By Chloe St. Onge
I hated chocolate. Yet whenever I went out for dessert that is what I ordered. My friends always ordered chocolate and I followed suit to fit in.
Growing up I looked for approval from my parents and peers. I was terrified by the fear of not fitting in and being rejected. On one level, conforming felt good. It was comfortable. On a deeper level, I knew it was not really me. But how do you go about discovering who you really are when you fear you are going to be judged?
When I was eight years old my parents divorced. A few months later, I remember lying in my bed at my father’s house, knowing that sleeping wasn’t going to come easy that night. In defeat, I crawled out my bed and made my way down the dark stairwell to the kitchen below. As I warmed myself a glass of milk, I overheard chuckles coming from the living room. Curious, I went to investigate what was so funny. What I walked in on was my dad and another man snuggled up on the living room couch. That was the first time I saw my father with another man.
My father announced he was gay in 2002. Yet, it has taken him the past ten years to fully “come out”. Coming out is not just saying you are gay. It is a process of discovering who you are, accepting yourself, and overcoming the fear of being judged.
Throughout those same ten years, I have struggled with identity issues not dissimilar to the ones my father was facing. Who am I? How do I accept myself? How do I order vanilla? It is a gradual process but here is what I have come up with so far; I am a cheerleading captain who loves her computer science class. I value diversity within myself and search for the uniqueness in others. We will always judge, and it takes courage to stand up for our own beliefs.
Last Christmas my father moved to San Francisco. It is hard on me not having my father around, I miss him a lot. We have great talks about identity, happiness, the present and the future. For him, moving to San Francisco was a huge step towards being happy and authentic. It made me realize that although I miss him, I admire the choices he has made to live a life that feels genuine to him and true to who he is as a man and father.
But this essay is really about me. Looking ahead at college, I want the next four years of my life to be my coming out. I want to explore my strengths and weaknesses, discover my interests and talents, and ultimately find my passion. By keeping an open mind, seeking diversity, and exploring new interests, I hope to challenge my comfort zone while continuing to stay true to who I am. Who I am is someone who wants to make a difference in this world. Whether it be inspiring one person to embrace diversity or helping society overcoming a global stereotype, I seek to make an impact.
I may not know exactly where college will lead me, but what I am certain of is that I am not afraid to order vanilla.