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A Letter to My 16-Year-Old Self

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Courtesy of Greg Louganis

Editor's note: Greg Louganis wrote this post on Feb. 26, when he was in Moscow for the LGBT-affirming Russian Open Games.

A little update from Moscow: We had a bomb threat, so we held our press conference in the parking lot. With that bomb threat we were unable to use the facility for the opening ceremonies for the Russian Open Games, so we proceeded at an undisclosed location, a little later than we anticipated, but with a wonderful energy. There I shared my letter to my 16-year-old self, expressing sentiments that capture why we are here.

Dear 16-year-old Greg,

I know you aren't going to believe me, but life is going to get better, and actually, the darkness and grays you have been living in will pass. Young man, I so desperately want to just hold you. You are a lovely, sensitive, caring young man. I know you don't see that right now, but you are worth more than you know. That feeling of failure will pass, and you will, in time, allow people in instead of pushing everyone away.

You will make lots of mistakes about what "love" is and what you have to offer as a person and human being of value. You will learn your dad really is and was proud of you. He loved you too but didn't know how to show it. You are not going to get the love you want, but you will learn people do the best they can with what they know. You are going to find the love in yourself and learn to forgive yourself and others.

You will forgive Dr. Lee for his reaction to your ninth dive in the Men's 10 Meter Finals. You will, in time, hold that Olympic silver medal with pride -- not for many many years, but you will. You have been rough on your mom, just a few years prior, but you will forgive yourself, and she will teach you she loves you even when you don't love yourself. She will teach you, by example, unconditional love.

There is a man you met in your life that will teach you the meaning of the words "respect" and "trust." He will be your coach. He is a blessing to you to give you proof of love. He will stay by your side when you think no one will. Ron O'Brien will be a love you will learn transcends definition.

You will also understand those confusing feelings you are having about "who you love" or fall in love with. It is your nature to love, and it is just who you are that you love a man. It is OK. You will survive your suicide attempt, and something glorious will happen -- not right away (you will sulk for some time), but you will start questioning why you are here and realize that God doesn't make mistakes.

You will also learn you weren't discarded. You were loved when your natural, biological mom and dad gave you up to foster care and hoped for a better life for you. You will learn what an amazing gift they gave you.

I know you can't imagine living past 30 years, but you will live well beyond that and learn you can love and be loved. Those hurts, bumps and bruises you are going to let go of, and you are going to see them as the blessings of your life. They will teach you compassion and empathy. I can barely write this, as I feel that black hole you feel as "you." You are going to stop judging as others have judged you. You will find you are a brilliant young man, and you will find your voice. It isn't loud and boisterous but honest and true.

I wish I could hold you close to me, but you will be OK, and you are going to stumble and fall down quite a few times, but you will get up -- not right away all the time, but you will! You will face things you could never imagine, but you will love your life and the people in it! I know for all that you need to learn I need to let you go, and in this letter that is what I am doing. I write it out of love, but I know I must let you go as well, set you free -- free to fall, and free to make those choices, to stand again, taller than you were!

I know you will find it hard, but little man, I love you, and I am so, so proud of you.

Love,
Fifty-four-year-old you

We will courageously adapt for those children to be a light for them. "Right" is not always easy. With love we always do better, and as I wrote to the guy from Uganda, "We are all children of God and God doesn't make mistakes, and I am not a mistake, and neither is he, and I am not a God and neither is he." As the pope said about the LGBTI community, "Who am I to judge? We are all children of God."

Namaste,
Greg

Need help? Visit The Trevor Project or call them at 1-866-488-7386. You can also call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.