I've come to the realization that when it comes to outside opinions, you never really "win," and boy, this past year has been one for the books. I find myself wondering why I became open about who I am. I know it was to be open with the people I love, to save myself from suicide and to help others, but it feels as if I've stepped out of one closet and into a larger one.
Not only did I come out in February, but I also became very politically active, finished graduate school, traveled the country, met amazing individuals, engaged in countless interviews and more. However, the highlights of 2012 aren't really what strike me as important. Sure, coming out let people know about my sexuality -- but I actually came out as a way to ensure my survival and save my own life. Sure, I traveled the country, became politically active and finished graduate school as a means of educational gain and fulfilling personal purpose -- but behind those actions, I learned most of all that the little things in my life are what build the staircases to events we showcase on our life's highlight reel.
I'm alive at 26 years old, three years out of treatment for an eating disorder and happier than I can ever remember. Still, there are things (communication, letting my guard down, trust, etc.) I've battled in my past that are still ongoing processes. Since my last HuffPost blog post nearly four months ago, I've come to face some very difficult points in my life and have realized how relationships (platonic or otherwise) have the ability to shape the direction we are going -- significantly.
From a political perspective, I am very different from many of my LGBT friends and family. The 2012 election showed me once again that when someone's political views become public knowledge, we are often unable to separate that person's political views from the individual himself or herself. Because I didn't vote for certain candidates, some of my "friends" ostracized me, ridiculed me for "lacking intelligence" and told me that I was working against my own community. However, in hindsight, I appreciate how fortunate I am to know now that if our relationship was based on the simple premise of political ideology, then I'm better off without them anyway. These days, we can almost be too politically correct, even in minor conversations, so much so that Facebook messages, texts and emails are used not as easy communication tools but as double-edged swords. We simply need to learn how to let the small things go.
The phrase "you wouldn't worry so much of what others think if you realized how little they actually do" doesn't seem to soften the internal apprehension. Look, I'm not playing the victim here, but there has to be a point at which a person is able to find solace without having to ignore society's critical voice, by constantly pushing for everything to seem good and right and pretending to always be "fine." Hardcore self-reflection has been one of the best lessons I've learned in 2012.
I've been told I care too little, and that I'm difficult to become close to. I've been told I love too much, and I've been told that I've never really loved in the first place. But ultimately, doesn't that realization and definition belong to me?
I've wondered for a long time if I could model the relationships of the persons who inspire me most. After all, I believe my mother was right when she explained to me that after being terrified, alone and closed-off for so long, I may very well have so much love to give that I'm actually unsure of what to do with it. Besides, relationships with those who identify as LGBT come with stigma -- many in the larger society believe they never pan out or aren't real, or they deem them "insignificant." It's very difficult to fight that stereotype, especially when everything inside you wants you to remain guarded, closed-off and emotionally hidden from others.
When it comes to people on the playground, we often come across those who believe they know it all -- about everyone, everything -- and are never wrong, even when presented with the facts. If there is one thing I have come to understand in recovery and have been reminded of in 2012, it's that we need to be assertive with those closest to us. From being told I enjoy the company of those who hate me more than I hate myself to facing passive-aggressive opinions and stubborn friends, I've seen and heard it all. When I encounter such people, I have to do something I hate: simply "let it go" and view their arrogance as insecurity under the surface. It's probably no more than a shield that covers an inner inferiority complex.
Though it is true that countless factions might be trying to push for the division of people in America and across the world, one question remains: Why are we ignoring the fact that we are here as human beings, not as gays, lesbians, African Americans, short people, tall people, Christians, atheists, Democrats or Republicans but as human beings with a shared purpose? We are here, each one of us, to make our mark on the world, to leave behind something for others to continue, to challenge ideas, to promote education and openness without pulling others down to the place we all are trying to escape from.
I may not speak for many, and perhaps I speak for few. Heck, conceivably I'm just speaking for myself, but as part of a minority, I know the consensus is that we value diversity and the disadvantaged and promote the unique differences between ourselves. That is what makes us an invaluable people.