Every year, to commemorate the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year, my mother would reluctantly be dragged by my sister and myself to spend a day at the Nevada County Fair, consuming an unhealthy amount of fried food and sugar. So many memories were created on those fairgrounds; not all of them completely happy.
The day I planned to end my life I decided I would visit the fairgrounds one last time to say goodbye to those memories. Years of growing up in a semi-homophobic town had led me down a path of heartache and self-loathing. If no one could love me for who I was, how could I possibly love myself? I am who I am, and who I was, I thought, was a freak.
Many horrible incidents had lined up like dominoes, leading me straight to what I thought was my last night. I wandered around aimlessly planning out every last detail. Everything had to be perfect. I couldn’t mess it up like the last time.
Suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I saw rainbow stickers and a banner that proudly stated “PFLAG,” which stands for Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays.
It was the first time I had ever heard of the organization and before I realized it, I had walked straight up to the booth. The woman standing there simply smiled at me and asked me if I had any questions. My mind was racing. Here stood a proud woman standing up for equal rights; standing up for my rights. I didn’t understand.
“Are you happy being open?” I asked her.
She seemed a little confused by my whispered question but she merely smiled and nodded enthusiastically. If my mind had been racing before, it had officially shut down now. How? How could she be happy? I’m a disgusting person! I’m not allowed to be happy!
Then it hit me. This woman standing in front of me was smiling. When was the last time I had done that? Did she not see that there was something wrong with me?
But what exactly was wrong with me to begin with? Nothing! I am who I am. I am flawed. I am emotional. I am wounded. I am human.
After years of being told I was worthless and believing it, I finally had a light at the end of the tunnel. If this woman could be happy and love herself then maybe so could I.
I ended up spending a few more hours wandering around, second-guessing myself and switching back and forth, but in the end I went home and started my never-ending journey of recovery. PFLAG may not have single-handedly saved my life, but I can honestly say without it and Lori Ennis’ radiant smile I would not be here today getting ready to help man the PFLAG booth for the 2014 Nevada County Fair.
For anyone out there feeling lost, or just needing a boost, remember: You are who you are, and who you are is beautiful.
Anna Lacey lives in Auburn.