We’re in progressive times. There is increasing acceptance and understanding of gender and sexual fluidity because of people who work hard to make sure it’s a conversation we’re having. Whether it’s in the form of voting for same sex marriage laws or discussing birth control, these are important topics that affect us all. In that sense, it’s almost hard to feel like you can contribute to the conversation when you’re choosing to wait to have sex. Which is interesting, when to me, the whole point of the conversation is to fight for and validate a person’s right to choose. Should that choice be to abstain, it shouldn’t imply that you are judging or somehow can’t relate to anyone who chooses otherwise.
I grew up very religious and went to a small private school that reinforced the idea of saving yourself. Once I entered college, I distanced myself from my religious background, though I never let go of the roots, because I wanted to find out what was nurture versus my nature. Focusing on connection rather than what I was familiar with led me to a whole new group of kind, wise, amazing, and non-religious friends. I definitely believe the best relationships are with people that are different from you. Of course I had so much else in common with these people, but sex was a big part of their lives that I felt absent from and, unfortunately, eventually felt inadequate in. I knew I wasn’t waiting till marriage, but I also didn’t know what I was waiting for.
The religious friends I did have of whom I didn’t have to explain my choice to wait didn’t necessarily understand why I would also choose to go out partying, not go to church, or hang out with who I did. I was the conservative mother hen with one group and the wild child with the other - I was an inbetweener. I wasn’t trying to be different, I was just focusing on connection rather than who and where I ‘should’ be, and life showed me that I was a bit of both.
I was changing, which was great, but I almost didn’t take ownership of the fact that it was my choice to change. I discredited myself by considering it all passive change instead of consciously deciding what bits of my identity I wanted to keep and what bits I wanted to add. So it was no wonder that I found it hard to defend or explain myself when the people around me felt differently about, among other things, my choice to wait to have sex. My junior year I especially felt the pressure building to look at myself and explain or categorize what I saw. I felt the need to make myself easy to understand. It was a hard process to learn how to validate myself before validating what others might think of me. When I stopped focusing on what I felt connected to, I, surprise surprise, felt disconnected.
Then I realized that the only person I owe answers to is myself. I hinged my decision on waiting for the perfect guy, but that unrealistic and judgemental standard didn’t sit right with me. I now know that choice came from waiting for the right one. Whether that means right for a time in my life or for the rest of my life, I trust myself enough to know what’s right for me when the time comes. I now find strength and conviction in my difference; a strength I realize is in making a choice itself, not which choice I end up going with. I believe that security in one’s self results most strongly in respect for others. You support the right to make a choice because you know that it takes conviction and commitment, regardless of whether or not you agree or make the same choice.
College is the first time you move out of your comfort zone. You’re away from family and friends and are thrown into this awesome mix of different backgrounds and mindsets. It’s where you do the most growing, not only because of how fun it is, but also because of how much it teaches you. Hopefully it pushes you to examine why you believe what you believe. Hopefully, the answer to that isn’t convenience, and hopefully if it is, you have the strength to find a better one. The key is to tune into yourself. There is so much noise out there that you’re really going to have to make an effort, but there’s seriously nothing better than authenticity, especially when it comes to who you are.
Cover Image by Jodeci Zimmerman