown a lot as individuals.
Alaina played a huge role in my childhood. Her and her parents were a huge support system to me during my parents’ divorce. Whenever my parents would need to talk about something serious, things that a twelve-year-old should not hear, I would get dropped off or picked up by Alaina and her parents. Her family has taken me on vacation in the past because my mom couldn’t. They helped me live my childhood to its fullest even if it felt like my world was crumbling around me. They always went above and beyond for me and I will forever be grateful for them.
Alaina’s father, Mark, is probably who I am the most grateful for. My dad left when I was 12 and I didn’t have a male role model in my life. I spent so much time at Alaina’s house that her dad basically treated me like I was his own. He was also the coach of me and Alaina’s soccer team. It was nice to see that not all dads were bad at a time when I was young and upset. It almost made it easier for me, instead of losing a father from my life I gained another important father figure. It was a distraction from my reality and I really liked to practice soccer and get my mind off of everything with someone who didn’t ask questions he just spent time making sure I was feeling happy.
Alaina and I eventually grew apart over time unfortunately. It was a very gradual thing, nothing bad happened between us I think that we just grew apart and went our own separate ways. By our senior year of high school Alaina had a boyfriend and I gained an entire group of new friends that I was always with. We never even talked and even in the halls we would just walk past each other which is weird. Then I went to IUP and she went to WVU for college, so we were separated even further. We would never even talk through text or social media it was radio silent for the longest time.
Then, fall semester of our freshman year of college close to winter break Alaina’s mom got very sick. Sadly, she ended up passing away right before Christmas. When this happened, it was so hard for Alaina. They were best friends. I reached out to Alaina and we ended up becoming very close over winter break. I think it was good for her to be around someone so familiar and someone who knew her mom well. We picked up where we left off and I did my best to help her through the difficult time she was going through. That showed me how Alaina will always be someone in my life whether we are close or not. It is a kind of friendship that I wouldn’t trade for the world.


My brother Corey is someone who has changed my life completely. Corey is 22 years old and he is special needs. He has a rare genetic condition and basically, he has the mental capacity of a 6-month year old. But despite all that he goes through on a daily basis he is one of the happiest and loving people on this planet. He teaches me more and more all the time and especially as I get older, I realize the severity of the lessons that I learn from him.
Corey’s syndrome is called Phelan McDermid Syndrome. It is a rare deletion of his 22nd chromosome. Basically, all that means is he is special needs and he is technically. classified under Autism. He cannot talk, he wears diapers, and cannot do everyday things for himself. He must have a caregiver with him 24 hours a day. Normally he had nurses with him because along with his syndrome comes seizures and other medical problems. Corey is very prone to infections and he gets extremely sick very easily.
I can remember when I was little always having nursing staff in my house with us for the majority of my childhood. It was annoying to have them around all the time, but it really helped my mom out. But as time went on and Corey got bigger and stronger it was getting hard to keep him at home with us. My mom ended up putting him in a group home when he was 19. It was hard for us to trust other people with him because my mom knew when things were wrong so easily, but it was just too much to keep doing on her own especially when I would go to college.
Now Corey has been in his group home for 3 years and he loves it! I think that he needed to be on his own, but don’t worry my mom brings him home almost every other weekend. He has amazing roommates that he gets along with that are his age and on his level. He graduated high school last year and “works” now during the day. The staff at his house are the best and love him so much and he loves them. It makes my mom and I really at ease and happy to see him thriving.
I have learned a lot from having a special needs brother. I wanted to go to school to be a special education teacher, but I think it hits too close to home for me. But I really love working with kids like Corey they are so special. It has taught me that you are giving the opportunity to do things that others can’t and you need to act upon that. Not everyone gets to drive a car, or go to school, or make friends the way that typical people do. You have to respect that, and you can’t waist the life that you are giving. If you’re not going to do great things for yourself, then do it for the people that don’t have that choice.


My friend and roommate Annie is the best. Annie is 21 years old and is a senior at IUP. We met my freshman year and we actually did not even like each other at first. We had mutual friends, but when we did not get along a t first. That lasted about a month and then we realized how much we actually do get along. We always joke because some of the best friendships come from left field.
Annie is someone that I think has taught me very needed lessons. She is such a free soul and she is so much fun. She doesn’t take life too seriously and it is so refreshing especially when we are in a point of our lives where we have to grow up fast and start taking things so seriously. She just is a breath of fresh air to me and I love that she is one of my best friends. Annie also gets me on such a new level compared to other people. I like to laugh and have fun and be spontaneous and I know that if I am feeling like that then she’s my go to girl.
Annie is also one of the funniest people I have ever met. She has such a unique and quirky sense of humor. She can always get me to laugh no matter the mood that I am in. We like to binge watch tv together and stay up late laughing and having the best time. I do not think that my college experience would be nearly as fun if she wasn’t a part of it.
I also really admire Annie’s work ethic. She is someone who can sit down and bust out their work in one sitting, and I am like the opposite I need time. She is going to school for elementary education and last year she did her pre student teaching where everyday she had to go into a local school and some days, she had to give lessons. She worked all night on her lesson to make sure they were perfect. This upcoming spring semester she is actually full-blown student teaching. I know shed will do great and the kids are going to love her.
Annie lives really far from me when we aren’t in school, so I guess that’s the only downside to our friendship. I and from Pittsburgh and she lives in Philly, so it is a five-hour drive just to see her. We don’t let the distance affect our friendship, though. We stalk everyday over the phone and we snapchat and text every day. Basically, there isn’t a day without communication. We tell each other everything and I like getting her opinion on things that are happening here. I guess the saying absence makes the heart grow fonder is actually true, or at least it is for us.


My friend Zach has been a very big part of my life whether he knows it or not. He has been very helpful to my mental health and my happiness. Zach always keeps to himself and he always needs his space, but whenever I need him, he is always there for me. He is one of the most talented, caring, and overall amazing people I have ever met. I am so happy to know him and call him one of my best friends.
One of the coolest things about Zach is his passion for art. He goes to school for graphic design and he is so good at everything! He has such a love and a passion for his work it is the coolest thing ever to see. I respect him so much for following his heart and his dream. He is also so creative and it is so amazing to me that he can put his feelings and his emotions into art. To be able to express yourself so naturally and easily and to do it so effortlessly at the same time is so inspiring and I admire that so much about him. His work ethic is unmatched. He is so unique in that way it is just so awesome to see that in someone.
Zach also helped me a lot when I was diagnosed with depression. Zach has had depression for years and his art is the way that he expresses himself. I always knew that he was a sad boy, but I didn’t realize how much he would get upset until I started to relate to him on a different level. I started to ask him about his art and his photography, and he would explain the inspiration to me, and I could really get a better feel of where he was coming from.
When I was diagnosed with depression I didn’t know who else to go to for support. I had a lot of people around me, but Zach would get it firsthand. He was there for me and he helped me to communicate my feelings in ways that I did not think that I could. I would write and talk and express myself in ways that were so easy for me. I found what I liked the way that he found art and it was a really good thing for me.
I will always be friends with Zach, and I will always respect him so much. I am so happy and grateful to have someone in my life that I can always go to with anything and he will always support me and help me. And it is cool to have someone that can help me in ways that others can’t. I am so excited to grow with him and see where his talent gets him because he can do anything, and he deserves to live his dream.


My best friend Kayla is someone who has impacted my life in a huge way. She has always supported me and has always pushed me to follow my dreams. She is one of the best people that I know, and I am so lucky to have someone like her in my life. She has taught me so many different lessons, but the main ones I want to talk about is how she taught me acceptance, honesty, and positivity.
Kayla has taught me about acceptance because of the way she loves everyone she meets. Our mutual friend Max used to be Madison, but he transitioned a few years ago. Kayla never blinked when he told us, and she has been such a support for Max over the years it is amazing. She always stood up for him even when his family didn’t. She always made Max feel loved and accepted and she does that for almost everyone is her life. She makes everyone feel included and happy and loved and I look up to her so much for that.
Another thing that I have learned from my friend Kayla is honesty. Kayla is the type of person that will tell you the honest truth no matter what it is. That is something that I admire because the truth can be hard to tell someone, but she always tells you how it is which is amazing. I know that I can always go to her with any situation and she will be real with me. I respect her so much for always being reliable in that way. I definitely have learned that it isn’t always easy to be honest, but it is the right thing to do always.
The final thing that I want to talk about when it comes to Kayla is her positivity. She always has a smile on her face no matter what is happening. She has taught me that life is too short to get upset by little things and that you have to live everyday to the fullest. She radiates positivity and her smile lights up a room. She is someone that is so contagious that you can’t help but be so happy when you are around her. She makes my days better just by being around her. I hope that I can have that kind of effect on someone because it is the coolest thing in the world.
At the end of the day I am so grateful for her and the friendship that we have. It is something so different than I have ever experienced and I wouldn’t change it for the world. If she was reading this right now, I would want to say thank you for everything. She is the person that will always have my back and I will always have hers. I am just so lucky to have found someone like her so early in my life. I can’t wait to see where this friendship goes in the future and I am so excited to learn more from her.


The first person that has affected my life greatly is my mom. She is the most amazing person I have ever known, and I am so grateful to have her in my life. She is a real-life superwoman. The struggles she has gone through in her life have made her into such a kind-hearted, strong, independent, and all-around incredible person. I respect her and love her more than I can describe. I have learned a lot about who I want to be because of what she has over come in her life. Her story inspires me and pushes me to be a better version of myself every day.
When my mom was just 21 years old, she was in the passenger seat of a car that got hit and ran off of the road by a drunk driver. She was paralyzed from the waist down for a while. She had to re-learn how to walk and do normal things. She was also a really great runner and just like that she wouldn’t be able to do the thing that she loved anymore. She was my age when she had to really grow up and face something so scary, but she was able to overcome it and eventually she got married and had children and got back into a normal life. It is so crazy to think that if she wasn’t as strong as she was her entire life could be so different, and in the end my life would be different.
The next big thing that my mom has over-come in her life is how she handled raising my special needs brother Corey. Corey is one of the sweetest people on this planet, but it is not always easy dealing with a child like him. Corey has a lot of medical issues ranging from seizures to getting so sick he is in a coma for a bit. On top of the medical problems he is just a lot to handle in general. My mom does everything for Corey, and she loves him so much, but the fact that she is so selfless to sacrifice everything for him and me is amazing. She has taken such good care of us over the years and has always made us feel loved and always put us first no matter what.
The third thing that my mom has been through that makes she the strongest woman on the planet is her divorce from my dad. He cheated on her and basically left her with me and my brother. She had to provide for us financially, mentally, and emotionally. She stepped up to the plate to be the best for us and do the work of two parents. She sent me to college, found my brother a permanent home, and continues to make sure that we life a great life no matter what. Her strength and endurance shines through every day. Even her job as a special education teacher shows the type of human she is.
I wanted to share everything my mom went through because it relates back to me. It has made me an honest person and has shown me a new type of respect for others. I continue to learn different lessons from my mom, and I am so grateful for everything that she teaches me. I am so lucky to have such an amazing role model to look up to. I know that anything that I go through in life like the ups and downs I know that she will be there to help me conquer anything and everything. I am truly lucky for my mom and I will forever be grateful for her.