I constantly wonder how at age 30 I can still be so triggered by media intended for coming-of-age youth. I think this is the strongest sign that I have trauma in my life that I have not dealt with, do not know how to deal with, and quite honestly, refuse to deal with. Being closeted for 24 years leaves me with such a deep sense of loss that I often find myself embarrassed by the real estate that it still occupies in my mind.

I lost my coming-of-age; I was not allowed to be the protagonist in the bildungsroman of my life.

Rather, I became the internal villain, I voluntarily morphed into the antagonist, that for so many years, would disrupt my evolution, my happiness, my identity formation, and ultimately, my mental health.

Now here’s the comedic relief: all of these realizations came from watching the Disney+ & Hulu novel adaptation Love, Victor.

Many of you may be familiar with Love, Simon, the well-known blockbuster film based upon the successful novel. Both detail the coming-0f-age story of a closeted gay teen trying to navigate coming out in high school. A part of me revels in the positivity that more teens can now feel like it is a decision, even in the most non-diverse, non-inclusive parts of our world. Another part of me harbors such jealousy and resentment for my own story even though I am proud of who I am today.

I find myself in the grateful position of mentoring youth and I place the most importance on their individual identity development and creating spaces that are brave, diverse, inclusive, equitable, and increase a sense of belonging. But I cannot help but feel like a hypocrite that the advice I am giving them I was not capable of myself until so late in age.

I am trying to be the mentor that I needed when I was a teen but I am still stuck mentally in being that teen, in grieving the loss of my youth during which I was the lead actor in a play I did not audition for, that still haunts me to this day.

I have built up walls and boundaries where there should be none. I have self-constructed problems and unrealistic expectations for myself where there should be celebrations. I have self-isolated.

I am still wounded, wondering if these wounds can be healed, wondering if I am in a place yet where I not only know how to heal them but also want them to be healed.

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