Rachel was my boss for part of the time I worked at Weber State University. I absolutely love her and really enjoyed working with her. She was super understanding about my mental illnesses, because she deals with them herself, and has such a kind heart. I am proud of her for speaking up about her silent struggles.
Rachel grew up in Louisiana, a proud Southerner. In fact, she never thought she would leave. But she wanted to tell stories. So, she left Louisiana for Utah to study musical theater and tell stories that way. The musical theater journey was short-lived. Soon, she was studying English, literature, and fiction, feeling for the first time that she was exactly where she was supposed to be. After earning a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in English and creative writing, she still felt the same way. Writing and story-telling are her purposes and where she feels a good deal of joy in her life. She also teaches English and grammar to young college students and tries to instill them with the same sense of awe she feels with the English language. Check out her website here.
My Journey to Self-Acceptance
I’ve always believed that the best journeys are those that are shared. Too often, we stubborn humans suffer in silence alone. So, for my own sake and for the sake of anyone I could help, I am telling my story now. I grew up in the South, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. My whole life I tried to live the teachings of the church. But I also grew up knowing that I was gay. I had an idea that I wasn’t quite like the rest of my 4 sisters at a very young age. But I knew for sure that I was attracted to women when I was about 14.
For the next 22 years, I ran the gamut of emotions and thoughts about that. For a very long time, I lied about who I was to myself and to other people. I tried so hard to be something I wasn’t, to be what other people wanted and expected me to be. My wings beat against the bars of my cage until I was miserable, bleeding, and just an empty shell of my real self. I was overcome with depression, anxiety, and shame for entirely too long. At times it was a dark and lonely road full of tearful nights spent on my knees, begging God to change me.
But soon I realized that He wouldn’t change me because I was how He had created me. Sometimes all it takes to change your life completely is to take one tiny step in a different direction from where you were headed. One day I finally realized I was the only one with the power to change the path I was on by accepting who I had always been. So, I took one step on a new path. Then another. Then another. Pretty soon, my surroundings and the light around me started to change. I soon realized it was because I was walking out of the dark valley and into the sunlight of truth and freedom from the limiting thinking of my past.
It took a long time and lots of therapy for me to come to terms with who I am, especially considering the religious background I came from. More than anything I didn’t want to hurt the people I cared about. But I began to slowly realize that being something other than who I am was hurting me more than it would ever hurt those people to find out the truth. Little by little, I let people in, telling only close friends at first the truth about me. The conversation with my parents was not an easy one, nor were they terribly supportive, but I knew that they were doing the best they could with the tools they had.
Finally, in the last month, a very wise friend of mine told me that “life is about joy and dancing, no matter who is looking.” That is exactly how I plan to live my life. I realized that there is no point in trying to be anyone else other than who I am because I am exactly as God made me, and He loves me. I am happier now being myself than I ever was when I was trying to be someone else. I believe that God created me and loves me as I am. I have felt that love through this journey only grows stronger with every step on this new path. I know this is right for me. I love and accept all people more freely than I ever did when I was in my cage, and I am basking happily in the love I feel around me.
This kind of open honesty about myself is part of a lifelong process of self-acceptance for me. I will no longer hesitate to be me because of fear or shame. I am proud and happy about who I am. This experience has taught me how important it is to be kind to one another, and recognize that we rarely see the whole stories of other people’s lives. Everyone is fighting battles we can’t see.