you’re ten years old, in the fifth grade, and you’re undoubtedly, unequivocally “boy crazy”—you have been since preschool when you were head-over-heels for a twosome of platinum blonde twins. and again in kindergarten, for a jacob, who wore necklaces and had a gap in between his front teeth and ate lunch with the first graders before trekking to his household for the afternoon until the next rise of the sun. except this time you recognize something about yourself that is innocent how fawns in a lush forest, noshing on dandelions with rabbit companions are, and it’s that there’s a pretty girl in your class. there are a multitude of pretty girls, but there’s a pretty girl that catches your azure eyes like a glimmer of rainbow light against glass. her name is willow and she has gray hair that she either styles into a taut ponytail or lets flow down, straightened and mesmerizing. her skin tone is sun-kissed year-round; olive and fresh-faced, even throughout Michigan wintertimes. her eyes are green as if nature’s spilled itself into her irises, like milk into coffee, and her laugh is like honeydew melon underneath summertide rays. you take notice to these things, and you find them beautiful in the way children are soft with feeling and hard with words. yet something in your mind alarms with a resounding ‘this is not how it is supposed to be’—and you repress until you’re stuffed with cotton in your limbs and mouth. soon, with untreated anxiety, you’ve become a doll, and dolls are only meant to be toyed with.
you’re thirteen years old, in the seventh grade and with another new therapist whose sole advice is that you pray away your trials and tribulations, and girls are everything you see in television and film and novels and media. you cling to female characters like a bumblebee to a wildflower, and you unearth solace in that they are strong, and that is why you love them. except your junior high companions love their male counterparts, and you don’t understand why you feel so outside of your insides. you bide your time dismissing what’s missing from you by daydreaming about untouchable boys in your grade, and muffled cries at bedtime to the chime of a grandfather clock. your friends’ boyfriends come and go, undulating like waves, and you wonder if you will ever be held like they are while you’re gazing at a girl’s curly tresses and another’s captivating wit. you feel different; different in how you love, and different in your brain chemistry. your anxiety is still rampant like a bubonic plague, massacring fifty percent of you without hope of re-growth, and you’re experiencing what you now understand to be the bloodthirsty clutch of depression’s talons. you question your worth as you attend therapy while your friends have slumber parties. you are tired of being scared of the world environing you.
you’re fifteen years old, in homeschooling, and you can exhale ‘bisexual’ without your throat engulfing in a saharan, sandpaper flame. you don’t weep in your bedroom at two o’clock in the morning anymore because you’re afraid of variables that do matter, but that you can conquer like a monarch overtaking their Aurelia throne. your mother and grandmother and closest friendships embrace you like they are meant to, and you feel like you have a chance. you’re attending a psychiatrist alongside your therapist now, but you keep everything a secret padlocked in your heart. you are agonizingly shy, and you recoil at girls’ gazes. you hope you will grow out of this someday. someday.
you’re eighteen years old, obtaining your GED after leaving your standardized schooling because of a mental health hospitalization, and your first kiss is with a girl who likes girls. you have a pride flag your grandmother gifted to you during the holiday season thumbtacked into your wall alongside a multi-colored, heart-shaped Christmas ornament your mother presented to you between the palms of her hands. they each tell you how much they love you, and how they accept you for everything you are and are not, and you believe them. you participate in your first pride, and you think you are at home. mental health is an everyday learning experience instead of an arduous chore. you are shy, but less and less as you are exposed to your communities, and sometimes you get sunburned. and yet, sunburns heal the way heartbreak does and will.
you stare straight-ahead into the coming years through a set of special-made binoculars, in another realm of livelihood and living, and you try to be enthusiastic about what will happen—the way you are when you see the future for other people. you are oftentimes discouraged about murders and hate crimes in the media against queer folk, but there’s a starlight that glimmers in the distance that sings to you. in its aria amongst its choir, it tells you that indisputable truth that hate is bred, not born. it is seen and heard, but not at the visibility and frequency that love is. love will win. every time. we must fight for each other—all of each other. you turn to your past selves, the ten and thirteen and fifteen year olds, and you ask them of something: be ready to learn, and to fight for those surrounding you. they will need it the way you did, only more. more than ever.