The Most Difficult Thing I've Ever Done

Hey y'all.

It's Daniel. And as my profile says, I am an English and Secondary Education major (and a Women's and Gender Studies minor) at UAF. What I like about all three of these subjects is that it combines all of the stuff that I like to do: 1) read about people, 2) study people, 3) help people out by teaching, and 4) talk about me –– because who doesn't?

Anyways... I am currently teaching junior-high students the novel Huckleberry Finn. (Quick synopsis: Huck Finn is a rebel child who runs away from "sivilized" life, jumps on a raft with a black man named Jim, gets into contact with lots of vagabonds and criminals, and learns to find himself through this journey down the river.) The first assignment that I had my students do is to write an introduction about themselves, just like Huck did in his own novel.

The things that the students wrote had me laughing; they're a phenomenal bunch of kids. They've definitely opened up to me throughout the past three months. One student, however, put me on the spot and asked me to share my own introduction. All of the students agreed with her. I froze, of course. I didn't have one.

I knew I was not going to get away from the question, so I decided to appeal to their request. I negotiated with them: 5 questions I'll answer, unless the questions are super personal or incredibly inappropriate. The students agreed and immediately hit the ground running.

First question: What was the thing you regret the most? That was a shocker. A moment of silence passed after I answered.

Then the second question came too soon. What was the most difficult thing you've ever done? Another showstopper. My body halted, but my mind was careening out of control. I knew what the right answer is, but I asked myself if it was right for me to give the answer to my students.

I decided that I have to answer –– truthfully, honestly, wholeheartedly. Especially in the climate of the nation, where people's experiences are being discounted and being whittled down to smithereens. I was vocal. I was bared down to the marrow. I came out to them.

I and many others have been in this situation before. Some more successful than others; some more peaceful than others. In the past, mine was not too great (although that's subjective). It's a claustrophobic, crushing feeling to come out to people. I needed to do it again, just so my students understand that 1) being gay is a reality for many people, 2) being gay is a normal thing, 3) being gay does not make me any different than anyone else.

There were no scoffs, chuckles, or even any movements of discomfort. I trusted the students enough to show (and validate) that part of me to them. And I know for sure that they trust me more now too.

That's probably the second-most difficult thing I've ever done. Whew.

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