[box type=”shadow”] IMPACT Magazine is happy to introduce our new intern, Jade Miller. This article is her personal journey, her story, written as if she were being interviewed and profiled by someone else.
She wanted to die. Never having the courage to take matters into her own hands, she remained alive. But her spirit had been killed long ago.
Recalling a time in her life where her world had completely fallen apart, she grew uneasy and hesitant to speak. In an instant, she described that she was around 14 years old when she sat on the couch of her living room in the presence of her parents.
“My eyes were red and puffy as tears blurred my vision…” she started, “My parents had been asking me what was wrong. I honestly had nothing to say. It was as if the massive lump in my throat was only one of the things causing me to sit in utter silence.” She adjusts in her seat before continuing. “I remember my mind racing, I wanted to answer. I wanted it to be easy — I wished there was a simple solution so all of my problems could disappear.”
Her parents had always asked her what was wrong. Consequently, she drilled herself with the same question. “I longed for the same answer they did and I sat with the hope that something would come out, but no. I couldn’t even answer for myself,” she stated. Her voice tried desperately not to crack.
“Even in therapy, I could never put words to what I was feeling.” Some days she would wake up feeling sad, yet her denial of self early on never allowed her to attribute her unhappiness to the real cause, her truth.
People who know her would say she’s silly; there’s rarely a dull moment when she’s around. Despite the seriousness worn on her face and the shy demeanor she portrays at first, she’s undoubtedly energetic. If she isn’t too busy appreciating solitude, she makes certain that her presence is acknowledged. She even humbly admits to her problem of trifling with the rather thin line between outgoing and obnoxious.
Her family would say she’s different; her friends often call her a hipster and some consider her somewhat a hippie. The only vegetarian (now vegan) in her family, she loves tea, adores writing, and passes time reading books in coffee shops — go figure. She even wears glasses, buys organic, and apparently her bike is her sole source of transportation. Her writing, random drawings, paintings, and tattoos are her preferred source of self-expression. Even the knick-knacks that adorn her bedroom — incense, magazine clippings, random art supplies, and tie-dye sheets — tell their version of who she is: certainly far from ordinary.
She prides herself in always wanting to help others, and never hesitates to lend advice to those in need of it. She’s a girl who smiles at a stranger walking by. Not the kind of smile that throws you off but the kind that can lift your spirit if you’re down, get you out of your head if you’ve been thinking too much. Her passion lies in giving her time to others — tutoring elementary age kids, hosting a women’s homeless shelter, or just stopping to converse with those who are often overlooked on the street. She’s the kind of person who can always find time to help others, but never helps herself.
Stress is a burden she could never shake, ever since her childhood. “The pressure of never feeling ‘good enough’ was enough to make me believe that I never would be,” she stated slowly. All she wanted was acceptance. She always had friends, and she was always lonely. The physical company of others was never sufficient enough to fill this internal void.
Growing up in Church
“My parents are Christian so I always went to church, sang in the choir, went to Sunday school … all of that,” she starts. “I grew up in the Church, and I grew up hearing that who I am was wrong and that I was going to hell,” she states as she stares aimlessly at the floor.
Imagine what it feels like for a child to believe that. In the same place she was taught to ‘love her neighbor,’ she was implicitly being told that she was one of the neighbors you try to love but remember to pray for. Think about how hard it is to love yourself when you feel as though sexuality — something out of your control — is the singular aspect of self that is separating you from God’s love.
She wanted to die. Rock bottom was characterized by the self-hate she could not rid herself of no matter how hard she tried. Sure, the feeling of hopelessness is something many people face, but she had come to a point where her instinct to survive had slowly faded. She no longer cared whether or not her life went on. Why bother if even she couldn’t accept herself for who she was?
She questioned God, “why me?” For years, she ignored that part of her identity, desperately hoping that it would change as a result. Having grown accustomed to ignoring it was the sole reason she couldn’t admit to herself or her parents why she was so unhappy that night in the living room.
The year it all changed
Years later, after meeting a young woman with whom she felt entirely comfortable, everything changed. “It was the end of 2009, I met this girl, and for whatever reason I couldn’t stop thinking about her long after we had left her house,” she said. Denial of her orientation never allowed for her to actually have feelings for a girl before that day.
“It was weird, I couldn’t make myself not like her … it wasn’t just physical appearance, but over time I had real feelings for this girl. She’s the reason I came to terms with who I am.” It was as if this massive chunk of weight lifted from her shoulders. No one had ever had such a profound impact on her life; she felt like she was finally capable of loving herself for exactly who she is.
“That was a turning point in my life,” she explains. This particular moment in her life gave her the courage to tell her closest friends about this “thing” she struggled with for years.
“It got so much easier after that,” she said with a great deal of relief. The hardest part was coming out to herself; once she told the people she was closest with, the love they had for her was only reinforced.
This was a defining moment in her life. During her senior year of high school, things took a turn for the best. She was graduating with honors, and all ready to pack up and go off to college. The only problems she wrestled with were that she had not yet come out to her parents, and she chose to attend a Christian university.
“It wasn’t long after coming to school that I was outed by a family member,” she began. “It was after this that I felt an obligation to tell them, although I wished it was on my own timing.” It was the beginning of October in 2010, on a Saturday afternoon. She paced back and forth, anxiously awaiting a text message response. It was like a scene right out of a movie. She recalled that familiar lump in her throat and seeming as if her heart were beating right in her ear. A bit of disappointment weighed on her that she didn’t have the courage to wait and tell them in person.
She immediately received a phone call from “Dad.” “He sensed the nervousness in my voice,” she said. “He told me that he loved me no matter what. He said he felt bad because he wished that this was something I didn’t have to deal with alone.” A blanket of relief covered her as a lengthy text message from her Mom simply reiterated what she had just heard on the phone.
One tricky situation down, one to go. Life had already gotten so much easier. Attending George Fox however, was not. Upon arriving at the school, it was like starting all over. New friends meant new people to grow comfortable with. But being at a Christian school where the topic of sexuality was taboo, she began to feel rejected and worthless all over again.
“It was shocking to see that there is no Gay/Straight Alliance club or any kind of resource for LGBT students when I came here,” she stated with disappointment. Had she known ahead of time how homosexuality was viewed on campus, she would have overlooked her love for the school and chosen someplace where she could feel free to be herself.
After more than a decade of feeling like a mistake, like something (not someone) that God messed up on, and being indirectly referred to as “one of them,” she needed a real change in perspective. That included completely altering the ways in which she viewed herself, and figuring out how she could be open and comfortable with her true self despite snarky comments and weird looks. Not necessarily the easiest task to take on.
“Even now, three years later, I am still asking myself why I am here. It’s hard to feel comfortable in a place that makes you feel like less of a student because of your sexuality,” she laments. Each day is a struggle.
She had finally reached a point in her life where this one piece to the puzzle of who she is was not constantly floating around in her mind.
She had accepted herself, and others did too. Ironically, she is now only misunderstood and afraid to be her true self at a school that encourages students to “Be Known.”
“This year has been pretty hard for me, I felt myself starting to wish I could change again. I realize how much easier life would be for me if I was the straight person’s definition of ‘normal’ but I can’t change. I have to remember that I tried that and it did not work,” she reflected.
Just this year, she found community in Common Ground. “It’s a group on campus, I wish I would’ve joined sooner,” she shared. Since becoming a part of that family, she feels that the courage to be her true self is once again increasing with each week that passes.
Life experiences have brought her to a point where she hopes to use her story to help other LGBT people who are struggling. She feels a calling to ministry that reaches out to youth who are going through the same thing she dealt with growing up.
She is now secretary of Common Ground. “I am tremendously grateful for this opportunity. It is exactly what I need after the year that I have had.” She looks forward to not only using this as an opportunity to grow more comfortable with herself, but also as a chance to be more supportive of other LGBTQ students on and off-campus.
“No one should want to die because of who they are. That just isn’t right,” she said. But adversity builds character, right?
“Struggle makes you stronger,” she started. “I only want to help others more because of what I have been through.”
JADE MILLER is a Senior studying Journalism at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. She is passionate about art and photography, and aspires to combine her talents and interests to inspire LGBT youth to find comfort in their own skin and to follow their dreams.