When I was in high school, I didn’t have much of a clue what I wanted to do with my life. My junior year, I received a brochure from Cedarville University about their upcoming pharmacy program. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to apply. Pharmacy would give me a chance to help others, I had an interest in science, and it’s a strong career with great pay. I had another motive, though - I thought burying myself in difficult academics would keep me from facing the painful feelings I was going through. I was accepted to the first class of pharmacy students, and I was thrilled to get started.
By this time, I had already heard enough stories to know that we don’t choose our sexual orientation, so I wasn’t interested in attempting to change mine. I was still in the closet, however, and it felt like it would be that way forever. I was so afraid of anyone finding out my secret that I devoted a lot of my mental and emotional energy into just trying to keep myself together. Anyone who has had to be completely closeted knows how draining it is. I was afraid I’d lose my family, my friends, my home and my education. I couldn’t imagine a different kind of life for myself. It was incredibly lonely.
The thing I loved most about Cedarville was that I made some amazing friends. But as great as they were, it was such a struggle to not have people I could share all of myself with. Thankfully, a friend from home knew somebody who was in Cedarville Out and pointed me to the group. I had no idea at the time that there was a place for people like me.
I was able to make those connections and form close friendships that I know will be significant to me the rest of my life.
I changed my major to psychology after three semesters of pharmacy. After two part time semesters studying psychology, I ultimately decided to finish my undergraduate education at home in New Jersey. I’m grateful I did. I was able to come out and fully express myself to my peers and professors, which I never got to do at Cedarville. While I had struggled just to get by as a closeted CU student, at my new university I was able to be involved in the LGBT advocacy group, participate in a research lab, serve on the executive board of the psychology club, work a part time job at an animal hospital, and graduate Magna Cum Laude. More importantly, I felt more alive. That’s the difference it makes when a student doesn’t have to be held back by the kind of oppressive atmosphere I felt at Cedarville.
If you’re struggling, I hope that my story inspires you to imagine a different kind of life for yourself. You can have friends who not only accept, but adore you for who you are. You can create family with people who understand you. You can excel in the kind of work that means something to you. Give yourself permission to let go of the beliefs about yourself that are holding you back. You’re worth it.