The summer before college was the best summer of my life. This was when I accepted my faith and Jesus Christ into my heart. I was what you call a “born again Christian.” I spent that summer working at Twin Lakes Bible Camp. Most of my days consisted of learning more about the gospel and building great relationships with campers and fellow counselors. It was truly amazing.
But just like every season, it had to come to an end.
I still remember how it felt looking in my rearview mirror and watching the camp grow smaller and smaller in the reflection. I was finally on my way to college. I had longed for this day for eighteen years, but after such a life-changing summer, I found it hard to say goodbye. As I started driving down the road, voices of friends and family echoed in my head, “College is a great time to find yourself. You can choose who you want to be.” What if I already found who I wanted to be?
In what felt like a moment, I was sitting in a seminar on my first day of class listening to my professor ridicule my newfound identity. Her voice filled the room, “Christians are so ignorant.” My heart sank. Surrounded by a classroom full of strangers, I had never felt so lonely. I clung to the cross hanging around my neck. I didn’t know what to do.
Thoughts flooded my mind, and I feared that my beliefs could prevent me from passing the Fiction of Gender class. I knew that I had a decision to make. I could take the easy route and avoid all possible conflict by dropping the class, or I could stay in the class and hide who I was. Neither option sounded too appealing to me, because I felt like a coward either way.
However, I ultimately decided to avoid the hassle of dropping and I stayed in the class.
For the first few weeks, I felt like I was walking on eggshells as soon as I walked into the classroom. I hardly ever spoke my mind, especially when the topic of religion came up. I tried to blend in with the class as much as I could. I was so nervous that I made sure to tuck my cross necklace into my shirt before entering class, ensuring that no one would see it. Every time that I hid the necklace, a switch had flipped, and I was no longer staying true to myself. It became draining.
One day I was reminded of something that rang in my head just a few weeks prior, “College is where you can choose what you want to be.” In that moment, I had realized that I let my fear of others’ opinions take control of who I truly was. I was ready to make a change; I was finally going to be the person that I wanted to be.
I started participating more in class, speaking my mind and proudly wearing the cross around my neck. To my surprise, none of my fears had materialized. In fact, my grades only improved as I confidently voiced my opinions. There were times where people had opposing views, but I hardly ever felt judged for my beliefs.
It felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders.
Over a year has passed, and I am so grateful that I decided to stay in that seminar. This experience taught me a life lesson that I will never forget. I should never hide who I am. I am a child of God, and I will continue to be myself unapologetically. I will admit that staying true to myself is not always easy. I am labeled and criticized for being so bold in my faith on a daily basis. Yet despite the difficulties that come with being a bold Christian, I now refuse to hide my true identity. I have the right to be who I truly am. Thanks to my first-year seminar, I will no longer hide my cross necklace; I will wear it proudly on my neck for all to see.