By Lee Metaxa Rozenfeld
Emerge, according to the Merriam-webster dictionary, is a term defined as “to become manifest” or “to come into being.” This term resonates with me in oh so many ways, and has been especially prevalent in my life over the last few months.
Ever since quarantine began, I’ve found myself questioning everything about myself: my overall identity, sexuality, personality, and spirituality; that’s a lot to question at once, right? But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because of how little outward interaction was happening in my life, as with practically everyone else’s, I had so much time on my hands for self-reflection.
Because of this, I have been able to “emerge” stronger than ever, with a much clearer understanding of my own power and the importance of my own unique voice; I have everything I need already inside of me. I’ve learned that I don’t need to control every aspect of myself, and once I stopped trying to do so and simply allowed my intuition to guide me, I realized that I wasn’t who I thought I was for so long.
I have always been an ally of the LGBTQ+ community growing up, but I’d neglected my own personal “baggage.” Once I started really sifting through all of it, I realized that I had some internalized homophobia and fear of judgement going on inside of my mind. Because I had genuinely thought I was straight for practically my entire life up until this point, I thought that that was my only option. After learning so much more about myself, I realized that with this mentality, I was tightly boxing myself in, leaving absolutely no room for further growth or self-exploration. Meanwhile, there were parts of myself I had never even scratched the surface of before.
Now that I have sorted through all of these thoughts and feelings, I have been able to come out of quarantine as a proud queer person. I don’t believe I ever had one of those “lightbulb” moments of when I realized that I was bisexual, but I did undergo some experiences over the last year or so that have helped to inform me of my current sexuality. I did some experimenting in the beginning with changing my dating app settings to showing both men and women in my area, etc. and at first, I was terrified. I didn’t want to admit that this was what I wanted so I almost immediately changed it back to just men. Mind you, this was back in the spring of 2019.
It was only during the spring of 2020 that I really allowed myself to try again. This time, I was a lot more open-minded and less judgmental of myself; I felt significantly more open to the idea of having romantic/sexual relationships with men, women, and nonbinary people. If anything, I felt excited. However, it wasn’t until quarantine that I sat down with my thoughts to figure out what exactly I was feeling. Over the course of a few weeks, I realized that I, in fact, was attracted to people regardless of their gender. The longer I sat with the thought of being bisexual, the more I felt as though it suited me. I am not a huge fan of labels by any means, but I just felt good about seeing myself in the light of being bisexual, enough so that I made a post on Instagram about it. I ended up getting so much support and love on that post that for the first time in a long time, I felt content being fully and unapologetically myself. What a feeling that is.
This could never have come about, however, without a degree of self-love. I’ve gained so much from learning that I don’t need anyone else to be happy. I’ve almost always struggled with relationships in which I wasn’t valued for who I was. Growing up, I experienced several toxic relationships with numerous people, involving gas-lighting, constant rejection, and negative labeling. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I really started accepting myself, however, it’s taken me up until the end of quarantine to say that I love and accept myself and mean it with 100% conviction. At this point in my life I am able to stand my ground, look at myself in the mirror and actually love what I see. This has changed every aspect of my relationship with myself, bolstering my mental health, transforming my body image, reframing my habits, and improving my relationship with food, which is no longer so fraught, but instead a way to nourish myself.
Loving myself means that I accept myself entirely in any state I find myself in, even on my worst days when I feel like giving up. It means realizing that I’m my own soulmate and best friend; I’m the person I’ve been looking for all along; I don’t need anyone to “complete” me because I am whole all by myself. I hope those of you reading this can give yourself this kind of love, too because it feels amazing.
The past few months have been a time of immense personal growth for me, and I hope this inspires some of you to not fear your own journey of self-questioning, self-discovery, and self-love. Once you reach a point where you start to feel comfortable with yourself as you are and realize your true power, man, is it absolutely liberating. I think what I’m trying to say is: it’s okay to undergo numerous changes all at once. Although it might seem as though you’re scatterbrained and overwhelmed with numerous things that have nothing to do with one another because you’re the one at the center of them all, you’d be surprised to discover that in a lot of cases, these things are all interconnected in some way. Allow yourself to take that journey! The true beauty lies in the uncertainty.