[oasis][columns]

Life, the Universe, and Everything

by Paul Pellerito
September 1996

First of all, I once again want to thank all of you who have written to me in the past six months, I really enjoy your comments. Feel free to mail me anytime.

Secondly, if there are any girls reading this, WE NEED YOU TO WRITE. I hate looking up Oasis every month and seeing nothing but guys' faces. They're all cute, but it would be great to hear from some girls. For those of you who were waiting for a personal invitation, there ya go.

I can't believe it's September already. I've been writing for Oasis for six months now. When I look back to where I was six months ago, I'm a lot further along than I was then. Who I am just isn't a problem anymore. I guess that means I'm growing up. The thought of being a responsible adult always held mixed emotions for me, I guess it must for most teens.

I think the biggest thing I look forward to in adulthood, is a certain amount of freedom. Freedom to be myself, to do what I'd like, to love who I want to. I feel that I can never find that in Jenison, Michigan. What I see on the horizon for the next six months isn't anything drastic; I'm not prepared to go leaping out of the closet my junior year of high school, but I do want to be free.

Free like I was in Nebraska. Not being extremely "out there" but just being me. After all, that is the easiest thing to do. So, I guess for now, and perhaps the rest of my life, I'm going to be living as myself. Paul, a gay male in a conservative suburban town. To hell with all those other people.

But can I do it? Can I really just be me without worrying about what other people think? I think I can. If I can, than you probably can too. I'm not talking about being totally deaf to public opinion, because a lot of what people have to say about you is important. In other words, it's not all bad. What I am talking about is ignoring the bad stuff, because some people get a great thrill out of making others feel like crap. There's some psychological reason behind that, and I think it has to do with that person not feeling too good about himself.

But enough of that analytic crap. Whenever I'm feeling down, I've relied on three things to get me back on my feet: having a place I can call home (when I was younger, this was always wherever Mom and her loving arms were) being proud of the person I am (whether that means being gay or something silly like a Netizen), and having some amount of faith (not necessarily a religious-type thing, but a belief that things can get better).

Pride is probably the most important thing any of us can have. It's always being stressed at any gay event, and doing most anything requires a certain amount of pride. Not a blatant in-your-face kind of hubris, but that quiet, reserved kind of respect for yourself that says "I'm the person I am and I don't care what you think."

That's what I rely on the most. The fact that I am who I am, and I'm not going to let anyone get me down. I've been called all sorts of names before, and it does hurt sometimes, but it's important to have a sense of pride strong enough that no words can hurt it.

Having a place to call home will always be a big thing for me. Home for me isn't really a house, it's more of a feeling. Some place for me to feel safe, protected, or just relaxed. It doesn't have to be the sofa in my living room, but somewhere with a certain amount for familiarity.

Religious faith isn't something I've relied on to keep me going. If I did, I probably wouldn't have made it this far. I find it very difficult to call myself Christian when I see all the intolerance my fellow 'Christians' have for other people. My sense of faith lies more with the idea that things usually change for the better, not with divine intervention, but with a little push from me. If I want things to change, I may have to go out and change them myself, but at least something's getting done. I suppose my faith relies on the ingrained optimism that I've always had.

I've crammed a lot into this column, but I think what I'm trying to say is that being gay isn't all that bad, as long as you've got a few ways to deal with it. So much of our growing up has been spent with accepting ourselves, but there's more beyond that. There's a whole world that can be full of love or hate, depending on what you chose to do about it.

The future lies in our hands. See you next month.


Paul Pellerito, 17, will be a junior at Jenison High School in the fall, and will be studying Spanish at Grand Valley State University. He lives in Jenison, Michigan, just outside Grand Rapids. His interests include theatre, writing, music, reading, and spending time with his friends. Even though he's not out on his home page he invites you all to visit. You can e-mail him at Paul@oasismag.com.
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