“Don’t look!” I chided him, folding my computer and hiding it under my desk. My tone was somewhat incredulous that my friend would be reading my journal entry as I typed. We were sitting next to each other in class as the professor droned on, and I had decided to make use of this dull hour to do my daily journaling.
“I didn’t look,” my friend promised, but he was lying. I had caught him looking at my computer, and he had a smirk that he couldn’t wipe off his face. It was an I’m-lying-and-you-know-I’m-lying mixed with something else kind of smirk. And as he went back to watching the lecture and I went back to journaling, I realized that the smirk had been mixed with an I’m-genuinely-happy-about-something smile. My intuition was confirmed when midway through the rest of the lecture, he looked at me with a dumb smile. When I shot him a “What?” his response was just “mm… nothing.”
I took another look at what I was journaling to see what had made him smile, and I found my answer at the top of the page. My journal entry had started with a reflection on coming out, how I felt like an entirely different person now that I was out of the closet and how it allowed me to more fully accept my queerness.
This memory resurfaces each spring. As the sun returns and sky turns blue, I am reminded of the first time I really knew that my sexuality could bring joy. As it turns out, my friend had been happy to learn more about me and glad for the opportunity to see me grow. By this time I had a repertoire of memories in which I had connected to other queer individuals, but this became one of my favorite interactions with a straight friend because I caught his genuine reaction. And it was joy.
This memory of mine is intimately tied with spring, when growth brings joy. When I first came to Yale, I experienced my first winter, so my first real spring shortly followed . And, as life returned to campus, I began to sunbathe on Cross Campus again and spend my time thinking about how the growth of more than new leaves can bring joy.
When I fell in love in high school it was a painful, unrequited love. I admired him from a distance knowing that there was never a chance for us to be together. But what hurt the most was how insecure I felt about myself in comparison to him. He seemed perfect (as all objects of desire seem to be) while I couldn’t accept myself. I imagined that if he loved me, I would be absolved of the duty of loving myself.
But he couldn’t love me back (he was straight), and so I set about growing to accept myself. The task was unpleasant, difficult, convoluted, but my growth brought me joy. When I came to Yale and came out, I felt tasked in a sort-of-similar way. I began learning to navigate what being out was like — no one could navigate for me. I began to express myself fully and allowed myself to be as I liked, not as I felt constrained.
Returning home became a challenge. As each plane touched back down in Florida, I would thumb through my old guidelines for how to behave and re-constrain myself. By the time I returned to school in January I was emotionally exhausted. But come March, after spring break, I began to see the joy in growth. I had changed substantially, in ways that I loved.
A similar cycle followed after my sophomore year. It became easier to be home, but amid my sophomore slump, I learned more about what my friends were like. That winter I learned to accept the parts of people I didn’t agree with and to be grateful that they could look past the same in me.
Each year I repeat the ritual: being reminded of how much I’ve changed and celebrating that. This spring, I invite you all to do the same with me.
Frankie | firstname.lastname@example.org .