Everyday we’re faced with conflicts in defining who we are. A few years ago, my identity was a big fear of mine. I avoided it, denied it and completely ignored how I felt inside. My heart was pulling me in one direction, while my head was trying to run away from it. There I was, a fragile, broken young girl scared out of her mind on the verge of falling to pieces. I had a voice, but it was muted with doubt and shame. I tried desperately to deny who I was, conflicting with where I belonged and how I’d get by remaining a small fraction of the world. Fear is something all of us struggle with throughout our lives. Fear of regret, abandonment or trust. Of the unknown, change and judgment. In the midst of these, one we shall refrain from is fear of ourselves. Trust me, I look back now and think of all the steps it took to bring me to this very place. So if you are standing where I stood several years ago, do yourself a favor and take a step back from the pressures of life and the stereotypes you may be trying to fit yourself into. If it only feels right for right now, it probably isn’t right at all. Try not to fall short of finding who you are, or where you are meant to be. Discover your purpose in life. It’s quite intimidating, I won’t lie to you. You’re going to make a bunch of mistakes. That’s life. Fear not friends, of the very being that you are. You are uniquely knitted with a significance. Don’t hesitate to do some soul-searching. To some of us, it doesn’t come naturally. Believe it or not, you are not alone. Fear of identity is quite common actually. When you fight so hard to be someone you’re not, it eats away at you, resides within you just waiting to burst. When you force yourself to fit inside a picture-perfect life, it never ends the way you plan it to. Please acknowledge that life isn’t all fairy tales and smiles. Things get tough, but fight through it. If I can, you most certainly can. Put your fear aside, & here we go, walk with me.
If I must break myself down, I’d say the sum of my parts consist of spirituality, individuality and sexuality. Listen closely now, for your walk may be similar to mine and I’d like for you to get all you can out of my excessive rambles. My life has certainly been a roller coaster over the past few years. But if your walk is on a completely different path, try and relate it to your very own life. These are struggles we all encounter as human beings. As I was saying, I am twenty-four years old and I am finally on the right path. Yes, it took me this long. As a young girl, I struggled a lot with my self-image and what people thought of me. I grew up in a diverse neighborhood where for the most part I was friends with all types of people. I was a minority, and that made me different. Most people didn’t care, but others did anything they could to make me feel inferior. A lot of girls from the “in crowd” had me think and believe they were better than me by not even acknowledging my existence. I was struggling with personal issues at home and was thrown into high school without a solid foundation to stand on. When I was 15, my self-esteem hit an all time low. I battled depression, anxiety and self mutilation. I didn’t care anymore because I believed I would never be good enough, so I stopped trying. I contemplated suicide. I knew I was different, so I strived to prove it to my peers by changing my appearance. I went through a “dark phase” as my mom calls it and became completely anti-social. I wore all black clothes, nails and make up which outcasted me because it wasn’t “normal” to my peers. Rumors circulated my school that I had gone crazy and hurt myself to get attention. A girl I had known since elementary school teased me on the bus ride home calling me a “dyke” and “psycho”. I walked home fighting back my tears. To this day, those words resonate a sadness in me. That cruelty existed all around me. I didn’t see myself surviving this, but I did. I picked myself up and slowly started regaining the pieces that had once taken place within me.
That’s when I met her. A girl so incredibly wonderful that made my heart feel whole again. She became to be the best friend I have ever known, and still is. We sat alone together at lunch and got to know each other really well. I told her things I couldn’t share with anyone else. She knew me inside and out, and had the ability to make me forget the world around me. We talked every night until the battery in one of our phones would die. We exchanged notes in between classes that I still have to this day. I started to develop feelings for her, and I thought she might have felt the same. It got more difficult to hide as time went on, but I never told her. I have a tendency to push people away so I fought the feelings and we stopped seeing each other everyday. It made me so upset, I started to feel good about myself again and I threw it away. I couldn’t believe I was falling for my best friend who was a girl! Slowly, I slipped back towards a depression and it brought a lot of pain fighting how I felt. I had trouble sleeping, eating and settled for dating who I thought was right for me: a guy. After high school I learned a lot about myself through the amount of strength I had to endure what I had gone through.
Having no clue what I wanted to make of myself, I enrolled in college. That very same boyfriend of mine broke my heart just shy of four years and I realized how I depended on him so much. It wasn’t healthy to live like that. It secluded me from my family, my friends and ambitions I had made for myself. He distance me from my best friends and the only people I got along with in school. I couldn’t talk to my guy friends I once felt were like brothers to me. Deep down I knew, he wasn’t right for me, but I was scared to leave. Yet again I felt incomplete, empty and literally stumbled to the floor. This is where tough love comes into place because an old friend of mine picked me up, threw me in her car and drove to the only place she thought would help: Church. Back then I laughed at the thought of church, let alone outwardly worshipping God in a room where no one knew me from a hole in the wall. She and I grew up together in the same town, crying over stupid boys and staying up until 3 am talking, laughing and painting. We struggled through similar issues and secretly dated in high school. We feared judgment and faced it head on. She was a very big part of my life then, and to this day I still thank her for bringing me to that saving place. She exposed me to a new world I would have never found on my own and to new friends I would have never made if she hadn’t brought me there. With that I was able to explore a relationship I so desperately needed. Me and God, God and Me. Suddenly, life became clearer. Fresh air was attainable. I could breathe again. Life began making sense. As time went on I continued working on myself and attending church weekly. I had found someone new I was interested in. We worked for the same company and became friends. He was different than the type of guy I would normally go for, but we made it work. Our relationship had ups and downs, but towards the end I felt really alone. I distanced myself from the him before it came to an end. I took a step back and realized that it wasn’t right. Something in my heart just knew. I struggled with my realization for months and was too afraid to speak up. I felt inferior and unheard. My heart bursted with fear and doubts, but I never made him listen because I thought he wouldn’t. Again, I settled for less than I deserved. After we had ended things, I experienced the worst season of sadness and anger. I hated myself for letting it get so bad. Although he was gone, there was a constant reminder of him everywhere I went. I suppose that occurs at the end of every relationship. Mutual friends feel obligated to choose sides and suddenly you get pushed aside. I had a solid community group that reminded me of my worth without a man in my life and I concentrated on God’s promises. More than ever I felt the love of God and support of my family and friends I thought I had lost with my relationship. God had spoken to me and told me I would survive this like I had every other time. That summer changed my life forever. I closed the door to my past and opened a new one. It taught me that I should always trust in Him, that He has a plan for my life. That God shouldn’t be pushed aside until I am struggling, but praised through rain or shine. He makes all things new, and that He did with my heart. So when I say that summer forever changed me, I won’t tell you the journey was easy, it most certainly was anything but that. Waking up every morning I struggled to rise to my feet.
As time passed, it got easier, but I experienced seasons of happiness and sadness. There were times I would wake up and feel great and that night I would cry myself to sleep. Some days were easier than others, but I gained strength through it. I went out and did something I hadn’t done in some time. I experienced life. I rekindled friendships with my old friends. Took late-night adventures and created memories with new friends. But, the holidays came around and I was scared to be alone. I hadn’t been without someone for nearly five years. My biggest fear was that feeling of isolation. I tried to ignore the pressure of school and loneliness caving in on me, but it just left me with anxiety. I felt myself giving in to the pain again and carelessly walking through daily life. I couldn’t sleep, and struggled to stay awake in class. I started drinking regularly and dating people I knew weren’t right for me. I hurt someone with my actions that I never meant to hurt, and I got hurt in return. Every night was spinning out of control.
I secluded myself from everyone except the girl who I knew would always be there for me, so we began talking on a regular basis. I visited her apartment and she’d cook dinner for me and we’d stay up late talking like when we were teenagers. She became my best friend again like we hadn’t missed a few years in between. I learned new things about her I hadn’t known before. We shared a love for God that is rooted within our relationship. We celebrated holidays with each other and got closer than we had ever been before. Through the time we spent apart, we had experienced the trials of life and somehow were simultaneously brought back to one another. We look back at that year now and laugh because although we were great friends again, we spent New Years with two different people who were completely out of our element. With our newly replenished friendship, the same old feelings came over me. This time I was older, wiser and stronger than ever. At first I was hesitant because after the past eight years or so behind us, I feared losing her as a friend again. Then one night when her lips met mine, my heart skipped a beat. It’s still difficult to explain in words how I felt. It was as though mine had been missing hers all along. It felt new, exciting and spontaneous and from then on, I couldn’t get her out of my mind. I couldn’t fight my past or my feelings anymore. The fear disappeared, and that April we embarked on a relationship together. Everything felt so incredibly right between us that a few months in we became engaged. Our families and friends doubted us at first, but that didn’t matter to us. All that mattered was how we felt about each other. Almost a month ago now, we were married in Central Park. We stood beside one another in front of those closest to us and we exchanged vows. Now everyone can see the love we have for one another. The connection between us being so intimately unique that you can feel it yourself when you see us. I pray our story resonates hope within you, that you may learn from my mistakes and embrace new experiences with open arms. At this time I am the happiest I have ever been in my life and I’ve never felt more complete coming home to her loving arms every day. Whether we spend the day together in the park or share dinner after a busy day at work and school, we never run out of things to talk about. I can wholeheartedly tell you she is the best thing that has ever happened to me. She’s been there with me through hell and high water, and I couldn’t be more blessed that she is in this with me forever. Although I find myself to be lucky to have found my soul mate, I struggle with the constant battle between my sexuality and my spirituality. In a world where social media allows us to publicly display our lives for everyone to see, it wasn’t long before I had felt like I’d lost my former Christian friends. Don’t get me wrong, we are still friends, but we have different values and opinions of my lifestyle. I have no rights to deny them of their opinions, but it has deeply effected the context of our friendships. I felt like I had lost friends that had gotten me through that really rough summer just because we had different views. Some who just avoid it and others who refused to accept this part of who I am. When it comes to religion and sexuality, I know that it’s not all I am composed of. God loves me for who I am and I will never lose sight of that. But what I have trouble understanding is why as Christians do we defend our beliefs the way we do. As someone who has become comfortable in my faith and sexuality, I am hesitant to express either side of me in certain environments. I shouldn’t have to. I am not ashamed to be who I really am. Do you think I have come this far to fall short of who I am meant to be? Why can’t I love God AND a wife? I worked way too hard on not letting the opinions of others shape who I am and it’s difficult for me to grasp onto the concept of another human being looking down on me because of who I am married to. Regardless of gender, love is love. We have come so far as a community to accept one another, yet we still experience discrimination. I’m not asking you to become an activist for gay rights, or slap an equality sticker on your car. My request is for mutual respect as a human being. I pray for a future for my children that they may never have to go through what I went through. I will teach them to love everyone without focus on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, etc. Call me a hippie if you will, but with love and acceptance, there will be peace and these wishes are what my heart beats for. Today I hope my lesson to you can result in positivity. If we bring change, we can make change. Don’t let go of that.