August 21, 2011

"Everything is possible again"


Does the quote that I have selected for the title sound familiar? Well, if you are an incoming member of the class of 2015, then you should have seen that on page 10 of your summer reading book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. This post, is for you, 2015ers. One year ago, I was packing up my mom's car, anxious and eager, yet extremely terrified, for what Duke would throw at me. I've been in your same spot. And no matter whether you are out to your family and friends, still closeted, still figuring it out, shy, extroverted, overwhelmed, naïve, or whatever, you are all starting out with a fresh and clean slate. The drama of high school is behind you, now it's time for college.

Being pretty much closeted coming into Duke, I had absolutely no idea what to expect, or what I needed to do to get involved in LGBT activities. But then again, I didn't even know if I wanted to get involved in LGBT life at Duke. I mean, I wasn't even sure if I'd fit in. I figured everybody else would have been out in high school and that I would miss out on opportunities and experiences that I would still be waiting for in the next few years. For the first month of being here, I dealt with so much internal struggle of attending meetings, visiting the LGBT Center, and even coming out to friends, that I felt like I missed out on opportunities. I didn't know who to talk to, or if I wanted to talk about my problems and concerns with anybody, lest I sound like a complainer. I wasn't sure which face I would have to put on in order to go to events, because I was so concerned with how everyone was looking at me. All of these false preconceived notions kept piling on and on, but at one point, I realized I was living a lie. I was lying to myself and I was undermining the very essence of me that I've come to embrace after 18 years of living. I started going to meetings, going to Fab Fridays, and it all culminated in helping pass out Love=Love shirts at Coming Out Day. Once I took that leap, I didn't look back.

Now here I am. One year ago, I feared the result; now, I embrace it.

No matter what background you come from, what race or nationality, what experiences (or lack thereof, in my case) you have, you have to love who you are. And that may be the most difficult task. For the first month and a half that I struggled with coming out at Duke, I hated myself. I hated what I was hiding, and I hated my irrational fears of what others were thinking about me. I wasn't myself. I panicked. Had I completely screwed up already?

I sought help. I talked to my friends, even with fear that they would think of me as the whiniest freshmen on campus. I talked to Janie, I talked to friends back home, I went to events with friends who I trusted, and slowly I reverted back to myself, the real Cameron.

To the Class of 2015: I know that LGBT activism, Fab Fridays, coming out, and many other activities will not appeal to all of you. There is no requirement to be at the LGBT Center every day if you want to "fit in." There is no clique or stereotype that defines the LGBT community at Duke. We all have varying degrees of outness that will influence how involved we are in LGBT life. But honestly, none of that matters to me. I want for you to know the facts, but that's not why I am writing this post. And so to not lose my credibility, I emphasize that this post is not meant to be a cliché blog. This is meant to help.

Be yourself.

I was fake at the beginning. I had my clean slate, and I took advantage of that by trying to be the person I thought everyone wanted me to be. But because of this, I only alienated people and friends. Be the person who applied and was accepted to Duke. The admissions staff works very hard to pick bright and motivated students who can bring something to the Duke community. They selected you because there is something special about you that they saw in your application. Don't let them down. And don't let yourself down. Like I said, I truly hated myself. It was extremely unhealthy, and I regret it all. Take me for an example of what not to do. You may think that you are not special or that there is nothing good about you, but you are sadly mistaken. You have so many wonderful things to offer to Duke, so why would you ruin that? People here want for you to be yourself. I want you to be yourself, simple as that. And when you're feeling lost, seek help. Janie was my life saver, and I know that she will be so glad to talk with any of you.

I chose that specific quote for the title for what it means to me. When Foer's son is born, upon first sight of the newborn, his friend says to him, "Everything is possible again." I find that this can be easily compared to coming to college. The transgressions of the past can fade, and now four years of your undergraduate career is ahead of you. My high school career was great, but I was ready for the college transition so that I could finally be the person and scholar I was destined to be. Everything is possible again at Duke, but it takes the true you to follow whichever path you wish. They are all open to you.

2 comments:

  1. everything is possible again.

    I just started law school, and I am terrified that everything is possible again. Who am I to my fellow classmates? Do I join the LGBT oriented groups? Does doing so define my next 3 years? My job prospects?

    Do I need to come out all over again? I feel dizzy with the prospect of doing so. I barely know these people. What if they stop being friends with me? At least with my friends at Duke, I had known them for 2 or 3 years and knew that the special ones wouldn't leave me for anything. But I've known my classmates for 3 weeks. I don't want to pigeonhole myself. I don't want to work in LGBT-related law professions. I want to be my own person. I want to find my own way. But I want to be honest with myself and other people.

    How in the world do I reconcile all of these things?

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  2. Cameron - awesome for sharing all that. With every class that comes in, everything is possible again. Part of why I've never left :) Plus, I get to see students like you go from being in the class to being a teaching assistant for the class.

    To anyone new reading this - please know that in addition to Janie, Jess, Colleen, the Center, BDU and other students, there is also an Ally Network on campus. More info is at http://www.studentaffairs.duke.edu/lgbt/ally-network and, if a person has completed the training session, that person will have their own copy of the card shown on the page on or near an office door. Mine's at the top left outside my office at 1405A Fitzpatrick (here's a map if you ever want to swing by).

    Welcome here!
    -Dr. G

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