Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on where I was a year ago and where I am now. In that reflecting, I also have to think about who I was and who I am now. It really seems like night and day. I’m not the person I was a year ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago. The person I am today is someone I can say that I am proud of being. I could not always say that. I had some dark days. But before I can get to where I’m going I have to know where I’ve been.
I fell in love with me.
8 years ago, I was a freshman in high school. I was in the midst of discovering my identity as gay. It took me a while to understand and accept it myself. I was dating someone, came out, and had my shattered into pieces that have still yet to be fully put back together. While in high school, I was ignorant, sexist in many ways, and pretty much wore this happy-go-lucky mask for all to see. I didn’t let people see my vulnerability because I didn’t want to treated like someone with problems. In all honesty, looking back I didn’t like that person at all. I would do and say things that I thought were ok because I was gay but in all actuality weren’t.
4 years ago, I was a freshman in college. I had moved to the beautiful city of Austin and was out on my own for the first time. I fully embraced my identity and was a proud member of the Queer community on UT’s campus. I quickly learned that there was a lot of learning that I had to do. In addition to my learning about the queer community and social justice, I had to learn the mask that I was wearing was only hurting me more than it was helping. Think of it like putting a band-aid on a broken bone. As mentioned in other posts, my sophomore of college was the darkest point in my life. I felt completely alone. It was bad to say the least.
1 year ago, I ended my grad school process. I had just found out that I didn’t get into the grad school I wanted and declined the offer from the other school. It was a heartbreaking experience for me. Having had some many people put their faith in me and tell me that they knew I would be in a program, it hurt having to tell them that I wouldn’t be. It hurt me almost more than it did not getting in. Every time I told someone it was like I was reliving that phone call all over again causing my heart to shatter a little bit more and more. Emotionally, I was all over the place. Despite the emotional struggle, I had finally found a balance between my two salient identities as black and gay. I finally started to embrace them both equally and research my struggles and how other queer people of color (QPOC) navigated having two traditionally marginalized identities.
This year, I really began to see who Ronnie has become. Instead of calling the time between undergrad and grad school a gap year, I decided to call it my “personal development” year. I decided that I needed to figure out who I am and what I want before I could help students figure that out for themselves. I began to reflect and think positively. I fell in love with me. When I started the grad hunt this time around, I told myself that I need to be completely vulnerable and let these grad committees see me for who I am. If they didn’t like me for me, then I’m not right for their program. I did not know how much that approach would impact me and the work I do. When each school invited me to interview, I truly saw it as a blessing. I did not expect anything this time around. I just was giving it a try. It was validating to know that who I am was and is enough.
Sometimes you have to Encourage Yourself.
Throughout this entire process, I shared my story. I wanted others who were going through the process to know that it’s hard. I wanted them to know that I’ve been in a position where I felt like I failed. I wanted them to know that the good things I was experiencing weren’t just happening to me because there was a time when it felt like nothing good would happen. I wanted them to know that even if things didn’t work out the way they hoped things would work out in the end. I unearthed the power in my story and decided that if it could help even one person then it is worth sharing. From what I’ve been told, people have appreciated my authenticity. It’s help some realize that it’s ok no matter what happens.
As I move forward into grad school and for the rest of my life, I will continue to share my story and I hope others will do the same. Everyone has a story and that story has power. We all have different identities, abilities and goals in life. By sharing your story, you are allowing others to connect and could possibly be sharing the exact thing that someone needs to hear. Your story helps let others know who you are and how you got to that place. Sometimes you have to Encourage Yourself. You have to tell yourself that you can make it and that you will get the things you want. As people we can’t always count on others. We have to do things for ourselves to get us to where we want to be. No one will achieve your dreams for you. You have to achieve them for yourself. Love who you are and encourage yourself.