November is always my favorite month, but this year in particular is spectacular. Not only will I turn 18 (!!) this month, but also, November 8 marked two years that I've been out. With each day, I'm increasingly more happy with my life post-outing.
This week I had the opportunity to attend an inner-city high school in Chicago and speak to their Gay-Straight Alliance about my experiences as a gay man, particularly dealing with coming out and the heaven and hell surrounding that ordeal. It was truly a gratifying experience.
I've talked about coming out before, to many different people, but never in a way where I was sharing it as a learning experience -- it's always been as me telling my story as a personal experience.
This time was different, though. I told it with the hopes that those who were listening would actually be able to take something away from it. Looking back at my coming out is an incredibly emotional experience for me (as I'm sure it is for many). I'm so incredibly proud of the way I dealt with coming out because I feel like it was a large part of the reason I came out on top in the end.
Yes, I often felt miserable during the time I spent dealing with the aftermath of coming out, but I've remained proud of the fact that I never allowed that feeling to consume me.
I said to the high schoolers: I knew I had things I wanted to accomplish, things I wanted to achieve, things I wanted to experience. I knew the only way I could ever get to do any of those things was if I made them happen. I didn't wait around for things to get better for me; I realized that things would only change if I took action to bring about change.
It was important for me to do one thing: know my value as an individual. When I could see that I had things worth sharing with the world, I knew there was no way I could not make sure I was able to somehow make that happen. I am the only person who has to live my life and I don't want to spend all that time unhappy.
My writing is the most personal part of me and coming to journalism school was the one thing I'd been looking forward to for years. I knew I owed it to myself to see myself not only get into school but make it through. Because one day I'm going to do something great that the world is going to want to see and how is that going to happen if I'm a miserable mess?
Like I told them at the high school, no part of the intense satisfaction with my life I feel today would have been possible had I not made it a priority to make myself happy, and that's really all it comes down to. With coming out, I learned that's the most important thing to take away from any challenge. We all deserve to be happy -- so what are you going to do to get what you deserve?