I think this is called looking at yourself through someone else’s eyes

Don’t ever wish to be anything but what you are. I am not spewing that “you are beautiful like a flower” bullshit (and yes, I think some of those “each person is a snowflake” pep talks are just empty words). Here is my point: if you were not gay, or were not an athlete, or were not smart, or never had acne, or never went to an overcrowded public school in Georgia who would you be? Feel free to change out those descriptions to fit yourself. I sometimes sit back and think, if I wasn’t me, if I was the person I superficially want to be, what would I be doing right now?

How about if I wasn’t gay. I’ll admit I sometimes wish that. I think high school would be a whole hell of a lot easier if I was like everybody else (or at least like the majority.) But then I get to thinking. If I wasn’t gay, would  have a great blog? If I wasn’t gay, would I have great essay topics for my college applications? If I wasn’t gay, would I have been as much of an observer in life? Would I have the analytical mind I have now? Would I be as interested in academia? Would I even care to be smart? If I wasn’t gay, and if high school was easy, I could have ended up just like all of the other kids in my school. I could have been a run of the mill, average kid. That right there is enough to scare the longing out of me.

The point is, everything, no matter how influential and no matter how big or small, has an impact on who you are. Even my acne has shaped the person I am. I hate that I have acne and that it has persisted as long as it has. It has degraded my relationships with friends and that bugs me. I have had acne long enough that I really want to get rid of it. Enough so that I have researched acne (Wikipedia-style mostly, that’s how the pros do it) and learned the science behind it so I can choose the right medications and habits to get rid of it. It has motivated me enough that the research I have done has exposed me to fields of medicine that I had never encountered before. I would never say that I like having acne, but having acne has helped nurture my interest in medicine and chemical engineering. And I have to be thankful for that.

Here’s an exercise to try: sit down and write a list of things (traits, conditions, etc) that you wish you could get rid of. Then look at each one and think about how your life would be different if it was never there. Look at everything, not just the positives that would normally be your focus. Look at how that “affliction” or “embarrassment” has really shaped you as a person and then cross it off your list and move on to the next item. In the end, I think you will realize that you afflictions aren’t as sinister as you thought. It is our imperfections and failures as much as our successes that shape who we are.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, be thankful for everything you have!

-Ben

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About Brad,Robert,Ben

We are three kids from three different time zones, with one common goal. This is our voice:
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6 Responses to I think this is called looking at yourself through someone else’s eyes

  1. tristram says:

    Hey, Ben – Good advice – learning to gain strength, wisdom and compassion by overcoming adversity – it’s something I have to work at every day. I’m thankful for guys like you, Brad, Robert and a number of other bloggers and YouTubers who share your thoughts and parts of your lives with the rest of us. You make the world a better, less lonely place for me. Happy Turkey Day!

  2. Ben —
    I feel like I could have written your second paragraph myself. I am so glad I’m gay mostly because I am horrified by what I would have become otherwise: some nice, white, suburban, upper-middle class guy (probably liberal — I’m from Portland after all) who would probably be some anonymous, anodyne attorney somewhere who never actually THOUGHT about anything. Coming out really is a crucible, and like all trials by fire it hurts, but you gain so much that it’s worth it.

    Sometimes, I’m less upset by outright homophobes than I am by our luke-warm straight allies who are forever talking about “triangulation” and “yeah, I support you, but not this election!” What the f*** don’t they understand about Dr. King’s “the fierce urgency of now”?

    I hope you don’t mind an extended quotation from JFK (from his civil rights address): “The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark […] cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?”

    Well, I for one am not content with the counsels of patience and delay. Sorry about the rant, but you really touched a nerve.

  3. Burch says:

    Ben,
    I am often surprised that you have the insights that you do at your age. I agree that it is all parts, good and bad. of our life experience that make us who we are. I am thankful that I am gay for many reasons, but one of the most important ones is that it made me question many of the assumptions about society and people that most straights never question. When I knew that I wasn’t the awful person that gays were said to be by society and my parents’ conservative church at the time that I was growing up, I questioned all authority figures to see if they really had the right answers to life’s questions and if they lived according to their own rules of conduct. If I had not and had just accepted what I was told was moral and correct, I might still be living in that medium sized city in Georgia that so many of my classmates never escaped, still attending a church that doesn’t consider me to be an equal to straights. I would never have worked hard to get an advanced degree, I would have never moved to a liberal part of California, never met my husband or adopted my son. I don’t want that life. That isn’t me.

    (A related note, and realize that I am not a Trekkie and don’t watch television any more, but there was a Star Trek episode about this. Captain Piccard was given the opportunity to go back in time and undo the “mistakes” that he most regretted. He found that the mistakes were turning points in his life, that without them he was a totally different person that he didn’t want to be, and that his life wasn’t great in the ways that he expected when he didn’t make those mistakes.)

    It is also interesting that a “problem” like acne might lead you to a career in medicine or engineering that you would not have otherwise considered. Like takes unexpected turns like that all the time.

    As a physician I can say that medicine has many rewards but it is also very difficult at times. You can email me if you ever want to talk about it.

    Burch

  4. Jay M. says:

    Many times, it’s hard to remember that you are “just” a senior in high school. What you have written here is something that each and every one of us can look to for some insight and introspection. I’ve played the “who would I be if only…” game many times. One thing is for sure, though, and you must be careful, hindsight is always 20/20. But at the same time, realizing that every aspect of your being, your personality, your essence, and your aura are all dependent on every other part, and who you are is special unique, and an important part of this world.

    I think my being gay has added to my compassion for others – those of us who are constantly put down for being who we are tend to feel the pain of others since our pain is right there, too. I think my being “heavy” probably contributed to my out-goingness(?) because I realized early on that no one was going to be attracted to me because of outstanding physical aspects. My mother often told me I’d talk to a telephone pole if I thought it would talk back, and because of that, I can make friends in a lion’s den.

    Incredibly insightful post, Ben. I hope this one gets spread wide, so many guys your age (and mine, too, quite frankly) need to see this. Thanks.

    Peace ❤
    Jay

  5. Sam says:

    I love this post. Sorry I can’t offer a better comment, but I agree with everything you’re saying. Wise words, Ben 🙂

  6. PFC Datema, Anthony says:

    My dad taught me a life lesson right after I came out to him. He asked me a very serious question and asked that I think about how I wanted to answer before I spoke. The question was “How do you define who you are?”. The important thing that he wanted to point out to me is not what I said but the content of what I described first. I inadvertently chose to tell him about my beliefs. My social, political, and anthropological ideas that form my view points on everything I do. He then looked at me and said, “That is who you are […] and no one can take anything away from you. Thank You for having the courage to tell me.” This post just made me remember that it is our beliefs that shape up more than our actions.

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