In grade school, you could say I was very introverted. I always kept to myself, and only talked to a few close friends. Fitting in with my peers had always been a struggle for some reason. I wasn’t like the others. If anything, I was a theater geek.” Theater in grade school was a place for misfits, like myself. People who really didn’t know where they belonged or who they truly were.
The transition from high school to college was an interesting time in my life. It wasn’t until my freshman year at Penn State that I truly discovered who I was. Through that transition, I met some of the most unique individuals I’ve ever met. I examined them with every fiber of my being. There was Rachel, with the flaming red hair and “I don’t give a damn” attitude. Then Steve, the five foot nothing boy with a sassy personality. And then there was Jordyn, who had an illuminating spirit and listened to me more than most.
You see, I’ve always questioned my sexuality. But growing up in a small town in central Pennsylvania restricted me from exploring my identity. I come from a very closed-minded area. College and the many personalities surrounding me helped me open up and start with a clean slate. It was the first time in my life where I didn’t have to pretend to be something I wasn’t. I could truly be myself.
“Are you gay?” people would ask in the past. And every time I would feel as though I had to lie. Now, I can tell the truth. I will stand tall and proud of whom I am. I will always remember the first time I told my best friend, Ana, the truth. I was so fearful to open up to her, yet she was so happy for me once I had told her. That was truly an amazing feeling.
In the end, I gained so much as a person within the time span of a year. I gained respect for myself. I gained self-acceptance.
Self-acceptance is the most important value that I have learned in the past year. Without it, I wouldn’t be comfortable in my own skin. I would still feel like I was being watched and criticized from every direction. It is imperative that you’re happy with who you are as a person. I believe in being true to myself.
Kyle Naylor is a student at Penn State University Park.