It’s the time of year where students from all over are entering into a new chapter of life: college. It tends to spark conversation amongst my friends and I, as we reminisce about navigating young adulthood; the balancing act of pursuing a major while playing with the new found freedom of independence. It seems as if college was a positive and impactful time for most.
I didn’t share in that experience.
I spent those four years afraid.
I was afraid of my parents. They were very controlling. They threatened to take me out of school if I didn’t give them my Facebook password and told me they would stop helping pay if I didn’t go to therapy weekly. Sophomore year, they had cut off help and I was no longer allowed to come home for holidays. By senior year, I had little to no contact with them, an excruciatingly painful experience. Their threats instilled a deep fear. I was robbed of a supportive relationship with them and was left questioning my every action in hopes they would not be disappointed or upset.
I was afraid of my friends. I attended a conservative university, one that taught a very narrow and specific way to live. I had more progressive views than many of my peers, and constantly felt the inner push and pull of what I believed and what I was surrounded with. I struggled to keep and maintain close relationships with many, afraid that I would be judged, that I would say the wrong thing, or that I would be looked at as lass than.
I was afraid of my college. My alma mater taught purity culture, a way of inducing shame and fear surrounding sex and sexuality. In an environment that preached strongly against same sex relationships, I suppressed the feelings I had, walking around in fear of being found out. I grew ashamed of my actions, and continued to hide and try to ignore my sexuality.
Those years were straight up hard.
We will all experience rough periods in life. In the depths, it can be isolating and painful. But as those experiences fade, we are left with two choices: regret or growth. Regret keeps us stuck, binding us to the past, reminding us to look at our experiences with anger and disappointment. Growth takes those hard times and forms them into periods of learning and self development, helping us to walk into the future without the weight of past pain.
I’ve chosen to look back at those years from a perspective of growth. I learned that family is not always there for you, but there will be support out there. I embraced a worldview that is accepting and open, knowing that everyone is walking a unique path in life. I was able to let go of people’s judgments and stand my ground, accepting my sexuality, apart from shame and guilt.
We can’t always choose what happens to us, but we do have the choice to decide what to do with it.
Which will you choose?