By Nick Swanson
[email protected]

For the longest time, I determined that who I am was not who I wanted to be. I dug myself into a hole and surrounded myself with a fortress built on a lie.

For this, I did not accept who I was.

The truth is, I am gay. Fear caused me not to be true to myself. Fear of my family, friends and others I deeply respected would cast me out as someone different. That their perceptions of me would alter the framework of our relationship.

This caused a deep dark winter to creep upon my soul, one in which I never thought I would escape. I was crushing myself under the rock of self-doubt. I became an outer shell, and for the longest time, my insides were hollow. I cannot tell you the number of times this shell was reinforced by the wall that I built. I created a life that was not the truth, for I became trapped in my shell. I did not think that I would ever be wanted, that I would ever be able to love.

I did not want to accept that I am gay. I told myself that there was no way that I could be gay. My journey became one focused on how I could hide myself. I focused my energy to distract others and myself from asking the questions that needed to be asked.

I had always been told that the ideal life is to marry a nice girl and settle down with a couple of kids. I was always told that as a man, I should find a girlfriend as it was my destiny. What I could not handle was how society was telling me to act, to think and where my happiness would be found.

Imagine that all your life you are told you should be one way, yet your heart tells you otherwise. The truth is, my heart did not lead me on the path that society had told me to follow.

I became obedient to others’ wishes. I was hopeless. I was lost. I felt that nobody would ever truly love me for who I am. I created a pattern that allowed me to hide. I was not sharing my whole self with the world.

Repetition causes a habitual nature in us and thus causes us to believe that this is to be true. I sunk myself deep into a forlorn sea of darkness which held me back from being who I am. I thought for the longest time that I would never be happy, that I would never be able to live and love freely. I did not feel free.

This past year has been filled with joy and happiness but also profound grief and fear of the unknown. My experience coming out has been everything one could ask for. My family and friends have responded with nothing but love and acceptance of who I really am.

While it took courage, it can be done.

For those of you whose situation is not the same, know that there is always help. There are people who love you and want to help you. People are fighting for you. I am here for you.

A collective effort was made in 2015 when gay marriage became legal in the United States, ensuring that equality for gay people was extended further across this land then ever before. I want people to know that while we have laws in place, culture takes time to change. Every time people use the phrase “that’s gay” or “you’re such a faggot,” they are causing others pain. Words matter and until we realize that those words deeply hurt others, we will never change.

Empathy must not be fleeting but should be thought of in our daily conscious. Love is something that is more powerful than fear, for it is fear that combats love and makes the spinster in us bloom. But once love has its hold, its grasp does not abandon those who accept it.

I hope that my life is one that is of meaning. It would be the greatest gift to have a life that makes others make their shell full.

My journey is now one in which I can be free; I can now thrive in my own skin.