Holy cow, you guys. I was not expecting that type of response from yesterday’s post. Thank you x 1,000,000. Seriously. You’re all amazing.
There’s a day I regularly refer to as the Best Day of My Life or BDoML, because I’m lazy. It was 3.27.2007. (To be fair, I had to look it up.) I was in St. Thomas with Jenni and Stephanie, on either the third day or fourth day of our Caribbean cruise, which heavily reminded me of the Lake Austin charter boat tours we used to take. We’d taken our first cruise excursion, which involved hopping on a catamaran called the Dancing Dolphin, pictured here:
I was scared out of my mind, because I’d never truly been in the ocean before. And by ocean, I mean, that thing is hundreds of feet deep and, yes, I can swim, but the only way I could touch the bottom is if I had a cinder block attached to my ankle.
Eventually, there I was, floating around in the ocean with gigantic sea turtles and beautifully colored fish swimming everywhere. When I put my head underwater, I could hear the turtles digging around in the rocks. I was floating without even trying. I was choking on ocean water and spitting all over the place, but the feeling of doing this thing that I’d never imagined I’d ever have the opportunity to do blocked out the seven gallons of water I was inhaling through my snorkel.
I was not ready to leave when they made us get back on the boat. At all. I could have stayed there for hours. We took off our flippers, gave back our face masks and headed back to where we started. Our legs were hanging over the side of the boat as we passed through the most gorgeous water I’d ever seen in my life.
One of the boat’s owners was walking around giving everyone a temporary tattoo advertising the name of their boat. She put Jenni’s on first and then asked which arm I wanted mine on. I wish I could remember the entire conversation, because I’m sure it would help with this story, but there had been many cups of delicious, delicious rum punch handed out by now.
The gist of the story is that a tattoo on one arm meant that you were straight, the other arm meant that you were gay. The arm I’d chosen to get my tattoo on was the gay one. She explained this to me in the most matter of fact way and assured me it made no difference to anyone but me what arm I got the tattoo on.
I can’t remember her name. I certainly can’t remember the name of that handsome gentleman in the picture with her. I just remember she was the first stranger that I met that didn’t care if I was straight, gay, bi, transgender, or an elephant. She just wanted to make sure I was enjoying myself and committed to where she was going to put this temporary tattoo. She was acknowledging who I was without judgment. At the time, I didn’t know that was a common practice.
Thanks to an unlimited amount of rum punch that kept appearing and the adrenaline I still had going on after snorkeling added to the first complete feeling of openness of who I really was, I felt like I was beaming from the inside out. Much like the Grinch and his heart that grew three times one day, it was like my confidence and pride and, most importantly, my self-acceptance were exploding out of my ears.
And it hasn’t stopped since then. I’m proud of who I am. I’m confident, albeit sometimes cocky, about the person I’ve become.
Know who you are. Don’t pretend for anyone else. It doesn’t change who you are as a person. Being a dependable friend, wanting to help people or animals, always doing your best, making people laugh, being awesome at your job – these things don’t change based on who you’re attracted to.
Battling some internal demon of suppressing who you are will only hurt you, and eventually others, in the long run. Be brave about who you are. If you’re afraid, don’t be. Be you. It feels so, so much better.
Thanks to Jenni for two of the pictures!