Sometimes, I like to daydream about what my life would be like if I could go back in time and attend high school. In reality, I only had one year of high school. My mom decided to take me and my siblings out of school for a year to experiment with homeschooling. I remember that year consisting mostly of my going to the public library and checking out and reading books on various academic topics. After that year, I started to attend the community college and never returned to finish high school.
Although I enjoyed the freedom of that year to study whatever I was interested in, I sometimes regretted in later years the time I lost to be a teenager and experience what others of that age experience in public school. If I could go back though, I wouldn’t want to be as I was then. I rather like the person I have become and would prefer to stay myself.
I think, if I could go back, my friends and peers would be a lot more important to me. I would be more interested in joining and participating in clubs and other extracurricular activities. I was liked well enough by people that knew me then. I would take more advantage of that. During my public school years, I was flirted with and asked out by several girls. I remember being flattered by the attention, but I always turned them down, citing family and religious rules as my excuse.
If I could go back, I imagine that it would come out quickly that I was gay. Instead of using religion or family rules as an excuse to not date, I would tell the truth. I wonder how that would have changed my growing up experience. I imagine it would have had both positive and negative consequences. Still, even if there were some negative consequences, I think I would be okay. I’m okay with who I am, and I think that if I could show and maintain that confidence, I would be able to overcome the challenges.
But if a guy I liked asked me out, what would I say? I know my parents would be against it, but I think I wouldn’t let that stop me. I’d just tell my parents I was hanging out with a friend, and I doubt they would ask many questions.
Or maybe they would ask questions. One of the first interactions with my parents would probably be regarding church. I think that if I could go back, I would still choose to go to church. I would go out of respect for my parents and in order to keep the peace. I would be honest about my feelings and beliefs though. I would be as polite and kind as possible, but I would not lie or make people think that I believed what I did not. No matter how respectful I would try to be though, I know this would cause a lot of stress at home. I wonder if my parents would still grant me the freedom to roam as they did my first time around, or would they want to control me more? Would I actually be permitted to hang out with friends if my parents were overly worried about my faith? And then, if they were to find out that I was gay, how would that affect my family life.
I’ve never really had that conversation with my parents, so I’m not sure how things might have gone. I remember them casually mentioning to me once, before they knew that I was gay, that they had gone door to door in California to encourage people to vote in favor of traditional marriage and against gay marriage. The church certainly taught against homosexuality, so I imagine that if my parents found out about me back in the 90’s when I was a high school student, things might have gotten interesting. In reality, they knew nothing about me or how I felt. If I could go back, I wouldn’t leave them in the dark. I don’t know if that would be better or worse for our relationship though.
It’s rather hard to see things being very comfortable for me at home, so I imagine I would want to spend as much time away from home as allowed by my parents. I hope they would at least allow me the freedom to join a club or get a part-time job.
I wonder how the friend I spent the most time with as a teenager would react to my being gay and a non-believer. About a year ago, in early March 2019, I finally told him that I was gay. He had been quite distressed about my lack of belief in the Christian god, and when he found out I was gay too, he stopped talking to me altogether. If I could go back, would we be able to keep our friendship, or would I need to look elsewhere?
If I did look elsewhere, I would try and find friends that could accept me the way I am and be non judgemental. I would look for friends that were honest and true to themselves. I wouldn’t mind if they had different habits and inclinations from me, but if I were invited to take drugs, smoke, or drink alcohol, I would say no. But this time, it wouldn’t be because of the Word of Wisdom. Some actions just make more sense, and I could use basic logic to explain my choices. There would be no need to invoke a god to rationalize wise behavior. I have found that most people are willing to accept these reasons more than claims to rest behavior on commandments from a god. Others are also more willing to join a person in a positive behavior when it makes logical sense.
I remember as a teen hearing songs played by peers that my parents would not have approved of. I remember trying not to listen. I felt dirty and less worthy as a result of hearing that music because of how I’d been taught. In more recent years, however, I have learned that I actually like a lot of the music that I used to try and avoid. If I could go back, I would listen to and enjoy listening to songs by Nirvana, Eminem, Madonna, Duran Duran, Guns N’ Roses, Boyz II Men, and on and on. I wouldn’t feel guilty for liking what I like. Still, I would try and show respect for my family and those around me and only listen in private or with friends with similar tastes, but the guilt would be gone.
If I could go back, would I be a good student? I don’t know. I think it’s a lot easier to learn things now. I used to be so focused on the big picture, meaning God and the eternities taught in Mormondom, that I had difficulty focusing on smaller details of reality. Geography, History, and Social Studies were especially difficult as I saw Earth as transitory. Now, the Earth, how things are now, and how they came to be that way matter much more to me. I think it would be easier to learn and understand if I could go back as I am now.
Despite learning being easier, I could still have difficulties doing well in school because I think I would be more focused on friends and less willing to waste my time on homework when it seems unhelpful. Good assignments should help students to master the relevant material, but I know too well how many tasks are assigned without much forethought. Teachers want their students to trust them and to do the work, but I would struggle with this. Still, my competitive nature when it comes to academics might propel me forward regardless of the trust issues I may have.
Oh, and one last thing that comes to mind. With my own money, I would go out and buy my own underwear and never let anyone dictate for me ever again what I should or shouldn’t wear beneath my clothing. As a teenager, my mom bought white briefs for me that I absolutely hated. When I turned 19, I went through the Mormon temple and was required to wear the temple garments. One of the greatest joys of my life has been giving those up. If I could go back, I would enjoy my life a lot more, living it in my own way, not feeling guilty for things that don’t matter, and being more honest in every way.