With all of the chaos and mayhem in this world, when it’s all said and done, at the end of the day you only have yourself. No one else is going to be there to hold your hand and walk you down the beaten path when things get rough, which is why, above all else, I believe in myself. Now this has no dictionary definition, in fact everyone’s definition may be different. But to me, believing in myself means that I am able to do anything I put my mind to; that I will never let myself down, that I am my biggest supporter, and that I will make it through any obstacle life throws my way.
Growing up, it seemed like I was living in the shadow of my older sister. She was “the smart one”, earning straight “A’s”, and graduating from high school a year early. Her accomplishments set the bar pretty high, and were impossible for me to compete with. I was always the mediocre child whom no one ever seemed to believe in. My sister was always the main focal point in all situations. My parents pushed her to do her best and she never seemed to let them down. From my sister, my parents accepted no less that a “B.” When it came to me however, they were pleased with a “C”, and “A’s” took them by surprise. I would try my hardest, but my hardest was never good enough. I remember when I came home from school in seventh grade with straight “A’s” for the semester and a gigantic smile on my face, my dad immediately went back to the school to make sure it was correct because he thought I had somehow forged it. Having that initial doubt from him made everything I worked so hard for feel worthless.
My parents always seemed to unintentionally push me away. My mom was constantly out of town for extended periods of time for business, and my dad always seemed to be busy as well. I was given a lot of freedom, and through the freedom I grew up quickly. I learned to do many things for myself only because no one else was there to do them for me. By the time I was 11 years old, I was packing my own lunch for school, and making my own dinner at night. I was doing my own laundry and even cleaning the house every other weekend.
When I was 13, my parents decided to go to New Orleans for two weeks for their anniversary. I was left home all alone with 60 dollars and a half empty refrigerator. I was left to cook for myself and told to use the money only if there was an emergency. I would come home from school, do my homework, watch a little television, make myself dinner, and go to sleep at a decent hour so that I could wake up at five o’clock in the morning to get ready and catch the bus for school. My parents would only call every other day to check in on me and make sure everything was okay. These phone conversations only lasted 20 minutes max.
I was raised to have an open mind, question everything, and do what I believed was right, not necessarily what everyone else was doing. Most importantly I was encouraged to do whatever makes me happy. I took what I had been taught for so long and began to really think about it and apply it to my life, making my junior year of high school a huge turning point. This is when I finally found happiness.
November 14th, 2005 is a day I will never forget. It was the day my mother confronted me about my sexuality. I had been in a relationship for three months prior, but it wasn’t until that day that she decided to ask about it. I stood in front of her, staring straight into her eyes, dumbfounded, speechless. I had no idea how to react, much less what to say. I confirmed it with a simple nod, and walked straight to my bathroom where I proceeded to cry for the next hour on my shower floor. When I finally gathered enough will-power to get up, I was greeted at the bathroom door with yelling and screaming from both parents, my mother especially. “What did I ever do to you to deserve this”, “What did I do wrong”, “This better just be a phase” were the three things she kept repeating over and over again, my father stood there shaking his head in the background. I had no one to turn to, no shoulder to cry on. I was all alone during a time where I felt most vulnerable. I had only myself once again.
Coming out is probably one of the hardest things to do, and having the majority of your family and a large fraction of your friends turn their backs on you does not make it much easier; it’s devastating. There were countless tear-filled nights of solitude, but like the design of a yin yang shows us, you have to travel through the darkness to reach the light. I felt as though I was no longer dependent upon anyone. I had only myself, and for the first time I was fully okay with that. During this time, I learned my self-worth, my pride, and like I said before, I learned what true happiness was. This period of time was the most stressful yet exhilarating time of my life.
I do what I want; I do not let society shape me. I stand up for what I, Lauren Hayes, believe in, which is the most satisfying feeling and nobody can take that away from me. This is exactly why I believe in myself.
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