The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

This is how my nightmare begins.

I’m standing in the heart of a pristine university campus, surrounded by hundreds of teenage girls fidgeting with their luggage. Damp hair sticks to the backs of our necks; we can taste the heat and the salt and the excitement on our tongues. After a rigorous selection process, interviews, and hours of anxious waiting, just standing at Girls State feels like the end of a long journey.

One of the counselors stops me on my way through the check-in and says, "We’re going to have to ask you to take the hat off.” I take off my baseball cap, a pro-LGBT slogan standing proud on the front. "Girls State citizens aren’t allowed to make political statements,” she explains, and ushers me off to my dorm.

When I reach my room, shoving the hat under my duffle bag, it feels like I’m folding myself back into the closet, piece by piece. The hat isn’t just a slogan. It’s about laughing in the face of my oppressors, standing hand in hand with my community, and clutching at pieces of a love I have never felt free to embrace. That hat is how I take my power back.

Sitting in my dorm: alone, hatless, powerless—I give myself a voice in the only way I know how. I decide to write an article for the Girls State Gazette. As...

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