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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Retrospection: Adolescence

As I got to high school I was able to investigate and pursue my own interests more fully. I had been in choir and drama a bit in junior high, and so my first year in high school I latched right on to the choir. I even auditioned and was accepted into the higher combined choir. I loved singing, and the people in choir and drama were much more accepting than those in other areas.

I avoided gym like the plague. I even took an online gym class, just to avoid being in that environment. Insecure jocks seemed to have an instinctive ability to find the more sensitive guys and make their lives miserable. The psychologist in me believes that it is because of personal insecurity, but who knows?

I also began pursuing creative writing. Writing was something that I had discovered in elementary. I had never imagined that those make-believe worlds I loved to play in could be written down in incredible detail and saved for later. I loved it.

I remember one day when my cousin showed me a short story another girl had written. It was scrawled in some random gel-pen color (I was part of the short gel-pen fad that went through some elementary schools). But it was a romance story. And although I was a boy, I was enthralled by it. I had no idea that such a thing could be written. And I realized that I could do that very thing. I wrote many of my own little romances, and they progressed as I got older, moving from lined paper and pen to computer files. My little brother and sister have inherited my old computers, and they loved finding old things that I'd written and lost. My little sister especially loves the romance stories that she finds. Personally, it makes me anxious, because I can't remember what kind of stories have been saved on those computers! Also, those stories were never meant for anyone else. They were mine and mine alone.

I took a creative writing class my first year in high school. Looking back, my teacher was as batty as they get, but she raved over everything we wrote, and I guess more than giving us a critical opinion on our writing, she fostered a love of writing within us. I don't know if that's what she meant to do, but it certainly worked for me. As I went through high school other students mocked her for her absent-mindedness, but I never could. She had a good heart, and she loved writing as much as I did. And that was all that mattered.

As for my attraction, high school simply exacerbated it. Boys were getting better looking, gaining muscle mass (another reason I didn't like gym. I liked looking at the boys, and it made me feel incredibly guilty). I wasn't the only one struggling with feelings I didn't understand, though. I remember overhearing a conversation between a boy from my choir class with another friend, and just from the small bit I heard I could tell that he was struggling with being gay. He was almost five years ahead of me on that one. I hadn't even admitted it to myself yet. But it certainly drew my attention. I didn't know why, but anything gay did. I was drawn to it, but I guilted myself constantly over it.

A lot of that comes from the faith I was raised in. Not all of it. My own personal perfectionism played its own demonic role. But the two combined were a nasty combination. I was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormon church. I know that there are a lot of nasty feelings toward the church when it comes to its relationship with the gay and lesbian world, but understand that for me the church was something wonderful.

Ever since I was a child I loved it. I loved learning about Jesus and how to be a good boy. I loved the way that scripture and the things of God can pierce and change the human soul. And this love progressed through my adolescent years. But when my perfectionist nature combined with the rules and regulations side of the church things got more complicated.

Because I cared what people thought about me. I cared what my parents thought, what my sunday school teachers though, what the bishop thought, and what God thought. And I believed that in order to be loved at all, to be even remotely lovable, I had to be perfect. So, I latched on to those rules and I obeyed them as perfectly as I could, the same way I had with my parents.

The result was being a person that many looked up to, being the boy that mothers wanted their daughters to end up with, but also being very conflicted inside. Not to mention that all my achievements were hollow. I was an incredible student, a by-the-book mormon boy, but I wasn't satisfied. To this day, one of my proudest achievements is winning first place in a creative writing contest when I was in 9th grade. I entered all on my own, and I did it because I wanted to, not because I was expected to. And miraculously I won. And still today, almost a decade later, I am incredibly proud of the fact that my name is the only guy's name on the plaque at my junior high. And it's because it was all for me.

That, however, was rare in my early years. Most of the time I did all I could to try and be like others wanted me to be. And because of that need for acceptance I denied my true attraction with every fiber of my being. In bishops interviews, even up to my mission interview, I denied any attraction to guys. I was commended on my respect of women. I seemed to have no problem with that. At the time I just thought I was really good. The idea makes me laugh now.

But most of my adolescent years were spent trying to be "good enough" for God. Trying to meet every requirement perfectly, so that I would be lovable in his eyes. Looking back, I spent way too much time feeling guilty and not enough actually trying to be a Christian. That's what guilt does to you, if you let it control you. You actually lose your spirituality, and you lose your ability to touch others' lives.

I made it through high school unscathed, however. It may not shock any readers that by graduation I still hadn't had a real girlfriend or had a first kiss (or even held someone's hand). I believed it was because I just hadn't found the right girl, or wouldn't be able to have the relationship I wanted in high school. In reality, though, I never felt like I fit with a girl. Not like other guys did. And whenever I had romantic fantasies, I was always different. Really, in those fantasies, I was emotionally straight.

My lack of steady dating did not deter some girls, however. I had a few girls who pursued me in high school. All of which would get turned down. Nicely, though. I could never bear to hurt someone. One of those girls would become one of my best friends. We'll call her Monique. She had a definite thing for me during our sophomore year. Something that faded but would never fully disappear, in spite of my lack of interest. But I liked spending time with her. She was fun, and she laughed at my stupid jokes. I can't really even remember what point Monique and I became really close. It just kind of happened. She would be the only one I kept in touch with after high school. And she would be the only person from my past that I willingly told about my orientation. That's how amazingly good of a friendship we had. It's definitely been tested since I came out to her a year ago, and the more I look at it the more I think it's because part of her was waiting for me to fall in love with her, and when I came out I destroyed that. I think it broke her heart. And that makes me sad. But she's dating a wonderful guy right now, so I have high hopes for her.

The summer after high school I moved to Provo to work before I started my freshman year at BYU. As for the college experience, however, that will have to wait until next time.


BLB said...

I could almost swear you plagiarised from my auto-bio, but yeah, I could deffo see where you're coming from with your life...and, thus I get the message of this blog.

Hope to see more posts from you soon.

Ty said...

Haha! I've felt the same way when I read others' stories. It seems we all feel very much the same way growing up. And I think because we understand one another we need one another that much more.

Thanks for the comment!

Rob said...

Add me to the list of guys who feel like they could have written your post!

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