Throughout my life, it has been clear to me that I am a competitor. I compete, it's what I do. I'll grind and persevere at something until I am satisfied with the result. Whether it's the baseball diamond or a question in class, I am going to do all I can to succeed. And in high school, there were lot of things I competed with, and my sexuality was a big one.
The spring of my junior year, my true self became evident to me. I had finally realized who I was, and it shocked me. At first, I tried to tell myself that everything was a phase and I would eventually get over it. For the first time, I battled with myself and who I really was. This came at a particularly stressful point in my life. It was a time where I was trying to maintain good grades for college, while also worrying about getting recruited for baseball.
The beginning of spring and the baseball season started off very well. Our team was successful, I was pitching some of the best games I had ever thrown, and all was going well, except for the underlying thoughts of who I really was. The fifth game of the season was suspenseful as all hell and I can't picture the night any clearer. It was cold with brisk winds and we were tied 3-3 going into the seventh and final inning.
I was playing in center field as a pitch was thrown and the batter had made decent contact, sending the ball into shallow center field. I charged at the ball to the point where I thought it might be possible to catch. The next thing I knew, I was in the trainer's golf cart, getting treated for a broken wrist on my non-throwing arm. I felt like everything had been taken from me. The game had finished and was postponed to darkness and I couldn't do anything more to help. I worried for the team, I worried about college and getting recruited, and I worried about how I would recover.
All the emotions I had on top of questioning my sexuality overwhelmed me to a point, a couple of weeks later, where I told myself that I was not going to lose. I would continue to play. So what if I had a broken wrist, I could still throw. And that's what I did; I threw. Throughout the next couple of games I threw 22 consecutive innings without any earned runs. I pitched our team into the state tournament, with a cast on my left wrist. I came back to pitch the rest of the game I originally got injured in and we won. This was a defining moment in my life. Overcoming something as demoralizing as a sports injury opened up new doors, and helped prove to myself that it was OK to be whom I was.
Over the course of the next few months, I decided that it was time to really open up to my friends and family about being gay. The smile on my mother's face was perfect as she ran across the kitchen to give me a hug. To my relief, my close friends were as accepting as can be. It was a shock to some, as apparently I had the "straight jock" title glued to my forehead, but they were glad that I was telling them. Still a little shy about it, I asked the few I told to not go telling everybody, but it's high school so something like that is going to spread like wildfire.
I was content until the winter of senior year during basketball season. We had just had a game with one of our league rivals, which resulted in our favor. I walked out to my car to see that "FAG" had been keyed into my driver-side door. At first, I didn't freak out, I didn't yell or cuss, I just stared. I stared at the immaturity and recklessness of someone who obviously wanted to hurt me at a personal level.
My friends and I did all we could find out who had done it, but there was no way of telling. It was a couple of weeks later when I decided that I was not going to let this person get to me and I was certainly not going to let them beat me. In my mind, I had won. "FAG" is still keyed into my car; we tried to cover it up but its keyed in too deep, though less noticeable. I refused to let this simple blemish on my car bother me anymore, and I still crack a smile every time I see it.
Overall, I am glad that these things happened to me. They help define me as a person. I got so much stronger just by embracing who I really was and I always had the assistance of my friends and family to back me up whenever something came up. I am content where I am today, incredibly grateful for the people that I am fortunate enough to see everyday, and for how this journey called life has played out so far. So be yourself. Be strong.
When transitioning into college, everyone is going to have worries. The fear of not making friends or not fitting in is always present. What I can tell you is that everyone will end up where they are supposed to be; I am a firm believer of that. Going into school this year, I was unsure whether the University of Connecticut was the right fit for me.
I graduated from a small private school and was just about to be thrown into a state university with nearly 20,000 undergrads. A lot of things go through your head, and you just have to take everything one step at a time. It's lot easier said than done, especially when you have the fear of not being accepted for who you are. Lucky for me, I found my niche quickly.
After my first few weeks at UConn, I rushed Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, was appointed Athletics Director, and am currently dating a fellow member. My brothers accepted me from the beginning and that to me is a real example of brotherhood. What I'm trying to say is that you're going to find your place, a place where you are free to be yourself, and be embraced by people that love you for who you are.
Jack Massari recently graduated from Cape Cod Academy where he was a three-sport varsity athlete and now attends the University of Connecticut. He is an allied health major and serves as Athletics Director for the Alpha Sigma Phi, Gamma Gamma chapter. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or on Twitter (@jack_massari)
or Instagram (@jackmassari).