Dear Me: Letters To Our Younger Selves On National Coming Out Day

Hey kiddo,

So tomorrow is your first day of high school. Your clothes are all laid out, your lunch is packed, and you’re full of hope that this will at least be better than middle school, which turned very sour when your best friend accused you of being, like, obsessed with her. I’m sure the main thing you want me to tell you, as your future self, is whether you will date any cute boys in high school. The answer is yes, but they won’t ever make you happy. Actually most of the things that are supposed to be the highlights of adolescence — from the “parties” where you just watch guys play video games, to the illegally obtained Smirnoff Ice — will make you feel like everyone else is laughing at a joke you just don’t get. You’re going to be weird at the time when being normal is most rewarded, and you’re going to be sad. A lot.

Not that it’s all bad. Remember, the theatre department is your friend, but you’re really not making your life any easier by joining the marching band. People will tell you to get your nose of that book, but don’t listen because you’ll remember the book far longer than the jerk who made fun of you. And because you’re you, you’re going to take all that sadness and left-outness, and use it to become a writer, which is what you always wanted anyway.

Now I know, 14-year-old Laney, you want to get back to the thing about the boys. Why don’t they make you happy? Let’s just say it’s a surprise life is saving for college, when you will end up sleeping with some of the gir — ahem — people whose approval you wanted most in high school. Life is strange that way. In the meantime, just keep being you. Keep laughing too loud and making your own Halloween costumes and sneaking up into the woods with a bow and arrow like the fucking weirdo you are. The best is definitely yet to come.

Oh and p.s. either don’t wear that white shirt tomorrow or else don’t drink chocolate milk at lunch. Just trust me.

Elaine Atwell

Things kind of suck, I know, but trust me that the way you love will eventually bring enormous joy into your life. Your family will still support you. Your mom will keep a folder on her desk for letters she writes to newspapers that publish anti-gay articles. Your best friend will say, “I already knew.” Almost everyone in your life, yourself included, will wonder why you didn’t come out sooner. When you do come out, you will feel awkward and terrified, like you are in a new body. But then you will feel power and freedom. You will see the world from a new perspective — not as a place where you don’t belong, but as a place of opportunity. You’ll finally understand Shakespeare. The way you love will help you create things that you are proud of — poems, stories, relationships, two incredible children. You will not wish this “difference” away; rather, you’ll think it is one of the most important and beautiful parts about you. I know you’re hiding and scared, but somewhere inside you know this even now. Believe it.

Heather Aimee O’Neill

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