I recently went on a retreat that was organized by the LGBT center here on campus in the mountains of Northwestern Virginia. I initially was hesitant to go; retreats never felt like something I would be interested in. Since my freshman year, they always felt to me like they were only done for those take unusual pleasure in extended self introspection and storytelling, things I never were truly interested in. I also didn't intend to go on this trip because my boyfriend was hesitant to push me, a senior, go, because it was targeted more towards lower years. In the end, however, I decided to apply and give it a shot.
We left on a cold, rainy morning and arrived at the retreat headquarters a little over an hour later. I knew there would be a busy and well followed schedule on this retreat and this turned out to be true. We had a quick lunch and and soon the icebreakers and discussions began. I thought I would hate or at least dislike having to look at myself in such a deep way. I have never been one who enjoys facing my inner demons or even my inner strengths. It makes me uncomfortable. That said, however, I came to enjoy hearing the stories, the talks, the bonding with my fellow LGBT peers. It grew slowly but surely, and the next thing I knew I was starting to tell my story, my experiences, and my fears. That initial peeking over the fence soon led to me climbing over entirely and diving head first into the retreat.
The day which started so early in the morning flew by quicker than I ever imagined. Soon the sun set and the lights were turned down low. As students, alumni, and faculty read their reflections, I felt tears start to well up on multiple occasions. Tears of joy, tears of sympathy, tears of fear. As we broke off again and again into our small group reflections and meetings, I found myself talking more openly than I had in what felt like years. It was moving. It was liberating. It was terrifying.
That first night, after all planned activities had come to an end, I wandered off on my own into the dark. I stood in the middle of the road and breathed in the cold, mountain wind. I listened to the silence, punctuated by the occasional sound of wind whistling through the branches of the bare trees. I stood in the pale glow of moonlight and stood in wonder of the stars above. I felt small.
The next morning the talks continued. The theme of the day was to look towards the future. Where did I wan to go? What do I want to do to better myself? I heard the stories of an Alumni and the director of the center. An individual who I had known and met back during the very first week of my freshman year. She had helped see me though my time of fear and hardship when I didn't know what I wanted to do. She had continued to help me all those years since and today, I finally got to show her my appreciation. I hugged her harder than anyone else I knew on that retreat.
Her story, the stories of my peers, and my experience over those past 24 hours left me confused, anxious, but also reflective. In my last post, I talked about how I felt regret, sadness, and even jealousy over just how little I feel like I had done over the past four years. What if I had done more? What if I took that extra step? What if I just had the courage to take charge and not hold back? These talks, however, helped me realize one thing. While I may have only less than one semester left at my school, I should not waste time looking at what I hadn't done with my time at college, but I should work to embrace and take advantage of what time I have left instead.
A weak man spends his whole life wondering about the past and regretting his missed opportunities, but a brave man takes those regrets and turns them into action moving forward. I want to be a brave man. My time at my school as a student may be limited, but the opportunities to make those most of my time are almost endless. If I can make even the tiniest positive change on campus, the LGBT community, and the lives of those I have touched, I will be satisfied.
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