It is that time of the year when we either think positive and happy thoughts or we feel sad. I saw a lady on the street that reminded me of somebody I hadn’t thought about for quiet some time.
Growing up behind the Iron Curtain (former USSR) wasn’t easy and realizing that I was gay made it even harder.
As most of gay youth, I felt that I didn’t belong anywhere. I didn’t fit in and felt awkward around other kids. I had these strange feelings that I couldn’t explain or even pinpoint what it was. I was so lost and I had nobody to talk to and even if there could potentially be somebody, I wouldn’t know what to say anyways. But this is not about me. This is about a wonderful person that I would like to thank.
Her name was Natalie and she was my PE teacher. Also, she was my first crush and the reason I started asking questions. Natalie was an amazing person. She made kids feel like they are not any different from adults. I have to mention that at that time even if you were 18, nobody listened to you or took you seriously. I don’t know why they raised their kids with the feeling of inferiority but it left an incredible need to prove that you are somebody and worthy. I never felt that attitude coming from her. She was just there – simple, available, understanding and ready to listen.
From grade 3 till the day I left high school she was the only stable thing in my life. Natalie didn’t smile much but when she did, it lit up the room. Every break I got I made sure I saw her. I snuck into teacher’s room and checked her schedule, so I would know where her classes were and what time. I was passing by in hope to catch a glimpse of her. Of course, I couldn’t make the direct eye contact but at least I was near.
Natalie treated me differently as, I am pretty sure, it was more than obvious that I made an effort to be around even when I was not supposed to. Now, looking back, I assume that either she felt how desperate I was for her attention or she understood me on a different level. I am actually quiet sure that she recognized all the signals and clues and tried to be there for me as much as she could in a way she knew.
I will never know if she knew what I was going through as Natalie took her own life and I never had a chance to talk to her as an adult. Till this day it is so hard to be gay in Latvia, especially if you are in your 40 or 50 and it makes me so sad that people are not just bullied and pushed to take their own lives when they are young but also when they are adults.
I wish I was braver and had talked to her when I had a chance. I had played the words I would say over and over in my head, but I didn’t step up and let it go. Sometimes I wonder, if she would still do what she did if I had talked to her. I was in Latvia a month or so before the tragedy took place and I even went to the school but I turned around at the door and decided not to. I chickened out. All I wanted to say was – how wonderful she was, how important a teacher is when she / he steps in at the right time and provide support others fail to offer. I did want to say that I know how hard it is to be yourself and be free. I wanted to acknowledge how important she was for me. I wanted to say thank you…