In life there are pivotal moments that shape us into who we are today. Below are stories of these pivotal moments shared by the students of Lebanon High School.

“This past year I had a couple of events that sort of collided and caused me to turn to some really bad habits. For about four months I was dating someone who I considered to be my best friend and I thought it was going really well. What I did not see was the constant mental abuse I was going through. My boyfriend would put me down, was overbearing, needed to know where I was all the time, did not want me to spend time with friends, and was never happy for my accomplishments. During that relationship I became convinced that I was a “dumb blonde” because I believed that I could not be both smart and beautiful. My self-esteem was destroyed by this relationship, causing old habits to return. Because I was trying so hard to be pretty and smart for my boyfriend, I began starving myself again, as I had faced bulimia and anorexia during middle school. I also had previously struggled with addiction and in those months of stress I allowed myself to give in. With all of this going on, I was beyond belief and numb to everything around me. I began self-harming as a release. I felt like I deserved it because I was such a screw up. It was not long before my thoughts turned to suicide. Now there are two different mindsets when it comes to suicide. You can either think the world would be better without you and you will not be in pain if you are gone or you can actually begin to plan the how, when and where. My thoughts never reached the point of planning but I truly did not believe I belonged in this world. Then Sydney passed away. She was my age, played the same soccer position as me and was part of my community. I saw all of the pain my friends went through at Western Boone and how hurt our community was. I knew I did not want to put my friends and family though any of that pain so I opened up to my small group at church and was able to start receiving help for the mental issues I was dealing with and during summer church camp I realized how numb and empty I was. I decided to get re-baptized and this was the best moment of my life. I ended the toxic relationship and learned I now have anxiety caused by that relationship. Since then I have been able to work with a counselor, a mentor, friends, and most importantly God. My relationships are rebuilt and are real. I have learned that I can be both smart and beautiful. I have stopped starving myself and have been clean for months. I am genuinely happy and excited about life. That half of a year was extremely difficult and I was in a really dark place, but those events changed me to be who I am now and my heart is full. I am so, so happy.”

“The event that significantly impacted my life would definitely have to be the long and arduous process of coming out. No one really gives you a guidebook on how to come out, like how to tell your family in contrast to how to tell your old 8thgrade teacher. And in embarking on the process coming out as transgender, I realized that there are a lot of people you have to tell. Your family, friends, work, teachers, those you just associate with, it feels like a never-ending process, and it is filled with a lot of fear and uncertainty because you can never quite predict how people are going to react. This significantly impacted my life because quite simply, it saved my life. I am grateful every day for having that second of courage to come out for the first time, for asking for help, because if I did not then I am pretty confident that I would not be here. This event made me stronger, more capable, more self-aware, and just a more empathetic person. It took me almost a year to come out to everyone I know and I questioned my ability to handle it every step of the way, but I am a better person because of that experience.”

“My mother is a single mom with four kids. She works a lot, so growing up with her and my three brothers taught me a lot of responsibility. Because she has to work all the time, I stay home and watch the kids. I feed them and get their things ready for school. It has made me more responsible as well as given me closer relationships with my family.”

“My aunt raised me for the first seven years of my life which has impacted my life a lot. I come from a long line of teen pregnancies. I am the first generation that has stopped it. My mom had me when she was 17 and I am 18 now. She has impacted my life and helped to shape me into the person I am today. It motivates me to know that I am breaking that tradition within my family.”

“When my church and I went on a mission trip to Puerto Rico, we worked with local children who did not know English. It was really humbling and eye opening to understand the differences and similarities from people who we could not communicate with through words and really emphasized the importance of language to me.”

“On March 2, I was in eighth grade taking the ISTEP. We had to go on lockdown, then shortly after we went on lockout. At first, we were told it was just a drill and not to worry. Then I started hearing all the sirens. I texted my dad, who is an officer at the Boone County Sheriff’s Office, asking if everything was okay and where he was. I never got a response. Soon, we got out of that class and were going to the next. One of my close friends came up to me and asked if I had talked to my dad and if he was okay. I said no and asked her why. She told me there was a pursuit and an officer had been shot. The only thing going through my mind was that it was my dad because he wasn’t answering me. However, I had to be mindful that he was in this situation and would not be checking his phone. We continued to class then we had to go hide in the closet. Now my mom was texting me asking if I was okay, how I was doing, and if I needed to come home. She called me as I was in the closet telling me that my sisters fiancé, an LPD officer, heard my dad over the radio and that he was not the officer shot. When we hung up, we got to go out of the closet but we were still on lockdown. The school day went on and I rode the bus home. When I got home, I ran into the house to see my mom crying. She gave me a hug and told me Jake Pickett was the officer shot. Later that night we came together for the officers and their families and I still had not talked to my dad so the first thing I did was run up to him and give him a hug. The day changed my life completely. Now I am so much more appreciative of what I have and I would not trade it for the world. The road to recovery was very long and taking it in as reality was very hard, but the entire community came together as one which helped in so many ways. Also, I am even more protective of what my dad goes into. It was an extremely unfortunate event; however, it brought our community together as one and I could not have been more thankful for that.”

“My cousin was in the car accident with Sydney Foster. Seeing her in the hospital was one of the scariest experiences of my life. The accident showed me that we should not take our lives for granted and hold on to loved ones. Be the first one to text. Call them first. Tell everyone that is important to you that you love them because you never know when the last time you will, will be.”

“Moving to a new country changed my life. I feel that honestly it was a good change. It was something that happened in my life that is a and will be a positive influence on me. I have experienced so many new things and gotten to see and talk to so many more people with diverse backgrounds. I would not trade that event in my life for anything.”

“Nine years ago, I was diagnosed with type one diabetes and then a year later I was diagnosed with asthma. Shortly after that a few illnesses followed. I believe that despite how incredibly difficult it can be at times, it has helped shape me into a strong and more independent person. It has made me who I am today and I would not change it for the world.”

“The day that my dad died completely reshaped my life. He was my best friend and we did everything together. After that I started focusing more on making new friends because I had little to none. Now I have one of the best lives I could have ever imagined. I have so many great, supportive friends who I can always count on. My father’s death brought me even closer to new and amazing people.”

“Growing up, I have always been the one who stuck out in my friend group and family. All of my siblings and friends were skinny, while I have always been a bigger girl. This did not bother me until my brothers would consistently pick on me, and it especially bothered me when my doctor would call it “baby fat” as I was about to enter middle school. I was so frustrated that she tried to make something so problematic seem like nothing. Anyways, as I got taller, the weight pretty much evened itself out, and people had started to compliment me on how thin I looked (weird, huh?). Of course, I loved fitting in and feeling thinner like everyone around me, but it took a lot to lose the insecurities I had been welcomed to as such a little girl. I remember being in 7thgrade having track, softball and basketball practice all in one night, and teaching myself that it was okay to eat less than enough to make a full meal throughout the day. What I felt then was extremely disheartening, and what helped me from there was learning to eat food freely, but with care so that I was not stressing or being reckless with what I ate. My experience with all of this has shaped me today in the sense that I understand health much better than I did previously, and furthermore I no longer compare myself to others, I have learned to love myself the way that I am, and that there are so many aspects to a person that are more important than a number on a scale.”

“I have been very fortunate to be able to travel abroad. I have been to a couple states across the country like Florida, Alabama and Georgia. I have also been able to take a trip overseas to Ireland, which has really shaped me because I had the opportunity to learn about different histories and cultures. It was a truly enlightening experience, and definitely not one that I will forget.”

“I was not close to Sydney Foster personally, but I was close to her boyfriend Kyle and his family. Watching how heartbroken Kyle was after losing the love of his life taught me many things. First, live up every moment you have with the people that God has blessed you with in your life. Second, as hard as life can be there are always beautiful things that can be learned. Lastly, love is the most powerful gift that can be given or received as a human. Sydney was one of the most beautiful girls inside and out. Sadly, she was taken too soon. The bracelet I wear on my arm has the hashtag live like Syd on it. That bracelet and Sydney’s story inspire me every day to be a better person than I was before and to live my life to the fullest and for the glory of God every day! “Keep praying, keep planting, trust God and enjoy life,” are Sydney’s words I remind myself of every day.”

“A couple of years ago, my grandpa was in a work-related accident. All of our extended family came together to see him and having everyone there and seeing everyone so close together taught me not to take anything for granted and to always trust in your family.”

“Over the summer I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Tennessee. While there, I was able to meet all kinds of new people, swim, paintball, etc. Most importantly I had the opportunity to grow in my faith. Working that week gave me the chance to share my love and faith with others. I learned so much about how to go out and “cast a net” and spread the love of God. Coming back from Tennessee, I realized that I had a much bigger purpose. Since then, I have tried to be a better Christian and live my life to be a light for others. I am glad I took the chance and went on that trip so I could be where I am today.”

“When I was a year old my parents divorced and my mom moved to Lebanon. My dad stayed in the town where he grew up which is about an hour North from Lebanon. By the time I was five, moving back and forth between my mom’s house and my dad’s house was normal. Something that I realized the older I got was that although the divorce was normal to me, it took away the emotional attachment that a lot of other kids my age have with their parents. I love both of my parents, but I am used to going long periods of time away from one of them at a time. I also realized the older I got, the more time I missed with my parents; especially my dad. I see my dad four days a month, every other weekend, and it really hurts knowing we are both missing out on each other’s everyday lives. We talk on the phone and text all the time, but that is not the same as being at his house and talking with him face to face. When I was either four or five, my dad met another woman and remarried when I was seven. She had a daughter, and my stepsister and I are very close in age.  Everything was okay and every time I went to his house we always had fun; my stepsister, stepmom and I would make a big bed on the floor out of pillows and blankets and we would watch movies and eat tons of snacks on a Saturday night. But everything changed when I was nine years old.My stepmom changed rapidly. Where she used to treat me like her daughter, she quickly changed to treating me like Cinderella. I endured a lot of emotional and mental abuse from the ages of 9-15. She would call me names, belittle my feelings, shame me for my weight/appearance and she would constantly make me feel like I was not good enough. It was so bad to the point that I memorized the sound of her car engine so when she pulled into the driveway I could either hide in my room, or act like I was doing something so she would not yell at me. She terrorized my life for 6 years. She told me that I ruined their family, I sucked the fun out of everything and that she would rather die than live with me. This abuse created a lot of other problems in my life. I became extremely depressed and anxious, all the time. I was always defensive and I would burst into tears every time someone yelled at me. I began self-harming when I was 12, and that continued until I was 14. Whenever someone asks me why I did it, I do not say that I believed I deserved it. Because in my right mind I know I did not deserve any of that. The reason why I self-harmed is because I was so numb that doing that was the only way I knew I could still feel. My stepmom got extremely sick when I was 14. Even after undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, her cancer continued to spread and, in the end, it took her life. She passed away in the Fall of 2016. Our relationship was never healed, and I live with that reality every day. While dealing with everything within my dad’s house, I was also being bullied at school. I got caught drinking over the summer of my Freshman year, and instead of talking to me about it, people were just talking about it. I would walk through the hallways and hear people whispering about me, or I would walk up to the people I thought were my friends in the lunch line and hear them whispering about me. It was like being in a movie; I would walk into a classroom and it would become completely silent and everyone would turn their heads to look at me. As I walked to find my seat, their eyes would follow me. My entire Sophomore year was absolutely hell. I never felt good enough, and I was always scared to trust someone and have a genuine conversation. I felt as if I did not belong. No one knew why I drank, or what was going on in my life – they just wanted something to gossip about. I drank my Freshman year because I was depressed, and drinking was the only thing, or so I thought, that temporarily took my mind out of the dark places. I was not doing it to be cool or to fit in – I was doing it because I felt that was my only coping mechanism.I started going to counseling and I learned how to process my emotions and communicate without feeling like I had to defend myself. I learned to only trust people who were genuine with their words and their hearts. I learned that my mistakes do not define me; rather it is who I have become that does. I have learned to cherish my life and love the people around me. I have learned to not hold grudges against others because you never know when their last day could be. But most importantly, I found myself. Even though I was hurt, and I changed immensely, I love who I have become. I have never been prouder of myself. I turned my life around for the better, and I would not change a single thing about myself.”

Thank you to those who trusted and shared their stories with The Pennant.