Don’t EVer forget. That you were put on this earth for a reason. And that reason, no matter what it is, means that you are going to influence someone else in some way. It means that you are going to do one small thing. Maybe smile. Or a thousand big things. Maybe building homes. And it will change someone’s life. So if you feel like giving up, remember that there are people out there waiting on you. Depending on you. And if you can’t hold on for yourself, hold on for the people whose lives you will change by not leaving yours.
I was raised in the church. I live in the church and I will die in the church. My church. Mine is one of love, and compassion. Acceptance, and understanding. They do not compromise their beliefs to accommodate others, but will show love to all even when others would not. I was raised in the church, and I abide by their principles. But I do not follow blindly. My identity is in Christ, and through Him I can do anything, be anyone. Within reason. A murderer? Probably not. A politician? Sure. A scientist? If it makes you happy. If it is what I am being called to do, what I am passionate about, what I have a gift for, then not even the sky is the limit. I was raised on the church’s principles, because I was not yet old enough to realize my own. I was taught that we are all sinners by nature, but that God loves us anyway. I was taught that having a relationship with Christ means trying our best not to sin, but accepting that we will. And that we are forgiven when we do. And I was taught that we love the sinners no matter what, because that is the model Christ set for us, and because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But I learned that some people did not take that message entirely to heart. Some people decided that it was up to them to persecute sinners. Some people decided to cast out sinners. Some people decided that all sins were not equal. That some bore more weight than others, even though the Bible says that God will punish all crimes equally, the liar in the same way as the murderer. And in realizing that I am a sinner, I realized that my crimes all weighed the same on my heart. The anxiety of a lie was the same as the depression of my attractions. To women. Of course, I thought that if the church knew, I was done for. I believed the stereotype that all churches were homophobic, even having been raised in the church. My church. My home. I was scared, and fear amplifies worry. I struggled, trying to find a place in the LGBT community, while retaining my place in the church. My church. I decided that I was gay, and the church- my church, my Christian community, my family- would just have to deal with it. That it wasn’t a sin. Some expert must have misinterpreted the Bible along the way. God made me in His image, and loves me no matter what, so why can’t everyone else? Eventually, I realized that it was a sin. It hit me hard. But I also remembered that everyone has a sinful nature. We are all sinners. It is human nature. If I recognize that it is a sin, and actively decide every day to not act on it, I am doing my best. It is the way I was made, make no mistake. This is my struggle in life. It was given to me on purpose, because God knew that I could handle it. Handle myself. Find a way to work this into something manageable. Realize that this is part of my sinful human nature. That I cannot change that. But that I can choose, every day, not to act on it. Because who you are is not a sin, but how you act and who you choose to be can be. I used to try to find my identity in my community, the people around me, myself. I tried to find a way to merge being gay and being a Christian, but you don’t need to merge something that already fits together just fine. You just have to look at it differently. Now I find my identity in Christ. Not myself, not any of my communities. Because He is all I’ll ever need.
(Inspired by the book The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien)
To whom it may (probably does not) concern,
I carry around a lot of things. Some of them weigh more than others. I carry around my backpack with all of my school stuff. I carry my keys with my ID and pepper spray. I carry around my little sister because she’s still co-dependent on other people. I carry around lungs that don’t like to work sometimes and no one knows why. I carry two hearts: one for everyone else in my life, and a tiny heart that is mine and only mine, because it doesn’t like to share or be with others. It doesn’t like to think about itself or love itself as much as the other one loves other people. The other one cares for people day in and day out, asks them how they are doing, but this one is selfish and wallows in its own grief and doesn’t let anything leave. I carry around a brain that doesn’t love itself either; it’s brilliant but it’s self-depreciating and anxious and depressed and I have no clue how to fix it.
But the heaviest things I carry are secrets. I carry secrets that aren’t mine because my conversations with other people are always about them, never about me. I carry my own secrets, too. My anxiety is a secret from most, my depression a secret from all but a select few, and there’s one secret that is known by many, but if my family knew, I don’t know how they would react or what I would do. I carry this secret because I have to; it’s not something I chose. I try to normalize it to myself, but each time I do, someone brings it up and it sounds so weird that i have to poeticize it in my head to make it almost normal again. And it should be normal. Society shouldn’t be so scared of people who are different, and we shouldn’t have to fight for our rights if we’re still human and just as normal as you, but some days I wonder if it would be such a big deal to me if it weren’t as stigmatized as it is right now. I just don’t know how to change my brain, my way of thinking, to tell myself that it is normal, it’s okay, society is the one who’s messed up, not you. I don’t know if I really chose to carry this or I always have been and I just didn’t realize it, or if something in me just changed one day. I don’t know.
Every night before I go to bed, I tell myself that I’m not going to think about it at all the next day, but the next morning it comes up somehow; it’s in my brain when I wake up, or someone says something at school, or about a million other things, but since I started carrying this secret around, I haven’t gone a day without thinking about it. I wish it was normal, and people weren’t turned down from jobs, or glared at on the street, or not allowed to visit their loved ones in the hospital, just because they’re different. If the world was more accepting, maybe i would be writing this letter about something else right now, instead of how generations of people have fought for the right to get married and are still denied that right today, and how much it bothers me that I could be told one day that I can’t marry the woman I love. I wish I could just drop this and not worry about it, but this secret affects me every day, and will probably do so for the rest of my life. Hopefully in a more positive way as time goes on.
This secret that I carry around (that you’ve probably guessed by now) affects my health. I have anxiety because I’m constantly afraid it’s going to be used against me somehow, or that someone who isn’t supposed to know is going to find out. I’m depressed because I want to talk to my mom about this but I can’t because I’m afraid of how she’ll react, and then once I realize that, it will sometimes give me an anxiety attack. It’s a cycle that never ends. It weighs on my mental health, and my emotional health, and sometimes that drains me of my energy and makes me super tired and affects how I go about the rest of my day.
Without this secret of mine though, I’d probably feel stuck for the rest of my life, and really confused, too. I’m sure it would eventually find me again anyways, but some days it feels like I started my midlife crisis at fifteen.
I had my midlife crisis at 15. I realized something that most people don’t until they’re well into their thirties or forties…or ever. I realized that what I had wasn’t true love, wasn’t attraction. It was close to a marriage, true, but only in the sense that it was comfortable, familiar. I realized that I want adventure, I want the real thing. I want passion and fireworks and real, true love. And I’m so lucky to have realized that now instead of when I’m older, because now, I don’t have to turn my life around when I’m forty and settled. I’ll already be where I want to be, with the woman I love. And it’ll be real and true and exciting and genuine and she’ll love me to no end and I’ll love her until my dying breath and beyond and it’ll be wondrous and glorious.
I walked behind her, after class. Balancing on the curb, trying unsuccessfully to occupy my brain with something beside her. As I watched, she stepped onto the curb in front of me, trying – and failing – to get her balance, and we walked, one in front of the other, perfectly in step. One of us seeing the whole world, and one focused on just a fraction of it, but it was the biggest fraction to me. And I realized that maybe letting go is okay, because after all, we’re still perfectly in step.