I went my first Pride last weekend with my friend, Amara, from Dickinson and her high school friend, Bradley.

Coming from Boston, I have always wanted to go to a Pride knowing both social significance and the general fun of the event. I used to think that Pride was simply an event calling for support and awareness for the LGBTQ community. Of course, that was its original intention. Nowadays, Pride has expanded beyond its original agenda and become a celebration of all beauty in life: What we love and who we are.

Dress in whatever clothes that you want, sing whatever tune your heart desires, and cheer for whatever that catches your eye. Be proud of who you are. Show the world your pride.

When I was in elementary school, kids would make fun of my weight and outfits, which over time made me very self-conscious about the way I presented myself to others. I would get so scared to upset anyone or lose any friends that I’d buy gifts to “woo” people. I didn’t know how to stand up for myself or others. I thought I was always wrong because I ate too much or didn’t catch up with the fashion trends.

Looking back, I really just want to give the old, little me a hug and slap her really hard. Come on, Julie. You might be Angelina Jolie, but you’re beautiful. You are smart. And you will never, ever give in to those who have to intimate others in order to feel strong. You are always stronger and bigger than them.

Be proud of who you are.