Without my relationships, I would not be who I am today. Everyone says that you make decisions based on your experiences. My experiences just so happen to include a few bad relationships. But without the bad experiences, I would not know just how good I have it now.

I’m lucky to have the parts of family I am still extremely close to because not many people have that. My family is who I am. It’s possible that I could be a completely different person without their influence. Perhaps I never would have been allowed to be my true self.

One such relative who has had a great impact on my life and who I am today is my grandmother, Linda Crowder. Her age is unknown to me because she gives me a different number each time. She has been a second mother to me when my mother had to work long hours to support me and my siblings. I tell my grandmother everything! From school drama to boys. Now, since I’ve graduated, I talk to her a lot about how nervous I am to become an adult.

We have many funny moments like me sitting in the front seat of the car when she’s driving and slap boxing with her in the middle of traffic. Of course, I’m gentle, but I can’t say the same about her. My grandmother has taught me that a person’s good qualities can often outweigh the bad, and I will always love her no matter what.

I am also very dedicated to my close circle of friends. They are everything to me because they give me the confidence I need when I don’t find it within myself.

My friends are a reality show in themselves. I can always count on them to make me laugh even in difficult times, and I try to do the same for them. Siobhan Robinson, 17, has always been a close friend of mine. Our friendship was tested when our class schedules became total opposites. We grew distant. I remember during that time seeing her in the halls, looking upset. I wanted to know what was wrong, though I couldn’t expect her to just open up when we were barely talking at the time. Despite that, she did open up and tell me what was upsetting her. She depended on my loyalty and that I would care. At that moment, I knew I loved and valued her and our friendship because I felt that I would always want to be there for her. And, luckily for me, she is always by my side when I need her to be.

Ilana Hill, 16, is another story. I was forced to befriend her! Not only is she one of my best friends, but she is also my cousin. We tell each other everything, and I can always count on her to keep it confidential. We have had our issues at times, but we always find our way back to each other. She gives me a hard time about my boyfriend, and it can get frustrating. But I realize she is hard on him because she cares about me.

These are the people who make me laugh and cry and experience every other emotion possible, and I couldn’t be more grateful for them.

Jayla Wright is 18 and a lifelong Homestead resident. She will attend Seton Hill University and plans to major in musical performance and something else that she has not decided on yet. She hopes to enter the music business, but, if all fails, she plans to be a novelist.