I have always been pretty sure I know who I am: what I stand for, what I don’t stand for, my beliefs — you name it. I appeared to have it all figured out. If someone would ask me what I was planning to do in five years’ time or 10 years’ time, I always had an answer. I was also a liar.

I realize now in my last year of college I still have no solid idea of who I am. Sure, I know my stats: male, gay, college aged, riddled with anxieties and trying to stay afloat in my classes. However, all the answers I would give people were my attempts at telling them what they wanted to hear as to avoid actually dealing with the real answer.

The honest answer, however ... I don’t fully know yet.

Early Years

I’ve been lost in the lies of labels my whole life. I would hide behind them as if they were shields. In high school people knew me as ‘little English’ because I was so much smaller than my brother. I quickly assumed that as my identity and no one questioned it. They knew who I was from down the hall.

In reality, I was too scared to step out of the shadow to make a name for myself. I had always known myself in school as the younger sibling — my brother always came first. It was always about up keeping his image.

When I got to college, I was lost in the label of being a gay student and fitting into the stigmas of that community. I turned myself into clay and allowed myself to be shaped by those around me, regardless of whether I agreed or not.

During my freshman year of college, I had my first relationship. I finally thought I was going to be able to find who I was, but he was a master sculptor. He tried to control my every action from what I wore to what I ate — and for the most part, I let him. I became a play thing to him. Not a someone, but a something for him to manipulate and change to fit his needs.

I lived like a puppet and plaything for a year — a constant work in progress. My life was defined by the wants of another.

 My life was defined by the wants of another.

When I finally got out of that situation, I was broken, hurt and scarred. I no longer knew my life the way it was before. I had lost friends, motivation and my own sense of self. I knew it was time for a change and I knew that it would be a difficult one. I transferred schools, changed majors and had formed a new friend group — but that didn’t solve all my problems.

Mid-Life Crisis

It was slow for me to start finding myself because I was too scared to take the first step. I had no idea what I would discover about myself and how it would change me. I worried what others would think of me. Naturally I threw myself into work. That’s what people do, right? When your personal life gets tough, throw yourself into your work to distract yourself. And that itself is the issue.

I threw myself into my second year of college, determined to make it a better year than the one prior. I had friends, an on-campus job, an off-campus job and was taking five classes. I kept myself busy. Too busy. I left myself no time to actually process what had happened to me the year before.

All the trauma that I went through began to fester and make itself known. I started to engage in behaviors that, for a lack of better words, could have gotten me kidnapped or killed. I began to make decisions simply because I wanted to feel something, anything at all. The trauma I had worked so hard to lock away made me numb to what was going on.

I stopped hanging out with my friends regularly and when I would, I wouldn’t really engage with them. I rarely smiled, rarely laughed — life was pretty bleak. Soon enough my friends began to notice and they didn’t want to be around that type of energy if I wasn’t going to do something about it.

They smacked me back into my reality. The idea of losing a friend group I had worked so hard to get terrified me. I knew I needed to change and needed to quit my unhealthy habits and deal with what had happened.

Recent Memories

Writing has always been a way for me to process my thoughts and experiences. When I started writing again, I was surprised to discover how much I had hidden from myself. I truly was hurting.

I had always been the product of someone else and never had the time to find who I was. To this day, I still am not fully sure who I am as a human. But what I do know is how to cope and deal with that.

"I knew I needed to change and needed to quit my unhealthy habits and deal with what had happened."

I’ve stopped feeling embarrassed for liking the things that I like. I stopped caring about what other people think and I’ve started taking care of my body again. At times, it is enough to make me feel that I know who I am. But I know that I am always going to be a work in progress. Some drafts will be saved, and others will be thrown out.

Sometimes you write a draft that you despise so much that you burn it and throw it in the trash, never looking back. That is okay. It is okay to work on yourself. It is okay to struggle and fail. It is not okay to take others down with you.

My senior year of college has been the biggest roller coaster of my life thus far. I had thought I had it all figured out. I had a loving and caring partner. My classes were going well and work was great. Then I realized my partner and I were both hurting. I didn’t like my major or my jobs. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I broke.

Looking back, I realize why that happened — I was trying to cram too much in my life at once. I wanted a taste of everything before I lost it all again.

Now here I sit typing this, still lost, but okay with that. I am lost but I am not alone.