In August of 2012, I had a life altering and sudden move to Washington from Texas. In a period of less than 2 weeks I left my parents, my friends, and my culture to relocate to cold, rainy Kirkland. My parents thought it might make the transition easier if I made some new friends quickly. They contemplated removing me from the online International Academy that I had attended for the last 5 years to go to a local public high school. Many of my parent's family and friends were pressuring them to give me a “normal life.” They often suggested, in the kind way people who care about you do, that I was missing out by not attending football games, or going out on dates. So I went to 'check out' public high school those first few days of Senior Year! After only a few hours of observation at the school, I gained a new appreciation for my unusual educational background. My K12 online international academy experience allowed me to develop myself and my sense of identity separate from the intense peer pressure and need to conform of a typical high school experience. Everywhere I looked, during my observation time, I saw not compromise or healthy respect for diversity but pressure to submit. Everywhere I looked, I saw pressure to change in accordance to preconceived ideas. This pressure interestingly came not only from students, but from teachers as well. If I had been in that environment for four years perhaps I would not have become the independent person that I am. I may not have had the confidence to take off for Europe on my own, or to take huge risks for my dreams. What I realized in those hours was a previously unrecognized positive that came from sacrificing the ‘normal’ childhood experience. Those few hours gave me a great insight into being proud of being me. That time of getting a taste of 'normal' made me realize what a trivial word that 'normal' really is. It also made me a lifelong advocate of charting your own path and following your dreams. What would I have gained by sacrificing myself and my goals for the ‘normal’ or ‘expected?’ Now when I travel to youth conferences and clinics I talk to young people about finding their passion. I truly believe that life is about living for what makes life worth living and that driving passion may not be the same for everyone; for some it is riding, for some it may be helping others, for some saving the environment and perhaps a million other possibilities. The secret is to find that passion and make your life, not the life others demand from you.