Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

It is 9:30 on a sunny June morning, I’m standing alone in the ferry ticket line pretending to look for friends that aren’t coming with me, hopelessly trying not to look so uncomfortable. I move forward in line and see a group of people who I know at school. Immediately, I turn my back hoping they won’t see me. A few moments pass, and they’re gone. As I step onto the ferry, I’m paranoid I will see them again, but I don’t know why. Everyone goes to Pride; it’s the party of the year, but I’m going for a different reason, and I’m not ready for people to know that.

Almost an hour later, as I step off the ferry, I’m bombarded with a wall of rainbow flags, and I can’t help the smile that comes across my face. It hasn’t been five minutes before glitter is being thrown on my head and someone’s screaming “happy pride” in my face. A group is handing out blank signs and markers. I grab one without second thought and write, “I am here for 14-year-old Me”. There’s a visibility flag stand, and I ask for the pink, purple, blue one- showing bisexuality. “This is it,” I think to myself as I tie the flag around my neck, “This is the first time I’m publicly telling people my sexuality.” I take a deep breath and hope that coming out at home will be as easy as tying a flag around my neck. I squeeze my way to a spot against the gate to watch the march and introduce myself to the people next to me: Christopher, Eileen and Jesse.

As we watch the floats go by I think about who I was two years ago. Fourteen-year-old Me never thought she would be at Pride, she hoped, but thought it would always be a far off dream. Fourteen-year-old Me also didn’t think she was going to be alive to even start high school. Now seventeen-year-old Me is standing in the middle of pride with a flag on her back and glitter in her hair and seventeen-year-old Me is happy to be alive. I’m taken out of my trance by Christopher yelling in my ear that he sees his friend and suddenly he’s pulling me in her direction. She introduces herself to me by pulling me into a big hug and saying her name is Maggie. It’s only a few seconds before she’s hugging us again and saying good bye. After a few minutes of walking in silence towards the Civic Center I ask how he’s in the LGBT+ community, “I don’t really know or care for that matter,” he says. “All I know is that somehow I feel like this is where I belong.” As we fall back into silence, his words roll around in my mind. His words are still rolling as I walk back to the ferry at the end of the day. As I return to my normal life, I get a sense that this is where I belong. As I traveled home I saw a group of people from my class and, instead of hiding, I wave and say hi.

I step off the boat onto the same place I started that morning, but I feel different. My grandma is waiting for me outside the gate with her camera and a big hug, and in that hug I feel she knew I had changed from that morning, and she was okay with that.

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