The following story was submitted by Ellie H. from CYT Sacramento for our 2018 My CYT Story Contest.

When I was in 6th grade, I was a painfully shy kid who had a lot of trouble making friends. All of my friends had been put into different classes than I was in at my school, and most of the clique-y kids were put into my class that year. My school was not the best when it came to a social life and kids being nice to each other. It was really hard for me to connect to the other kids in the class, though it didn’t look like it on the outside. The next year, me and three friends that I had known for years transferred to a different school in the area, where I had to start all over with more new people in the classes that none of my three friends were in. And since it was the first year of middle school where we finally had more than just one class per day, that meant a lot of classes without my friends. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the friends that I already had and I’m still close with them to this day, but classes that they weren’t in were the worst, and I felt completely alone. Making friends at school was even harder than ever.

But 7th grade was also the year I was in my first CYT show. Two of my few friends encouraged me to join them at CYT – they had done shows there before that I had gone to see, and it looked so cool to be able to become an entirely different person. I thought hey, maybe I could do a show there and become an entirely different person. Maybe then it’ll be easier to make friends. My first show was Beauty and the Beast, and I did absolutely terrible at my audition. But the other kids there applauded anyways – more than just “polite applause”. It made absolutely no sense, but it gave me the confidence to talk to a few more people afterwards, and during that show I actually was able to add some more people to my list of friends. This confidence grew with every show, with the applause of the crowd and the encouragement of the directors and family members that came to see the show telling me that I was doing great.

But there was a problem – I couldn’t become a different person offstage. It just wasn’t working, and I still had no clue how to make friends without the plan of entirely changing myself for whichever person I wanted to make friends with. Yet, I had still made friends at CYT. How had that even happened?

It took me a few more classes and shows to realize that I had made so many more friends through CYT without even realizing it. I had always been very slow to add people to my mental list of friends, because I always thought that they probably secretly didn’t like me and were just faking being friendly whenever I came around or joined their conversations. But that wasn’t true. These people at CYT actually did like me, they actually did like to have me around and they weren’t just acting like it. I could hardly believe it.

The newfound self-confidence that came with this growing circle of friends gave me the ability to make friends at my school too outside of the three that I already knew, and I finally didn’t feel alone in my classes. I felt like I finally had the ability to make more friends on my own, instead of relying on my three friends to introduce me to others and hoping desperately that these new people would like me. And now here I am in my junior year of high school, with an amazing circle of friends around me that was made possible by this theater group that I was introduced to so many years ago.

Want to submit your story to the 2018 My CYT Story Competition? Deadline is April 1.

DISCLAIMER: Though all complete stories submitted will be forwarded to their respective area’s leadership for judging as part of the 2018 My CYT Story Competition, not all stories will be published on this blog. Likewise, having your story published on the blog does not guarantee that your story has been selected as a Regional Winner.

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