This post was contributed by Steven Knollmeyer.
Ever heard that “ring by spring” saying in some southern American universities implying that many students will become engaged by the spring of their senior year? My school in New York City had a similar saying but in lieu of “ring by spring,” it was “gay by May,” implying that many students would come out as gay by the end of their first year. Hi- I’m the stereotype.
In the first month of my first year in university, I started casually seeing this girl who lived on my floor in my dorm. Sparing details, I increasingly found myself with a just tad too intense case of a lingering eye to her Harry Styles poster hanging on the wall of her dorm room during moments of – how do I phrase this – activity that should have definitely drawn my attention elsewhere. We both knew something wasn’t working, (I later found out that she also joined me in fitting our school’s stereotype) and we ended things. I spent the following months doing a lot of self-questioning, trying to determine a label for myself, and only speaking about what I was feeling to a very small group of close friends.
When the school year ended, I knew I had no interest in returning to small-town Arkansas and booked myself a solo trip to South Africa and Europe to fill the months I had off using the money I earned being a hotel bellboy in high school and a credit card that I should not have been approved for – something they should teach you about day 1 at school! It was a long journey to Cape Town, and as I was sitting on the plane alone I had a lot of time that I’d never before had to just sit in silence with my own thoughts. I had an idea of what I was feeling, but I always found people and things around me to distract myself with so I didn’t have to confront it. I felt the wheels of the plane starting to come out as we were approaching Cape Town International Airport and an overwhelming and defining thought smacked my brain so hard that I could no longer ignore it:
In that moment it dawned on me that I was about to enter a new place so far from where I come from, live in a house with strangers that have no idea who I am or my story, so I decided then that for the first time in my life, I was going to start this adventure as a proudly open gay man.
There’s not much more to the story because no one that I met there nor in Europe was even slightly phased. Here I thought I had this huge secret that I spent so much of my time running from and contemplating, yet all of these new people that didn’t know me just immediately accepted this as part of who I am at first meeting. It gave me the confidence and assurance that I know I would have never gotten if I stayed home surrounded by the people I’ve known for years, not because they wouldn’t accept me, but because I know I would have stayed too engulfed in my own toxic mind to play the fake role people knew me as because I had played it for so long.
Bottom line, if you’re ever feeling stuck and confused about something in your life, it’s time to finally Shut Up and Go try a solo-trip.
Meet Steven: Another twenty-something New Yorker that can be found anywhere tacos and bottomless mimosas are served. Keep up with him on IG.