Okay Mary, take a deep breath, and begin.
Wow, what a rollercoaster the last two years have been.
A true up and down experience, in the realest sense.
I admit, I have been silent through the majority of it; sometimes the world wants you to be ready when your heart really isn’t. Some may call this a flaw of mine or even deem me heartless, which I fully allow, but this journey I am on is life changing. To put it simply, it is something that requires time, consideration and a vast majority of reflection. I couldn’t rush this even if I tried.
If I may, can I start off by saying I am sorry my voice has been silent? I am sorry my story has not been written, or even finished for that matter. I am a work in progress; the journey I am on is still being navigated and this story is still being scripted.
I will try to keep this simple, but we all know nothing in life is ever really that. Somehow, it always manages to become more than anyone bargained for.
If you want to though, bear with me and I will show you my soul; that so many of you have been asking for.
You’ve heard the phrase, “I never expected this to happen,” or “this was never what I planned,” many times I am sure. While these phrases are most likely relatable to your current situation, they are relevant to mine as well. The life I am living now was never something I expected or sought after, it just simply happened. Though some may doubt my intentions, it was never my goal to be contradicting. I did not choose to fall in love in a, some may say, peculiar way; I am merely a human whose heart needed more. And, unexpectedly, it found it.
With brutal honesty, I can say that this story starts long before I realized it even began. I met a girl when my heart was broken, and the rest is history. It was no special day, in fact, it was a cold, rainy and miserable one. I was offered some pizza for my starving stomach, a warm hug for my chilled body, and a smile that lit the sky. I thought nothing of the small gestures as I even thought this girl was a little strange! How a person could be so bold and forthcoming even to a stranger- I had never met anyone of the sort. Still, I was intrigued, and a moment of warmth was comforting even if it vanished within an instant.
We held hands in chapel, regardless, the next day and I ended up giving her my number shortly after.
At the time, I was a sophomore in college, whose heart was still mending from a guy I had been off and on with for the last 5 years. She was a freshman who had just moved and was finally beginning to find herself. Our friendship was nothing more than that- a friendship. We were both attending a Christian University with no real desire to change up the routine of life as we knew it.
However, days turned into late nights and before we knew it our friendship had turned into something more. I don’t think we even realized it at first, we had just become so close with spending every day together, trying to figure out life, that our feelings had changed right in front of our eyes. We became captivated with each other. We chose each other over nights out and group hangouts. Not because we had to, but because we wanted to. Pretty soon, the bravery kicked in and she worked up the courage to kiss me. When I say it was pure magic, I may even be selling the moment short. Never, have I ever, felt anything like what I felt when her lips finally touched mine.
Heart pounding, soul rushing, perfection.
That’s when I knew my journey had begun.
When you come from a conservative, Christian upbringing, queer is never something of high acceptability. If we were going to state the obvious, it is not even something talked about.(Unless we are talking about how not okay it is to talk about, lol). In this type of community or upbringing, there is only one acceptable romantic relationship: male and female. Imagine my discomfort when I realized that was not the life my heart had chosen. Nonetheless, life had brought me here and I felt it was my responsibility to let my heart decide the way it wanted to be loved, regardless of how everyone else wanted it to. Thus, my journey began.
And what a rocky, uphill journey it was. Honestly, what a rocky and uphill journey it still is. The progress of each step has made this new adventure less straining, thankfully, but I remain hopeful that someday the hills will fade entirely.
A world of acceptance is the goal, but it will be no small task to achieve.
Just as many other adventures begin, mine was terrifying. Living up to the expectation of others weighed down the chance of attaining happiness within myself, of who I was and who I wanted to be. There was a relentless desire to please my family and to attain their approval upon every aspect of my life. My biggest fear is disappointment, and that is exactly what I was jumping in to.
If you are familiar with small-town living, you know that people know everything about you simply by your last name. Reputations are upheld at all cost. In my story, if you are a Bergmann, you are held to extremely high expectations. You are also expected to follow the rules of your upbringing, which undeniably, are Christian. Life was to go as so: high school, college, meet a male, get married to said male, then have children and raise them up to be Christian so that the cycle may continue. That was my destiny given to me upon birth. Or so, it was supposed to be. I never did have the desire to be like everyone else though, so it only seemed fitting to let my heart be exactly what it wanted to be.
I sound brave, right? Like, yes, Mary, go be who you’re meant to be! Yeah…not exactly.
I had every intention of doing just that, of being the bravest me out there, but life is hard under normal circumstances and I was about to add a whole new struggle to the mix…so, when all things were considered, it just seemed to be an un-winnable battle I would never be able to face. I caved and chose to hide my identity behind the mirror of a straight, Christian girl. Everyone seemed to really like this girl, why would I want to do anything to jeopardize that? I was already trying to manage a full load of classes and a part-time job on top of being an athlete; my hands were full of the present in front of me. Then add the struggle of finding my sexuality and I would have fallen apart.
I like to think that I am strong, but even the strongest people can’t handle everything.
So, I hid.
I put on a façade of what I knew people wanted to see, because that was easier than looking into their eyes and seeing their disappointment. My heart loved a girl, but my life refused to acknowledge it. And it didn’t for many years.
Senior year of college came around and life began to get very real. Eventually, the excuse of her being my college roommate would fail and I would have to find a way to explain myself. You know how a heart gets when it’s not ready to accept something though.. sheer panic began, and I struggled to find a way to cope with what was to come. There were rumors going around in college that we could play off, but once this next page turns a new chapter begins and the façade would have to end.
When you love someone, that love can make you do some crazy things. Now, add denial of that love on top of the already crazy, and you’ve pretty much painted an accurate portrait of myself. The world was not blind, they knew how my heart felt. But, just because something is clear to the people around you, does not mean the terrified personality inside of you is ready to accept it. This is where I stood. The world was pointing out all these things about myself that I was unprepared for. I knew them, of course, but knowing and accepting are two very different things.
Shortly after graduation, I met an amazing man. Our first date was to a cute little coffee shop downtown and it was very nice. He was easy to talk to, he made me laugh and he was very respectful. The man encompassed much all the qualities I was looking for in a partner. He was also a Christian man who valued his family, which I knew would be exactly what my parents would want. All I could think about when I arrived home later that night was that my family would think he was perfect.
“My family would think he was perfect.”
A few weeks later, he met my family and the marriage ball started rolling. Quiet literally. Not even a year later he proposed, and we got married.
The next few sentences have taken me nearly a day to write. I am not proud of my past or its effect on the people it encompasses. From the bottom of my heart, I am so sorry that it took me so long to figure out what I truly wanted. And I am so sorry I was unable to accept something that could have prevented so much pain.
I knew, from the second I met this amazing man, that my feelings for him would never be as strong as the feelings I had for someone else. There would always be someone I would love more. Or chose first. I knew what love felt like, and I knew I would never be able to get there with anyone else. The ugly truth is this: I knew I would never love this man, no matter how hard I tried. But, I was too afraid to acknowledge why, so I pretended, and lied, until I ultimately convinced the entire world that I did.
My honeymoon was miserable. Honestly, the wedding was miserable too. Looking back on it now, I realize I didn’t put hardly any effort into it, and it showed. Nothing was planned or well thought out. I didn’t care about any of the details, big or small. Your wedding day was supposed to be the best day of your life, right? Well, mine was the worst.
While my focus was supposed to be on my new husband, I found my eyes searching the room for a different face the entire time.
There was so much pain. I saw it on her face every time my eyes caught hers. I’m sure the world noticed it in mine, too. We had both agreed we would try being normal and choosing men, but it was evident that my heart couldn’t do it.
Shortly after returning from the honeymoon, I told him I couldn’t do it anymore. I admitted to never really loving him in the sense that he loved me, and we went our separate ways. It was brutal. It was hard. And it was something I thought I would never recover from.
Oh, but was it liberating.
You see, had I never found the courage to stick up for myself and the feelings I held, I would have never had the strength to defy what I was taught to be “right”. Divorce empowered me to stop taking what I was taught at face-value and to take the time to discover things for myself. To build my own character, out of my own experiences, and to discover what it really means to be a kind, caring, open-minded and gentle human being. Not even with just myself, but with the world around me. We all have flaws; we are all on separate journeys, full of unique experiences, and the only thing that is relatable or that even matters, is the ability to take the time to see each journey and the way it has shaped the people within it. Growth is beautiful. I know it took a divorce for me to figure that out, but I can’t say I would of gained the courage to be vulnerable with myself had I not taken that step; if I hadn’t stood up for myself and finally accepted what my heart was trying to tell me all along.
People tend to be kinder to others when they’ve been through something.
The moment I set myself free, is the exact moment I found compassion, vulnerability and understanding in their fullest extents. My family was livid. They were broken by the choice I made and understandably so. Any other day, I would have responded with negativity and hate, but freedom is like a breath of fresh air that holds no negativity and yields the only response to be positive.
My mother was ruthless when I told her that I was getting a divorce. I mean, imagine the worst things that your family could say to you and my mom said it to me. In her mind, I was a failure, I was giving up on the best thing that had ever happened to me and I was also going to hell. She was wrong about many things, but I do believe she was right when she said he was the best thing to happen to me. I know, I sound so contradicting, but seriously, had it not been for him, I would have never had to face my biggest fear. I would have missed the opportunity to say I faced my darkest secrets and prevailed with gratitude.
I will be forever grateful for him. I am sure the world believes I hold no affection in my heart for him, but the reality is, I owe a lot of who I am to him. I am bold, because of him.
I know this story moved quickly; I am skipping a lot of the minor details because if I didn’t, I would write a whole book. My decision seems rushed and not well thought out, but I promise it was not like that. I spent most of my engagement and long before trying to figure out why I was doing it all. There were many sleepless nights due to the immense amount of thoughts my brain relentlessly chose not to shut off.
Why was I carrying on this act that I was happy and that I wanted to be engaged to a person I had no real feelings for?
Why did I become so defensive when the world would notice that I wasn’t excited about moments I should have been?
Well, the short answer, is because I was lying to myself, and I didn’t want the world to know that. I certainly did not want them to know I was slowly losing my sanity trying to keep up the act. Failure is my biggest fear, after all, and I was sailing into that role quiet flawlessly.
Once the divorce was final, I must admit, I withdrew myself from a lot of people. Believe it or not, my heart was broken from the emotional weight it had been carrying. Sure, I had made the decision to leave my husband and destroy my family, but just because it was my choice does not mean it was an easy one to make. I have always cared, so much, about people and their feelings, so when I knew I was going to be destroying someone’s heart, it was not an easy thing to live with. If you know me, you know how true of a statement that is.
I was broken- completely free- but in pieces, nonetheless.
I think a lot of people forgot that I was still feeling all the pain even though I was the cause of it all. It eventually became easier to remove myself from their opinions than to be around listening to them. I understood where they were coming from, their feelings were always valid, but when there is an internal struggle already present, anything else can become overwhelming. So, I withdrew, and chose to find myself despite the chaos around me.
Sometimes we must force ourselves to take a step back in order to make any more progress.
I deleted most of my social media’s and did what any other completely lost individual would do- got myself a gym membership. I knew if I was ever going to forgive myself, it had to be on my own terms and in my own way. If that meant killing myself in the gym, so be it. At least I was feeling a different type of pain for a change. If that meant going in the dark on social media, then so be it. I cared, so much, about other people’s opinions about myself, and I knew I would never be able to heal if I let myself get caught up in their words. Or, in this case, their posts against divorce and their raging homophobia. Healing takes focus, I had to make sure I was giving it all that I had.
And I did.
I did not necessarily choose to be who I am or love who I love, but I am the one who chose to fight for it.
I am here.
And, two years later, I am finally living my truest self.
Hello world. I would like you to meet the person who challenged me, who took me on this amazing adventure, and the one soul I risked it all for: her.
The person you see me as today, has a lot to do with this smiling face next to me. She taught me the importance of kindness, the necessity of responsibility and forgiveness, and the idea of gentleness towards a broken heart. When I was a fragile, she made me feel strong. Not because she fought my battles for me, but because she pushed me to face them myself and supported me as they came. I was never alone, even when I did my best to be so.
She never left. Even after I put her through something no one should ever have to endure.
She chose to stay.
All of my broken pieces, she held in her hands until I could put them back together myself.
Until you witness someone choosing to love you, without condition, without hesitation, after everything they were willingly put through, you may never understand the truth of what being in love entails for me right now. It is life changing, and it is something worth fighting for, no matter what.
It can have the power to inspire- to far greater depths than one can imagine. If we let it, our perspective, our ideals, can be shattered by the endless possibilities we have yet to explore. Had I never let my heart be open, I never would have experienced what it’s like to be loved regardless of the world’s expectations.
I had a very clear picture of what happiness was supposed to look like- but I was never able to obtain it because my world was so closed off.
My heart wasn’t made like the others around me, I could feel it, and understanding that was the first step to finding my own clarity.
Creating my own story was one of the most challenging, exhausting and painful adventures I have ever chosen to embark on. It is not for the faint of heart, but I can tell you, it was worth every draining step.
I am not perfect, and I will never attempt or claim to be. I know that my story does not align with many people’s opinions, but is mine, nonetheless, and I am so proud to share it.
So, I’m Queer….what was the point of all that?
A big part of my story happens after coming out. I hope, since you’ve stayed with me this far, that you wouldn’t mind sticking around just a little while longer.
I find it so important to say that the world is full of people struggling, just like me. I am a voice of many, and I hold so much gratitude in my heart for being a part of something much bigger than myself.
Before coming out as queer, I felt very alone in a world that was surrounded by people. I mean, literally, billions of people. I found myself being different in a place that didn’t like people to be different. It was, in many ways, a daily struggle.
I love my hometown, but I did not flourish there.
Being queer is a tough perspective to carry when you’re surrounded by close-minded people. I mean that in the nicest, kindest way possible. I do not think people set out to be close-minded. I think they simply try to stay true to what they believe in and that, unfortunately, takes away the part of themselves that allows acceptance of things that differ. I hold no grudges, that is not the point, I understand that life is complicated and that it does not make sense to everyone. I am a firm believe in, “to each their own”. I would never want someone to be uncomfortable or to force them into believing the same things I do. I only want the world to know that, I have been there, I have struggled, and even though our perspectives are different, I am still me.
To each their own, my friends. I will choose love over hate, no matter where we stand.
With that, can I now talk to the people who are reading this and it’s hitting a little closer to home than expected? To the people who, like me, are struggling to accept their differences.
I know it seems like you are entirely alone- but you are not. There is a whole world waiting to accept you for everything that you are. Believe it or not, some of them are even right next to you. Some of the most close-minded people I know, have chosen to love me anyways.
The unknown is full of possibilities and, if you are brave enough, it may just surprise you. Don’t let the fear of the unknown push you away from the love some may willingly want to give you; they may never truly accept who you are, but they may open their hearts and choose to love you anyway.
Before you embark on a crazy adventure like I did, though, you should know that I took the time to fully let myself figure out who I wanted to be before I decided to make any rash decision. I’ve struggled with my sexuality for as long as I can remember, like I literally remember being in the third grade wondering why boys seemed so gross and girls seemed so nice, but it’s taken me the last six years to truly open up to myself and to the idea of being gay. Because of this, I had to allow myself the time to do some immense soul-searching, and to truly examine what I was searching for in life. I had to learn to be okay with figuring things out for myself, regardless of my upbringing. I had to learn to let my experiences guide me, instead of just taking everything at face-value. Finding yourself does not happen overnight-please give yourself some time and grace, and the freedom to find yourself at your own pace.
Finding your sexuality is a process and should never be taken lightly. It takes patience, and I hope that is exactly what you give it. Yes, it is an adventure that has the potential to be extraordinary, but it also has the potential to be destructive. The world is full of people who care, but it is also full of people who are not afraid to voice their differing opinions. There is the possibility that you will lose some of the people you care most about. All journeys have roadblocks, and you, unfortunately, will face many while navigating your new chosen path. Make sure you are prepared for them. Reach out to someone or to many- you do not have go through anything alone.
Your heart is fragile, please take the time to really listen to it, and to take care of it.
Then, when you’re ready, if you are ready, show the world the beautiful person that you are.
You are valid.
Your feelings are valid.
Who you are matters.
There is a whole world, full of open arms, ready to receive all that you offer.
And one final thing: if you are ever in need of a listening ear, please know that I am here and I will gladly listen to all that you have to say. Doesn’t have to be about your sexuality either, whatever is on your heart, good or bad, I’ll be a sounding board for it anytime.
Life is too short to be anything but real, my friends.
By: MaryAnne Bergmann
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