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Cohen’s story on fitting in

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Public school

The time in my adolescence when I struggled with something that impacted my mental health and well-being was while I was in public school. Until my younger brother came to the school I was the only visible minority. Though it was great that everyone knew me, it wasn’t like they knew me because I was a nice guy: it was because there was nobody else like me. It had an impact on me that I didn’t realize until I transitioned from public school to junior high. Once again I felt very alone.

Going from grade seven to eight is when things started to improve. Through the extracurricular activities like track and field I was able to meet new people that didn’t go to my school but we interacted together. I started to meet others who went to a school like mine and had similar cultural experiences.

Comfortable in my own skin

Speaking with my family and some of my teammates helped me to get through what I was experiencing. I spoke with older cousins about the scenario and their questions or comments were always positive and helpful.

After I got support, my level of confidence changed majorly. I didn’t feel as if I had to overcompensate by being heard and was able to focus more on my schoolwork. As an adult I feel comfortable in the skin I’m in. Although I notice fairly quickly when I’m the only individual of a diverse background in a group, I don’t feel alone like I did when I was a child.

Being a part of a team

As a teen I found myself in various scenarios where fitting in felt like a challenge but I then remembered how I felt that feeling when I was younger. By the time I was in high school I caught myself becoming the class clown as a way of trying to get through the fitting in challenge I had. By grade ten I realized that there was no need to forcefully fit myself in. Though the make up of my high school life mirrored that of my primary school, I started realizing my want and desire to fit in didn’t have to be so aggressive. The result of taking part in extracurricular sports such as track and football put me in the position of being part of a team.

I think it’s important to talk about this stuff with other guys as support from other guys is part of what helps us grow.