I want to be clear that I wasn’t tormented the way children are today — certainly not by my immediate peers anyway. Yet I seemed to be just socially immature enough to receive quizzical expressions from my classmates; expressions that seemed to ask, “Are you for real?” There were moments of blatant teasing, but for the most part, I knew my “coolness” standing by who was willing to play with me at recess or invite me to slumber parties on the weekend. While that group of people changed over the years between 5th grade and graduation, the size of the group was pretty consistent. I felt like I had 5 to 10 good, secret-sharing friends at any given time, a slightly larger group of friends that I would be willing to help if they needed me, though I wasn’t always sure if the sentiment went both ways, a slew of acquaintances that I got along with when we were together at school, and then a few people that didn’t want me in their “cooperative learning group” any more than I wanted to be in theirs. The biggest surprise of Facebook has been that I’ve received friend requests from each category, including a few of the relentless teasers.
As a teen, I battled depression and anxiety for the first time. It got relatively dramatic and resulted in finishing high school a semester early. I wanted to walk with my class in June, though, so I showed up on Graduation Day just like everyone else. A few people apparently thought I’d managed to succeed in my suicide attempt and were surprised to see me there. And THAT is how I left childhood. I was still socially immature, took some weird comfort in the idea that at least someone had noticed my absence, but felt like less than a nobody, because the fact that I was literally still alive seemed to surprise some people.
When you don’t know how to develop emotional maturity, and there is no one to really guide you, it’s a long process. It meant getting out of my hometown and the mold I’d voluntarily let people put me in. It meant making some awesome mistakes and dealing with the consequences. It meant watching friends and acquaintances get their degrees, get married, and start families while I was trying to decide who I could tell that I was bisexual without losing their friendship or love (in the case of family). It meant flip-flopping between which future I should pursue versus the future I wanted to pursue only to figure out that they didn’t have to be separate at all. It meant 3 different community colleges and 3 different universities, each transition feeling like another failure.
Then I came out to my family. I came out to a number of my friends. My partner’s grandmother, whom I’d been living with for 9 years passed away, and almost immediately afterward, my own grandmother passed. Something in that single year (May 2009-April 2010) changed me. I let my partner talk me into finishing our degrees at Oregon State University and all I can say to her is THANK YOU!
Oregon State meant pursuing my interest in math education, getting involved with student government, and discovering that just because I am an only child, doesn’t mean I don’t have an army of sisters who genuinely care about each other and include me in their sisterhood. I learned to recognize and value my natural talent for instruction, particularly technical instruction to those generally adverse to STEM subjects. My eyes were opened to what it means to be privileged as a white woman from a well educated, upper-middle class family. My anger towards injustice focused into ideas to counter it when I could. I became one voice in a choir of strong, brilliant, beautiful inside and out women who are going to change the world in countless ways. I became a woman who has far more than 5 to 10 real, secret-sharing friends and finds turning strangers into acquaintances and friends much less challenging than she did 10 years ago.
So I want to say “Thank you.” Thank you to my readers. As a historical chatter-box with more than a few incoming requests to play the “quiet game”, having people voluntarily check out what I have to say is pretty cool. Thanks to everyone in my past that sent me a Facebook request even though I was sometimes eye-rollingly awkward when you knew me. Thank you to all the adults who always encouraged me to be myself even when I thought that was the worst idea ever. Thank you to my family who have been nothing but supportive regarding my sexuality and thank you for loving Jaina just as much as you would have loved a guy I brought home. Thank you to Jaina’s family for so lovingly opening your arms to me as well. I could not have asked for a better family to “marry” into. Thank you to the Associated Students of Oregon State University and the your leadership teams over the years. You prove that extra-curricular activities can be just as educational as the classroom. To my sisters in Sigma Delta Omega, thank you for creating and maintaining an environment where even a woman like me can feel welcomed, appreciated, and significant. You have no idea how much you’re missed. PPSS.
Mom and Dad, thank you for your love and support, even when I’m sure it was difficult.
Jaina, thank you for taking this journey of life with me. We didn’t expect to be traveling companions, but I can’t imagine this road without you on it, and I’m so excited for the miles to come.
Finally, to the One I belong to: Thank you for your perfect patience with me and steady presence. Even when I didn’t think I could feel you, you were there. You’ve known what I could do and patiently waited for me to discover it in my own time. You’ve led me to all right places, even though I didn’t know I needed to be there and you’ve shown me some of the most amazing people that I didn’t know were missing from my life. I am proud to say that I am finally eager for what you’ve in mind next, rather than terrified that you won’t understand or care what I want to do.
November is the month Americans celebrate the things they are grateful for. If Christmas gets a whole month (4 if you ask the retailers), then a full month of active gratitude is the least I can do in honor of Thanksgiving. (don’t worry, not every post of November is going to be about gratitude and sappy stuff).
- a day of gratitude (dancingquill.wordpress.com)
- A month of gratitude. (debtofgratitude.wordpress.com)
- November Challenge: 30 Days of Gratitude (projectblissful.com)
- A Month of Gratitude, #1 – Plus, A Very Special Announcement!! (thispathlesstraveled.wordpress.com)
- November happenings & NaBloPoMo (jessamyntuttle.com)
- NaBloPoMo – I’m in! (javaj240.wordpress.com)
- NaBloPoMo – Day 1 (donnasfamilylife.wordpress.com)
- NaBloPoMo.. Something a Little Different (theadventuresofcharbar.wordpress.com)
- Gratitude (pattypooh67.wordpress.com)
- Welcome to Gratitude Ambushing! (gratitudeambushing.wordpress.com)