School is tough and I certainly wouldn't want to go back to my teenage years, trying to fit in and be happy at the same time. I went to an upper school outside of my catchment area and started the school knowing just 3 people. I felt confident going and knew it was the right school for me. A chance to start again, escape some of the people I didn't really want to be with anymore and go to a school where I could start afresh with the added bonus that PE and music were really good.
One day a child in our year looked at me and said "why are you hanging around here?" I started to feel embarrassed and upset but a second later a lovely friend stepped up, put her arm around me and said "because she is my friend". I was unknown and she was popular but it took guts to stick up for me and to choose to do it. Most other people looked away and I understood why as I think I might have done the same in a similar instance.
I vowed at that point onwards I would always stick up for my friends, sometimes I jump the gun before getting the whole story but I always have my friends backs!!
Last week, Freya started her new school and she came home to say she worried that she would get into trouble because she had told some kids to go away when they weren't leaving one of her friends alone. I told her she hadn't done anything wrong and I hope she continues to have the courage to stick up for her friends. It isn't easy and sometimes we can't in the moment, but you can always give that friend a call later to check they are alright and show that you care.
Yes we need to belong to ourselves and feel comfortable within our own skin but there is a wonderful feeling too when you feel loved, cared for and a sense of belonging. Have the courage to give that gift to a friend.