You hand a guy a small glass of water and command him to hold it and he won’t ponder it twice. He will grab it and mock what an easy task it is.
However, after a period of time you let him know he can’t put it down. Slowly the glass becomes heavier. His arms start to burn and the water begin to shake. Eventually, his arm is shaking at an alarming rate. He starts sweating and the pain of his arm becomes overwhelming. All his thoughts are now centered on this tiny glass.
How easy it would be to just simply place it down. Holding a small glass of water is an easy task until it begins over time to cripple. Keeping a small secret is an easy task, but not when you shelter it for years. The secret I held onto for so long was the fact I was gay.
I remember scrolling through an article my track teammates Michael Mitchell and Susie Poore posted last October on Outsports when I was a first semester sophomore at Lehigh University. This article wasn’t about glorious success or the road to victory in cross-country. It was a coming out post.
I remember diligently reading it over and over. My mind would race as if I was on the track myself and my hands twitched with the nervousness of someone being caught in a lie. I was terrified, but simultaneously fascinated by the words strung out on the small, illuminated screen of my IPhone. I cried as if each word left a burning brand of truth on my chest. Reading it revealed fright, insecurity, sadness, and an overwhelming truth.
Perfection was a word I was obsessed with growing up in Northeastern Pennsylvania. It suggested someone poised and flawless. Seeking perfection took control of a life I decided to live, especially within sports. It was one word that I felt protected a secret I held about my sexuality.
It’s a word that isn’t practical, but I made sure to implement in every aspect of my life. It was something that took a toll on me over time.
I struggled with being different from a young age. I always felt as if I stood out from everyone else. This scared me as a younger child and I ended up utilizing sports as an avenue to conquer this fear. I would partake in sports and excel in them to “distract” the manner in which I stood out. It’s very ironic, the idea of creating more attention to divert attention. I was trying to cover a secret through success at cross-country.
As I grew older, my struggles with my sexuality increased alongside my accomplishments in running. I went from breaking records in junior high to earning state medals to eventually winning the Pennsylvania track and field state championships my senior year.
I used running as a model to shape my life. The accomplishments I obtained for running were self-fulfilling while also self-validating. The faster I ran in the race, the more the praise and spotlight made me feel as if I was proving something.
Running became a space that I used to vent my internal frustration. Through this I tried to perfect a sport whose first rule is failure. I thought I could mold my life, particularly in sports. I took joy in defying odds in the times I could accomplish. It was as if I was defying myself. Winning the 3,200-meter Pennsylvania high school state championship in track was a pivotal point in achieving what I desired.
I soon realized though that I was literally running away from something that was damaging myself. I would desire each achievement in order to ward off those negative thoughts about being gay.
When I entered college, I struggled as freshman athlete. I began to realize I was losing the spirit of an athlete to an internal secret I believed couldn’t be true nor shared. In the fall of 2017, I began to really accept my sexuality, but I couldn’t utter those words to anyone else except myself. It was a battle worse than the fight before.
My times on the track began to slip with this ongoing conflict and I grew internally frustrated. It was at this low point in my life that my two teammates changed my life forever with their coming out article. Through the article, I found myself feeling like I had a resource. I watched how their lives prospered after coming out and I realized this possibility for myself.
I then decided to come out.
Originally, I believed being gay would result in lost friends, my parents crying for me to change, being kicked off the team and my hometown disowning me and my achievements. In fact, the opposite occurred.
I came out to my teammate Michael Mitchell — one of the athletes who wrote the Outsports story — and I wept. I released years of the burdens I was carrying.
I eventually worked my way to telling more and more people until I came out publicly in March on Instagram:
There’s something that I’ve been wanting to say for a while now...I’m gay. Two words that I hope one day people don’t feel a need to announce, cry over, or hope will be received well. I’m proud as hell of it and wouldn’t trade what I’ve gone through for the world. To those back home who read this and may not have the courage yet...it’s going to be alright. Life is an amazing gift and you’re granted a limited time to grasp that. The problems today will soon be gone tomorrow and the worries will wash away as such. In the end we all deserve to live our best life and I’m glad to say I’ve finally begun living mine. Stay strong out there, better days will always come.
I thought everything would change, but my life remained the same except I could be myself and truly happy. I never knew what I was missing. The years of beating myself up mentally were for nothing.
I haven’t had a negative remark on coming out and I haven’t felt an ounce of regret. I thought perfection was my route in life because perfection was what I was not. But no one achieves perfection. The world Is perfectly imperfect. Everyone has their own version of perfect. You just need to find your own “perfectly imperfect.”
It took me until I was 19 years old, but I learned what love is. The happiness that fills me now has created a different person. I fell in love and have been incredibly lucky to date Michael here at Lehigh University.
This is a message I have for others out there that may be struggling: Our biggest obstacle in life is ourselves. Everyone deserves to be happy. Life is a very beautiful thing and we have a very limited time to grasp that.
The troubles today will be gone tomorrow and the worries will wash away. It`s going to be OK and I promise it won’t as bad as you think. There is such a beauty in what everyone is.
Everyone has their own version of happiness, and at the end of the day you will eventually find yours. I am glad that I can say I have genuinely found mine. Stay strong out there, better days will come.
Matt Kravitz, 19, is an upcoming junior at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. He is a major in Molecular Biology and Public Health, minoring in Business and a member of Lehigh’s Track and Cross-Country teams. He can be reached by email (email@example.com), Twitter or Instagram (matt_kravitz33).
Story editor: Jim Buzinski