“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” – Steve Jobs
This quote helped me make sense of how life has molded me into the person I am today. Experiences such as failing a class, making and losing friends and studying abroad equipped me with the proper tools to foster personal growth in a way that 18-year-old me would have feared. These life events helped me realize why hiding behind a mask of comfort and fear causes you to become stagnant, while also unveiling the secret that was really inhibiting me from living in my truth.
My first day of college. I was young, naive and, honestly, only excited about college life from a social perspective. This point of view was a surface level expectation of what college is about and was based on the American college experience that everybody raves about. At this point in my life, I was hiding my sexuality from the world and letting that secret dictate every decision that I made. I was scared of any negative impact from living in my truth and did everything possible to ensure people would not catch on to my double life.
I was avoiding conversations about the LGBT community and consistently using toxic masculinity to deter any thought that I was “different.” It was not until I got more comfortable with being gay that I realized how this secret was affecting my grades, social interactions and personality.
Growth comes from being pushed outside of your comfort zone. Doing things such as not being afraid to fail and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable pushed me outside of what I considered “normal.” Based on these two principles, I took a leap of faith and spent a semester in Melbourne, Australia.
I wanted to be an Aussie, mate.
The thought of going abroad for six months and leaving the East Coast for the first time was terrifying! There were plenty of instances where I wanted to pull out of the program and stay in good ol’ Raleigh, but for some reason I felt like I needed to get away. Being 10,000 miles away from home allowed me to live my life without the fear of being judged. I was able to go on dates, solve adult issues such as budgeting and eventually realize that there is much more to the world than North Carolina. Those six months tested me. I escaped a bad rental situation, got homesick and pushed my academic limits. I was unsure about why certain things were happening to me during this time and kind of felt like I was wasting a semester. Although I was having the time of my life, this thought was in the back of my mind until I returned home. In North Carolina, I was reminded of how I was limiting my life for the environment I had thought was healthy for me.
So what about now!?
As I attended my “last first day of class” of my undergraduate career, I reflected and realized that college was more than just a degree. College is a time where it’s okay mess up and try again (multiple times), find true friends and learn how to live life with no regrets. These three years have forced me to do more self discovery than I could have ever imagined and taught me how to fall in love with the person I am becoming.
Photography credit: Jason Perry/Goodnight Scholars Program