Junior Tyler O’Connell starts a new chapter of his life at FHC


Tyler (third to the right) and all of his friends from North Carolina

Packing up his bags and moving from Boca Raton, Florida to Wake Forest, North Carolina, and now Grand Rapids, Michigan seems like a lot of change. For Junior Tyler O’Connell, he’s lived in all three locations throughout his life, but for him, moving doesn’t get any easier with time.

“Moving definitely got harder every time,” Tyler said. “Because as I got older, I built friendships that I felt couldn’t be broken.”

Over time, Tyler created lifelong friendships with the people in each state he lived in. Whenever he moved, he had to say goodbye to some of the most important people in his life. But Tyler didn’t want to say goodbye because that felt like closing the book and not starting a new chapter of his life. So, he didn’t say goodbye.

“My last day living in North Carolina,” Tyler recalled, “my best friends and I all went to our lake spot as a last time kind of thing. We stayed out by the lake until three in the morning. We built a fire to sit around, swam for a while, and just enjoyed our last time together for a while. When I was going to say goodbye to them, they told me, ‘This isn’t goodbye but a see you later.’ That memory will stick [with me] forever.”

And although Tyler left North Carolina with good memories and lifelong friends, it almost felt impossible to leave. Leaving behind amazing friends never gets any easier and neither does wondering about what happens next.

Tyler had to move yet again to a completely different state with people he didn’t know, and this is one of the things that has been the hardest to get used to. 

Tyler didn’t want to say goodbye to his friends, and he most certainly didn’t want to lose them. To combat this, Tyler makes an effort every single day to keep in contact with his best friends from past places, and although he may be many miles away now, he keeps the bond with his friends as strong as it might have been before he left. But, it left him wondering if he could create relationships like that here in Michigan. 

That felt like closing the book and not starting a new chapter of his life.”

“Starting a new school with COVID-19 is a lot different than I expected,” Tyler said. “It’s harder to make friends, and being at a new school with this going on just adds more stress.”

COVID-19 has been a key factor that influences Tyler’s experiences in Michigan. With only half of the school coming in at a time and everyone being socially distanced in classrooms, it can be hard to get to know people. 

But Tyler won’t let COVID-19 stop him from keeping in touch with his best friends and also creating new ones at FHC. Along with making new friends, Tyler is excited about something he’s barely experienced.

“I look forward to the snow because I haven’t really experienced much snow in my life,” Tyler explained. 

Living in places where it rarely snows was Tyler’s normal, but now, living in Michigan, he will have to get used to inches of snow, the probable snow days, a white Christmas, and various snowy activities.

“My activities will probably change,” Tyler said. “Because most of the things I did in North Carolina were outside, but because of the cold weather [in Michigan] I won’t be able to do the same activities.”