Coming Out

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Just days after my roommate, Jamie, and I admitted our feelings to each other, I was on a flight back home for the Summer. It was going to be so tough being away now that we had finally blurted out how we really felt. It was all brand new to me. I was excited and scared and nervous all at the same time. It never occurred to me at that time that I’d have to tell my parents. I was only 19. We don’t think that far into the future at that age – I had all the time in the world. Little did I know, that conversation was only weeks away….

Jamie and I talked everyday. It was a challenge because this was just before cell phones became a must. I bought long-distance calling cards each week at the drug store so I wouldn’t get caught jacking up my parents’ phone bills. When I think back, I remember feeling so stealth. I thought there was no way that anyone in my family could possibly suspect something was going on between me and my college roommate. I mean, she wasn’t even in the same state!

Well, I guess when you’re really in love, it seeps out of you. There’s no way to hide it. And I guess that’s how I knew right away that it was real and that it wasn’t a college phase. My Mom calls it Twitterpated – like from Bambi. When two creatures are so in love, they can only see each other, and they don’t care about the rest of the world. Last night Jamie and I were looking through some boxes of old photos of us. I found a stack of letters we’d written back and forth. Reading the letters made me feel like a kid again. The giddy, love-stained words were so honest…and completely Twitterpated.

In July, my father took my sister and I camping at the same lake we camped every summer of our lives. One morning while we were sitting watching the boats on the lake, he asked to take a walk. We found a picnic bench in the shade and sat down. I was feeling a bit uneasy, but I never could have anticipated what he was going to say. My father simply looked me in the eye and said, “I’d like to talk to you about Jamie.” I nearly died. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I had time. I was supposed to have all the time in the world. I tried to play it off by responding with, “What do you mean?”, but I knew he knew. My father knows me better than anyone else in my family, and I just knew he knew.

I hear horror stories of people coming out to their parents. Some get yelled at. Some get disowned. Some are even attacked. Since I hadn’t even contemplated coming out to my father yet, I hadn’t considered his reaction – but I should have known how it would go. He asked me if I was truly happy. My answer was simple: I absolutely was. And that was it. My father told me he was there to support me in anything I did and he has always kept his promise. From that point on, I didn’t hide my relationship from my family. It was difficult to actually say it sometimes, for fear of even the slightest bit of rejection. But my father proved something to me that day on the picnic bench. He proved that even if the entire world did not accept our relationship, I had family that did. It made me feel like the luckiest girl on Earth.

I do not ever take that gift for granted and I thank my father as often as I can for being such amazing Dad.

 

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My Teaching Story

I grew up in a big city as a Military kid. Even though I was fortunate enough to stay in the same city throughout my education, my parents moved us around quite a bit as they got their own lives together. By the time I stepped onto my High School Campus as a Freshman I had already been to 5 different schools. Since I always seemed to be the new girl, focusing on my actual school work seemed like background noise. It’s not like I was a bad kid, but definitely not what one might call studious. I was so intent on finding “the thing” that would make me fit in, that I didn’t see the point of putting my energy into class.

That all changed my Freshman year in my History class. I never considered History my favorite subject – I honestly don’t know if I even had one – but the way our teacher captivated us each day made me want to know more. He was enthusiastic and passionate and it all came out in his lessons. Initially, I just liked the class as a time slot in the day. I’d look forward to it each day because I couldn’t wait to hear new exciting stories from the exotic History Guy, Mr. Brockett.

Soon, however, I started to realize that I was getting into the subject, too. Mr. Brockett inspired us to discover our own favorites in History by giving us fun incentives for outside of class. I became so into U.S. History that my free time was spent reading war memoirs from General Patton, looking up first-hand accounts of the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, and even annotating Hitler’s creepy manifesto Mein Kampf. I found something within myself because Mr. Brockett was willing to show us an exciting side of a subject we all thought we’d heard before.

One day in class, it just clicked. I looked up at Mr. Brockett, and wanted to be him. I wanted to do what he did. Since that moment, I have put my whole heart into teaching. I worked one period each day as Mr. Brockett’s Teacher’s Assistant for the next 3 years. He taught me some of the behind-the-scene-secrets to teaching and even let me prepare small pieces of lessons that were especially exciting to me. In college, he continued to mentor me. I called as often as I could to discuss strategies I was learning. I absolutely could not wait to step into my own classroom one day and put it all into action.

When I got my job, only 2 months after I graduated, my father gave me a starfish necklace. He told me a story that I have never forgotten…

“One day there was a terrible storm along the coast that left thousands of starfish stranded on the sand. A man watched as a little boy walked from starfish to starfish, picking them up and tossing them into the water to save them. The man looked up and down the beach. There were stranded starfish for as far as the eye could see. After a few minutes, the man approached the young boy. He asked, ‘What are you doing? There are way too many starfish that need help. There is no way to save them all, so what does it matter?’ The young boy simply picked up another starfish and tossed it into the water. He looked back up at the man and said, ‘It mattered to that one.'”

I try and live my life with that story as my inspiration. I think of how Mr. Brockett helped me and how I can help my students. Even if I can inspire 10, or 5 or even 1….even if all I can do is get them interested in my lesson for the 42 minutes they have me each day, I can feel like I made an impact.

My Love Story

I think we all, from the time we’re little, imagine what our future will look like. I always pictured meeting a farm boy from the Midwest. We’d own an acre of land and raise babies that chased the geese along the lake. One can imagine my surprise when things didn’t quite work out like I’d planned.

I met the love of my life the day we moved into our college dorm as roommates. I’d never dated a girl, and quite honestly had never given it any thought. Many might think that’s a lie, but it’s the complete truth. I have often reflected on my earlier years, reaching for any part of my body that ever desired a woman, but there was nothing.

As I got to know my new roommate, I found out she was gay. I was fascinated. And curious. And intrigued. We became quick friends and by the end of the first semester of school, we told each other everything. It wasn’t until late Spring that I began to notice the change in the way I thought of her. I’d wake up in the morning and want to see her. I left for class and missed her. I was falling in love with her….but I wasn’t gay.

My first instinct was to recoil from the idea. It wasn’t in my plan – I was supposed to marry a boy. But the day she admitted to me that she had feelings for me, too, my plan went out the window. I let myself fall into the relationship head first. We didn’t date. We went from zero to in-love in the blink of an eye and it was fabulous. I began to recognize that the love we shared was the kind of love that so many search their whole lives for. Why throw that away just because it wasn’t how I saw my life playing out?

I guess that’s how life works. We can plan and prepare all we want, but at some point our hearts take over. The universe steps in and it all just falls into place.