An Exhilarating Experience and Life-Changing Event

So, this weekend, I embarked on a scary yet exciting journey for myself.  As I am continuing on with my education, I am looking toward my future and what I represent.  When I create my dissertation, I want to give back a part of me.  I want to explore part of my identity and the issues that come with who I am and share it with others.  At this point, I have decided to dive into GLBT studies.  Some of my great friends have already assisted me thus far, and hopefully will continue to do so as I continue on my educational journey.

I say all of that to share my weekend.  I volunteered to attend a diversity retreat that is sponsored by Diversity Advocacy at Illinois State University.  At first, I was really excited because I was hoping to meet more GLBT students and maybe get insight for my paper.  Then we had the orientation.  Immediately I began to change my mind.  There were a bunch of young kids who seemed to know each other and were actually pretty loud when I entered the room.  Immediately I thought of my kids in DC, and said to myself, “hell no, I don’t want to spend the night with a bunch of my students.”  But Ashley continued to reach out to me.  I then felt obligated.  Like maybe I have a purpose at the retreat to help them learn about me.  So I committed to going.

So, this weekend, I met some of the most wonderful people that I may ever cross paths with in my life.  They were mature, insightful, articulate, honest, and vulnerable, just like me.  We all laughed, cried, thought, shared, debated, laughed, and cried some more.  Lives were changed this weekend.  Eyes were opened.  We learned about sexual identities, gender identities, racial identities, and socio-economic identities.  So many activities stand out in my mind: The advantage/disadvantage line, the “life” game, speakers who shared personal moments of their lives, and so much more.

But the best part is that we made mail boxes.  We were able to write small notes to each other throughout the two days to encourage each other or say something nice to that person.  Before we read these note, I was already very touched, because some of the students said that the part they will remember is me and Ana.  They said that they see homosexuality in a different light.  Many said that they will help others who may be struggling, and they will not judge them anymore.  This was all because we went to this retreat. We spoke, and we were living examples of a homosexual relationship.

When I looked in my mailbox and read so many notes, I balled.  “You are my hero.” “Strength is the only word I have for you.” “When I got to live in your shoes during the activities, I see how hard it is for you.  I am sorry that you go through that, and you are strong.”  “Thank you for sharing.” “Thank you for trusting us and teaching us.”

All we did was attend the retreat and participate like everyone else.  I never expected that kind of result, but I am so happy that it ended that way.  I have never been more proud to be me…


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