I never thought that I would fall in love in college, especially with another woman. Many of my closest friends dreamt of finding their dream boyfriends and husbands while in school. I, on the other hand, hoped to avoid romance like the plague. I’d seen my fair share of failed romances and didn’t want to end up single and lonely.
Unfortunately, all hopes of that faded when I met a young woman in the campus student center one September evening my freshman year.
I walked through Lower Manley, the heartbeat of Spelman College, with my friend, when she recognized another student she’d met during New Student Orientation. She yelled, “O-H!” across the loud and bustling room.
“I-O,” her friend yelled back.
I noticed a shy-looking girl sitting next to the friend. She shared the same simultaneously confused yet entertained expression that I did (obviously whatever joke we just witnessed went way over our heads). We silently acknowledged each other with a subtle smile and I continued on to my residence hall, never expecting to see that mystery girl again. Little did I know, our time together was just beginning.
I suppose no recent high school graduate can ever predict how their next four years at college will turn out. Questions drenched in ambiguity and uncertainty rattle around the minds of countless rising freshmen before taking their first leap into adulthood. They definitely ratted through mine after meeting her.
I certainly experienced my fair share of doubt upon starting college. After taking my first Intro to Biology class, I quickly realized that biology was not the major for me; I’m far too squeamish— I mean, really? Cutting open frogs? No, thank you. Most times, I honestly considered whether I’d made a mistake in deciding to go to college because of how difficult the adjustment had been.
But I never considered that most of my evolution as both a college student and young adult would be non-academic. Confronting my feelings for that shy girl, the most pivotal moment in my life and an event that I will carry with me forever, primarily shaped my matriculation throughout Spelman College, an all-women’s Historically Black College/University (HBCU).
I won’t bore you with the tedious details of my love affair but I will inform you that I fell hard for that shy girl. Really hard. And fast. So hard and fast, in fact, that I began to question who I was anymore. My mind filled with many queries. Am I the same girl that left home just two months ago? Will those I left behind even recognize me? More importantly, do I recognize myself?
As these questions swirled around my head, the biggest one of all began to taunt me: am I gay? Eventually, I decided that there remained only one option for dealing with my revelation: honesty. Honesty with myself and my loved ones by coming out.
Coming out is especially hard when you weren’t even aware that you were in the closet. You could say I was your “typical” teenage girl in high school. I cheered for my high school’s football team, worked at a jewelry store in the mall, and even entertained a boyfriend or two. As such, my coming out was a huge surprise, even to myself.
My mom definitely took it the hardest. I remember her face when I told her who my girlfriend really was, and not just another friend I made in college. She looked at me like she didn’t know me, like I was no longer her daughter. We didn’t say more than “hello” and “goodbye” to each other for months. I’d honestly thought I lost my mother. Thankfully, after a long time of distance, my mom and I reunited and healed together. And although things won’t ever be the same between us, I know that one day our relationship will be stronger than ever.
As a soon-to-be college graduate, I can look back on these past four years of my life and laugh. I like to consider my experience as a lesson. A lesson on growing up as well as self-discovery. My coming out and ultimate acceptance of myself taught me that change can be a good thing, even when it seems otherwise.
The moral of my story? Life is full of questions and you don’t always have to have an answer to those questions Most importantly, it is okay to be that girl. That girl who sticks out, the girl that’s unafraid to be herself. Being that girl is something I’m so proud to be.
Be proud of yourself and stand in your truth. Be radical and brave. Standing out and shamelessly embracing that girl status quite literally saved my life. I can only hope that embracing and celebrating your difference will be life-saving to you, too.