In “Warriors of the Heart,” author, activist and peace worker Danaan Parry likens life to swinging between trapeze bars. The moment of transition — when we fearfully let go of one bar, fly blindly through the air forty feet above the ground and desperately reach for that new bar hurtling towards us — is where real change happens.
I didn’t believe this worldview until I underwent the first formative transition of my life, slowly coming out of what most of the world terms “the closet.” Just over a year ago, I was sitting up in bed feeling like I had six tons lying on my chest, looking out the window at 1 a.m. praying for some answers. I felt alone, hidden in the shadows of the people around me. I was trapped within the four walls of this so-called “closet,” what I had simply called “regular life” for 18 years.
I got to know the walls of that closet quite well. I was living in a world of binaries, of “in” or “out,” of conformity or individuality. Coming out as a member of the LGBTQ community, I thought, would answer all my questions and solve all my problems. I thought this “other side” would be one of certainty, clarity and structure. What I didn’t understand about this process was that, well … it’s a process. My transition from a closeted Orthodox Jew to a figuring-things-out openly queer person has taken time and patience and remains ongoing.
The moments of coming out — of telling my mom, then my dad, then my brother, then my friends — were not all that transformative. What really had an impact on me, however, was all that happened in between those “monumental” moments. My best friend took me out for smoothies one night, when I was really in the thick of things, knowing that I just needed a shoulder to lean on. My aunt sent me a thoughtful text message just before I went to my first Pride parade. My bowtie-wearing, Fox-and-Friends-watching 86-year-old grandfather told me to always be myself after a family dinner. These beautiful moments were all part of a process, of a long and complicated journey riddled with major setbacks and little victories. I was constantly explaining myself to person after person, undoing stereotypes in the minds of people who had never met an open member of the LGBTQ community. I had to deflect rude insults and comments and bizarre and unfair assumptions, wipe away the tears and keep asserting my identity in spite of it all.
The most important thing I learned this past year was — don’t doubt the value of the in-between. In between our failures and our next successes lie our hardest and most significant struggles. In between our really bad days and our really good ones lie all those lazy Mondays and stressful Wednesdays, those average run-of-the-mill moments that are as much a part of who we are as that time we broke our leg or got into college. In between coming out for the first time one year ago and today, I lost friends and made life-long new ones, I laughed and cried harder than I ever have, I grew closer to my mom, I stopped believing in God and then started again.
Beginning Yale, I’m worried about the details: harsh graders, getting around campus, trying to keep in touch with old friends, making new friends. But I’m not worried about the benefits and possibilities of transition, of the in-between. It’s in these moments in between being inexperienced first years searching the campus map for our next class and full-fledged Yalies who know what our majors are and have it all figured out that we discover parts of ourselves we never knew existed, that we face down fears, shock ourselves, laugh until our chests hurt and call home.
As we glide between trapeze bars, between high school and college, between “figuring it out” and “majoring in biomedical engineering,” we have a fantastic opportunity. My hope for my fellow first years is that we all land safely — two hands firmly on the next bar. But don’t fear this moment of holding your breath — the in-between has a lot to offer.
Gabriel Klapholz is a first year in Branford College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .