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ANNOYING.

That was the word I wrote across my mask in big blue bold letters.

I remember the first Beauty for Ashes session I attended. We were told to grab a mask and on one side write how we believed others perceived us and on the other side, how we saw ourselves. We were then asked to compare them and although the good outweighed the bad, I couldn’t seem to let go of that brick of a word on the other side. In my mind, I was still annoying.

All my life I’ve found comfort in surrounding myself with others. I was, and still to this day, am enthralled by the lives and stories of others. I always managed to squeeze my way into a multitude of cliques, groups and crews. The moments, while precious and unforgettable, were fleeting. It wasn’t until this past summer, after graduating high school that I began to feel an absence that I realized I felt the whole time.

“Why did people forget me? Where did everyone run off to? Were any of them every truly my friend?” These were the questions that echoed throughout my mind, questions I asked myself every day.

Sharing that moment with the facilitators and the people participating in the seminar wasn’t easy, yet it was the doorway to a new perspective, a self-discovery of sorts.

With an ever growing family of people willing to listen, care and understand and an environment which welcomed expression, thought and question, every session of Beauty for Ashes gave me the strength I never knew I needed. It gave me the support I didn’t know was out there.

Through each phase of the seminar I was discovering a new part of myself. Every meeting I found more and more reasons to love myself for who I was and not for what I believed others thought of me.

Mirrors don’t lie and by the end of the seminar what I saw in the mirror was the person I was this whole time, the only difference between the beginning and the end was that now I could see it.

– Kevin, 19

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