The other day, I was asked to describe my semester in only five words. This semester, I had (am having) a quarter life crisis. I felt as though I were going through the spin cycle in a washing machine for the entirety of my semester. Every time I thought I was making progress, the cycle would start spinning the other way. This semester, I was hospitalized for the first time for twelve days to focus on my mental health. The hospitalization came as a result of several incorrect diagnoses, and therefore incorrect medications, identity crises, past traumas resurfacing and the election. And so when I look back and reflect upon my semester, and attempt to summarize it in only five words, I can come up with one ideal phrase: A challenge, but I grew.
I could spend this paper discussing the things I learned about the LGBTQ community and the struggles we face, but I decided that what I learned this semester outside of class is really what ultimately what I learned inside of class. Outside of class, I learned that not every person who is friendly is necessarily your friend. Therefore, when things start to slip, your imagined circle of friends is much smaller than the actual number of people you can call upon. I find this is reflected when tough times happen in our world. This year’s election showed me many people’s true colors. I found myself cutting tie after tie with people whose vote and Facebook statuses and harassing phone calls told me they did not care about me or my community. Cutting so many ties is isolating. I’ve learned that standing for what is right may mean that you are standing alone.
However, I’ve found that being alone is not always lonely. I’ve found that if I truly want to be a part of this community, then I must stand for everyone in it. If I continue to stand for what is right, and educate those who do not see the flaws in their beliefs, then eventually the number of people around me will grow. I’ve learned to be patient, and I’ve learned to teach with love rather than spite. This has been one of the hardest lessons to learn.
And lastly, although I have learned so much this semester, the most important thing I have learned is that I still have so much to learn. I entered this course with the idea that I was somehow above others in the class because I assumed I knew more than others. Rather than put me ahead of the class, it put me behind because I wasted time being upset with people who honestly did not know any better. I am in no way better than another because I may have a better grasp of what privilege means. Rather, it means I am accountable for educating those around me so that we may all benefit. It also means I must be open minded. There are others who know much more than me and who have had different experiences than I have. Their understanding of the world is far different than mine. I must be open to learning new things always, or my way of thinking will never grow, expand or be informed in another framework.
These have all been challenging lessons to learn. Some, I am still trying to accept. So to wrap this paper up, I will again reference my opening statement. When I look back on this particular semester, I hope to see everything- the good, the bad and the ugly. Right now, it is hard to see the good in anything. But soon I will be recharged and realize that this semester brought some of the most difficult challenges I have faced to date- but, in spite of that, I grew.