BYU. October 2008. Walking past “Yes on 8” booths in the Wilk every day, wrapped up in layers and layers of clothing because my hatred of cold is a well-documented and immutable fact. There was no snow on the ground, but the trees were bare and the sky was gray and mostly I kept my head down and shrunk in on myself as I walked past the booths.
One day I came up from the basement where the counseling center is and the first thing I saw was “Yes on 8.” I walked up to the blonde who was handing out fliers and I said “I know you have your reasons for what you’re doing, but I want you to know it hurts me and people like me a lot.” I don’t remember how she answered. I don’t know if she ever thought about what I’d said after I walked away. To be honest, I don’t care.
My counselor and I had been talking about feeling muzzled in the church and at the university, like it wasn’t acceptable for me to say what I thought, and the important thing that happened that day happened inside my head. Something shifted there. The muzzle snapped and my quiet, calm, hurt little nineteen-year-old voice popped out and it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. It was my whole most important thing and—again!—it didn’t matter whether hearing it changed anything for the listener. Once I’d said it, I could say it again, and I could say other true things, and the hurt shifted.
When you’re in the closet, see, the first pain come from being alone and unheard and unable to speak. Everything else, every discrimination and insult, is secondary to that fact, that first limit inside your skull, and as long as the closet muzzle is there, there’s only little little little you can do about the rest.
I shed that back in 2008. I spoke and spoke and spoke and in fact probably spoke more than I should have, but sometimes we go a little crazy with freedom.
When I first got to Japan, I didn’t feel muzzled. I just didn’t speak. The problem is that over time the muscles atrophied, or the muzzle grew back, or . . . something. When that kid said what he said, I wanted to say something but didn’t-couldn't, and that scared me. Now I feel like it’s a choice again.
I do wonder if it’s just laziness. I do wonder if I’d feel stronger if I chose differently.
About a committed relationship. I was thinking about this because the friend who was visiting last week is a bit more than just a friend. At one time, years ago, there was an alternate future in my head that involved us getting married and starting a family.
The thing is, being here with him was wonderful, but that I-want-to-be-with-you-always feeling isn’t there anymore. We’re different people than we were, and I think we both like our current selves better than the people we were. I at least am acres of rolling green hills happier with now me than I was with then-me. If we’d gotten together in college, I think being in a relationship would have stifled a lot of these good changes. You can't just move to Seattle / New York / Japan when you're in a relationship. Cross-country road trips are harder to coordinate. Poverty's harder to ignore.
We'd've grown in other ways, I'm sure, but I wonder if I'd like that me better. If you’re having similar thoughts about making decisions and giving up lives that could be, you might enjoy this exquisite essay.
This week, I’m going to take the officer aptitude test for the Navy. I'll probably want to say something about the military next Saturday.