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Finding me – Liam Rice

September 10, 2019

I think I should start off by admitting that this document has been blank now on my computer for 3 days and I have been thinking about how I can open the can of worms that is (pause for dramatic effect) … Highschool.

Let me set the scene. The year is 2005, and 13-year-old Liam was getting ready for his first day at Highschool. Blazer on? Check. Grey trousers? Check. Massive gym bag that was so heavy that he had to drag it through the halls because it had ALL his books in? (I feared using my locker) check.

As the years went on, like many young people I really struggled with my identity and I was constantly fighting my own thoughts regarding what I knew was “normally accepted” and how I was feeling. Going from primary school where I spent my time pretending to be a horse and drawing Daphne from Scooby Doo instead of playing football, to then going to Highschool was terrifying.

I spent many years fighting my own mind and arguing with myself to the point where I would lie every single day. It sounds very dramatic, but at the time I felt like I was acting every day and I was exhausted trying to be someone I wasn’t.

I allowed people to answer “that question” for me so many times. Looking back it was interesting hearing peoples reactions when a older boy would try and insult me by shouting down the halls “gay boy” (or something equally boring and pointless) and someone else would think they were defending me when they shouted back “He obviously can’t be gay… he does motocross!” .. like that meant because I did motocross, I couldn’t possibly be gay! I’m laughing at 15-year-old Liam replying with “yeah!! Obviously!” and then walking away after another close call.

Although times have changed in the last 10 years, I was taught by society that being anything but “Straight” was a bad thing. Sure, I had my mum, the odd teacher and a few friends that would say the famous words “It’s okay”…but was it? Because the rest of the world was screaming at me saying that it wasn’t, including a lot of pupils and sadly also adults that were in my life.

So after many experiences similar, I decided that I could never really be who I was, I regrettably watched other boys (and girls) in my school get bullied for being who they were and looking back I was jealous that they were so brave despite them getting so much negativity towards them.

I watched all my friends have their first experiences and getting girlfriends/boyfriends,  I was that scared when it got round to me, I would just change the topic straight away or I would joke that I was waiting for Jessica Alba to reply to my text (which usually made boys agree and then move onto someone else).

The trickiest part was near the end of school, I somehow clawed my way to be friends with the “popular” kids despite hardly ever talking and spent more time drawing on my own.  I think it was because of motocross and anyone who did motocross was deemed “cool”. It was attention I liked but I didn’t want to draw too much to myself for obvious reasons. The thing was I actually pretty good (arguably at the time the best in the year without tooting my own horn) and the more the “lads” came to watch the more I wanted to impress and try and fit in. However, the friendlier I became the more scared I got because I just wasn’t like them at all. I am cringing thinking about the times where we would talk about girls and I honestly would have preferred to talk about grass or something equally as entertaining.

Everything was too intense, while trying to hide a massive secret I was also stressing with my family breaking apart and my GCSE’S. My final year of School was a nightmare, if I am honest. It had massive effects on my mental health because I couldn’t even bring myself to deal with anything that was going on at the time. I know this sounds like I’m having a bit of a pity party here, but it all affects you…

My biggest mistake was not opening to anyone. Not my family, not my friends. I am a pretty closed book anyway, but I think if I was just brave enough to talk to someone, even a stranger, my entire education would have been so different…It would have been lovely to go to prom with another boy (despite being happy to go with a very dear friend instead) or talking to my friends about any love interests at the time. But you can’t change the past!

As I finish typing this at the age now of 25, I can’t help but reflect and see how far I have come since school. Despite dealing with my identity and getting to where I am now by myself that doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard. Sometimes I wish I just got to where I am quicker with help, even if it was just someone to listen to me.

This isn’t a way for me to try and tell everyone how much I struggled, what I am trying to say is that if I had someone, anyone that I opened to, my entire teenage life could have been a lot easier. Isle Listen could be that somebody you if you need them to be.

Don’t be afraid of being you.

Liam Rice

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