Every December, I write a “Lessons Learned” entry. Basically, I list everything that I learned that year and elaborate on it. This year is no different, but instead of just making a numbered list, I’m going to do it by months. No, don’t worry, it won’t be a lesson for each month. It will be a lesson from a cluster of months. That makes it more effective because it can accurately illustrate, through writing, the collective lesson that I learned. So before I dive into it, I will include a short “foreword”.

Coming into 2011, I had no idea what to expect. All I know is that I wanted it to be the best year of my life, and I was going to make everything possible to make it so. 2010 was depressing and filled with a lot of angst. Depression, suicidal tendencies, feelings of entrapment, wanting to escape, coming out at home, and being hospitalized. I vowed to make 2011 the best year I could, because I kept telling myself: “At the end of the storm, is a golden sky.” 2010 was the worst storm I have endured in my life, and somehow, I wanted 2011 to be the rainbow that came after it. However, I had no idea that I was in for a deranged ride.
The main event of this year was me living at Storrs. I knew that a new world of possibilities and social scenarios awaited me. However, nothing could have prepared me for what followed suit. So without further delays, I will now revisit the divergent journey that was 2011.

January, February, and March
I settled in Storrs January 17th, 2011. I was excited to be on my own, and I didn’t really feel any fear. I was terrified of not making friends. Luckily, I had three people I already knew, as well as high school friends. Still, it was hard to connect with people. I dreaded eating alone at the dinning halls, and felt like I had already made a mistake by coming there. To make matters absolutely worse, the winter was the worst one yet. Nothing but snow and freezing cold. Classes were cancelled numerous times, and I was left with nothing to do. I spent many lonely days walking in the snow, and the bitter cold of winter made me an even bitter person. Everywhere I walked, I was a pathetic yet mysteriously stylish figure in my top buttoned down coat and my heavy Polo rain boots. I also lost a lot of weight because the nerves kept up with me. I didn’t meet people until I started visiting the Rainbow Center. Yes, I was warned many times not to go there, but curiosity killed the cat. I met some great people with amazing personalities, and for that I am grateful. I also met some people that can only be described as belonging to the bottom of the scum of the earth. I experienced something more dramatic than a Parisian Opera. However, I will not complain, because I was warned after all. From this I learned that I have to stand up for myself and not let people walk all over me. Like I’ve said, people don’t like those who stand up for themselves. There was a lot of jealousy because I knew who I was, and I was confident in myself. Maybe one day, these people can learn how to love themselves too.
After the drama, I decided to distance myself from the RC. Around March, I began to be a complete loner. Apart from occasional lunches and dinners with some friends, I spent the days going to class, doing work, and walking around campus. Being by myself allowed me to look deep within and ask: “Who are you and what do you want?” I learned that I am someone that is to be respected. I learned that I will never let people use me and walk all over me again. I also learned to be cautious, because no matter what people tell me, there ARE evil people out there who are immature and whose only intentions are to ruin others. However, at the same time, I learned that there are also good people who, even though they have their own flaws, have good intentions. Going through drama at the RC opened up my eyes to human nature. I can honestly say, without any doubt in my mind, that young gay men are the most dramatic group of people on earth. More dramatic than teenage girls, and more dramatic than wealthy housewives. You wouldn’t agree with me unless you experienced it. Some people are crazy, and touched in the head.
Even though I made some mistakes, such as opening my mouth to speak when I shouldn’t have, or messing around with other guys sexually, I can’t really regret it. Those were choices, and I consciously made them.
Being at Storrs changed me. Even though I transferred back because I couldn’t handle the social distractions and the way classes were taught (horrible professors), it made me tougher than I thought it would. I now appreciate being at home, working all year round, and most of all: saving thousands of dollars. But even so, I have now built a “reputation” of being someone not to mess with. Not because I will “beat you up” or “get you jumped”, but because I actually defend myself and am very vocal about it. All in all, I am a fighter, and I can’t let people who have no class and no intrinsic sense of self bring me down. I am who I am, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My skin is a lot thicker now that I experienced this.

April, May
As the Storrs campaign came to an end, I looked forward to summer. I saw it as my “salvation” from this storm. I lamented not having the best time I could have at Storrs, but at the end of the semester, I realized: “I chose to come here, nobody forced me. I have to deal with it and learn from it.” Going back home never felt better. I did cry a lot because I would deeply miss my new made friends, but like most things in life, all good things must come to an end. The transition from winter to spring was rough because the weather couldn’t make up its mind. Still, I hung on, waiting for May 7th. The last few days were bittersweet, and I have absolutely no idea how I didn’t fail anything. My grades were mediocre to say the least, but still, I made it.
Looking back at the series of blog entries called “The Storrs Diaries”, my mind went through some dark periods. Not only periods of darkness, but of conflict and loneliness. Maybe one day I’ll publish them. They’re powerful.
I also felt that everyone in my family was moving forward except for me. I broke down several times, trying to put it past me, but at the end of the day it always caught up with me. I have learned that life is not a competition. You can focus on your goals day by day, and if you compare yourself to others, you aren’t left with any motivation. Motivation has to come from within. YOU are the reason why you want to succeed.
I also learned that taking risks in life is good. If I hadn’t come to Storrs, I wouldn’t have experienced anything. I wouldn’t have met the people I did, and I wouldn’t have come out a stronger and more firm person. I have no words to describe the madness that is Storrs, I truly don’t. But all I know is that it allowed me to see human nature at its ugliest, most darkest form. Still, I am a stronger person with a stronger mind. I know what I want out of life.
Storrs taught me that nothing, and I mean nothing, is ideal. Storrs itself isn’t ideal. I thought it would provide me with the social life I desired for so long, but even so, it proved to be too much. I came to the conclusion that UConn Storrs is overrated. I was more than happy to close the Storrs chapter forever, and ended with these words:

“3 months ago I happily embarked on a crusade to divide and conquer. However, things did not have an entirely favorable outcome and did not turn out as expected. And now, I return home. I left home in a happy mood, and I am now returning in a happy mood. Oddly, that makes perfect sense, even though the reasons behind the happiness contradict each other and vary in contrast. Ah, life, what an ironic trip or paradox.”

June, July, August
Summer was supposed to be the Heaven after the Inferno. In a way, it was. However, I had to deal with a certain problem: STD scares. This was a consequence from my days of being active with other guys. Even though everything turned out to be ok in the end, I learned that I am not a slut. I compromised my morals and values at Storrs so that I could fulfill my lustful desires, and it wasn’t worth it. I made the conscious decision to be like this, and that is how I payed the price. No one-night stand is worth the absolute torment and agony that results from thinking you have a sexually transmitted disease. Playing russian roulette is not worth it for a few minutes of pleasure. I am a romantic, and I’d rather make love instead of having a meaningless hook up. I consciously crashed myself into a brick wall of pain, and that was the only way for me to learn. I also gave up online dating. I am convinced that I won’t be meeting anyone special on these sites, no matter how “decent” they are advertised to be. Nothing but failures. I don’t keep in touch with anyone that I have met through them. I learned that what they say is true: People on the internet are strange and frightening. This caused me to be depressed. I spent the entire summer lamenting the fact that I would never meet a decent guy. However, I was repeatedly told that it would happen when I wasn’t looking or expecting it. I remained incredulous.
After this torment passed, I slowly but surely discovered that summer wasn’t going to be anything special. No social life or fun awaited me. I made the best of this and enrolled in a gym. I never thought I would, but I did. This made me feel better and helped reduce a lot of depression. I learned that physical activity combats depression on a massive scale.
I also participated in a lot of outdoor activities. Trail walking and discovering new places made summer very special to me because not only was I in touch with nature, but ultimately, in touch with myself. We come from the earth.
Beach trips also helped me distract my mind from the ordinary life I had at home. I learned that I have to be comfortable in my own body, because if I’m not, I will ultimately never be comfortable with myself.
This summer taught me that even though I had no social life, I still had to pre occupy myself with activities and things that interested me. I learned that I hate not being pro active, and that I constantly need to be busy. Otherwise, the depression will slowly creep back in.
I like to call this summer, “The Summer of Nature”. And I will happily remember walking on trails with my parents.

September, October, November, December
As I stared my “old life” again in the commuting branch campus, I wondered how I was going to make it through the semester without letting depression annihilate me. I told myself that I would do homework outside my house, and I would sit at bookstores and coffee shops, indulging in readings and other school work. I also hoped that this way, I would meet someone the old fashioned way. I thought that things wouldn’t be so bad because my grandparents were visiting for three months.
My life changed one day when I decided to visit Storrs. I’d like to say that I actually didn’t want to go visit (sorry dears). The reason is that I didn’t want to relive the pain and suffering. Yes, I wanted to see my friends again, but something about going there made me feel uneasy. To make a long story short, I met someone who would later be my boyfriend for almost two months. This would be my first “real life” relationship, as I’ve had flings and online relationships before. Words can’t describe how magical it felt. I was at home. I was at peace. The depression went away. I can honestly say that I never thought it would happen. I was shocked, but in a good way. At first, it was magic. We decided to work with the distance, and for once in my life, I romanticized that I was being saved by an angel. I had never been so happy. He wasn’t like any guy that I had met before. He was different..or so I thought. But like any relationship, complications came. Even though I was sort of blindsided (because I will admit to myself that I wasn’t 100% blindsided, I saw it coming but refused to believe), he ended it short of our two months. And I thought it would last long. After everything we said to each other, I learned that I was just another promise that he couldn’t keep, and it wasn’t my loss. I will leave it at that.
Even though I was a complete mess for the first two and a half days, I slowly began to snap out of it. This made me realize a few things: People were actually right! This happened when I wasn’t expecting it. What a pleasant surprise. Although he is different from most guys, he still had his flaws. We all do. I learned that now I officially know what I want in a man. Even though he didn’t have everything I look for, the majority of things made up for what he lacked. Again, I am not going to divulge the details because I have respect for myself and the private affairs of my life. It is none of my business how he choses to act after this, and it is none of my business how he decides to carry himself as a gay young man in a world full of immaturity, drama, and promiscuity. However, it is my business how I carry myself into this world. I will continue to honor my values and morals. I will continue to improve myself as a person, and I will continue to admit to my flaws that need fixing.
From this short relationship, I learned that I am too young to be worrying about certain things. I learned that I spend too much time being negative and obsessively worrying about things. These are the things that cause my depression. Instead, I should live my life. I should live in the moment. I should sing, dance, and do whatever I want to enjoy myself and the life that I have been given.
I also learned that maybe at this time, I couldn’t handle a relationship because it did bring me a lot of stress and anxiety. So in a way, I have to thank him for making me realize it. I am not going to be a slut, and I am not going to be reckless, because that is NOT who I am. I am a person of dignity and respect. Yes, I have my moments of anger and trash talk, but who doesn’t?
I want to hate the shit out of you for breaking my heart (because it’s not chipped, it’s not cracked: it’s shattered), but one day, I’ll be grateful. Why? Because it was a lesson learned. So thank you for the good times, and thank you for giving me the amount of affection that you gave me, even though it wasn’t as much as I gave you. After all, this was your first relationship.

Just when I thought the year was over and my life wouldn’t dramatically change any further, something happened: I went to group therapy. This was my first ever group therapy. I was the youngest at 22, and everyone else in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. Never have I felt so sick and ashamed to complain about the things I complain about. I now know that even though I do have problems, they are not tragedies, and they pale in comparison to what these people have and are going through. I am so thankful for having participated in it, and to have seen and heard the things I did. I have never been so moved in my ENTIRE life. I know I just wrote about it, and you can read everything I said in it. But truly, I am a changed man. This couldn’t have happened at a better time. A time where I was depressed and thought about ending it all because the supposed man of my dreams left me. This is not the case. I am much too young. I have so much to go through, and like a wise person told me, there are greater and more drastic pains coming my way.

2011 was a year of enlightenment. Despite all the darkness and depression, I have once again emerged unscathed (because let’s face it, I am unscathed). I may have some scars, but those are the lessons that I learned.
I learned to differentiate between being conceited and knowing your self worth. I am a great person. I am loving, kind, giving, compassionate, empathetic, caring, brave, and a fighter. I have this “joke” where I call myself Prince Charming. Even though I have my many flaws, I still think I am. Once I tackle my issues and over come them (because I will over come them), I will become an even better man. Of this I am very certain. I still have a lot of growing up and developing to do. We are always growing and learning.
Three of the most important lessons I learned this year are 1. Life is not ideal. 2. There are no certainties in life. 3. Expect the unexpected.
Thank you, 2011, for changing my life. And I would also like to thank everyone, yes, everyone (including the most evil people I met) for having changed me as a person. I now realize that friends come and go, but ONLY the good and genuine ones will stick through your lifetime.
One of the most difficult decisions I had to make was completely cutting ties with my former best friend. This person was a cancer that only enabled me to be depressed and suicidal, and one day in April, I said to myself: “Enough is enough. Time to empower myself and stand up for what I think is right and healthy for me.”
I ended our 4 year friendship. I always complained and moaned because people would stop being friends with me, but now I understood that some friendships don’t last forever. I am HAPPY with my decision, because now I am a less depressed person. I enjoy life more. So thank you for the good times, the memories, the endless dialogue, and for actually understanding me as a person and for allowing me to tell you the most deepest, darkest, and most disturbing secrets of my life that I will never tell anyone else. Thank you, truly. Even if you hate me, I wish you peace and happiness in your life.
I also learned that as great as I am (self worth people, self worth), not everyone is going to like me. There will always be insecure and jealous people who are still learning who they are. It’s ok if people don’t like me, I can live with it. I promise that I won’t lose sleep over it. Life introduces you to people for a reason and removes them for an even better reason.

As always, thank you to my family for being there for me no matter what. My parents and my brother and my grandparents from both sides of the family. THANK YOU. Know that even though I may have been extremely distant at times, my love and loyalty for you never wavered. Please understand that I am deeply complex person, and that I need a lot of time to myself to heal and understand what is going on in my head.
Also, thank you to my close friends (which aren’t many, ha) for being there for me. Without your support and love, I wouldn’t be here today. Thank you for being in this crazy ride with me, I feel a lot better.

I enter 2012 not expecting anything, because that is the best way to live life. I will live day by day, making the best of it. Sure, I want good and happy things to happen to me, but in the meantime, I have to make sure that I am happy with myself. The self can’t be without the self, and if you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be able to take care of others. I am not naive, I am not stupid. I may give people the benefit of the doubt, but I am cautious, because based on past experience, there are bad people out there. I don’t care what anyone says, you cannot take that away from me because you haven’t lived it. I used to trust, trust, trust, and trust and never give people the benefit of the doubt. What was the result? I got disrespected and walked all over. Even though Karma will take care of those people, I don’t want to live through it again. I am not saying that I will not trust people and give them chances, I will. But now I will do it with more logic and caution.

Before I close, I would like to take a quick moment to talk about music. Ever since Michael Jackson passed, Mariah Carey has become the number one musical and artistic influence in my life. I want to thank her because she has a song for everything, and she has helped me overcome the difficult times in my life this year. I love every song of hers because her voice is in them. Her life and work are both a masterpiece that will always be remembered. I know that I will never stop listening to her. Her music has the power to heal. Thank you Mariah, for getting me out of the gutter and allowing me to look beyond the stars.

I will close this tumultuous but life changing year with a quote. There were SO many good quotes this year, including “My secret? I’m going to forget about everyone who has once hurt me, broken me down, and made me feel worthless. Because guess what? You don’t deserve me. Your words mean nothing. I’m finally going to be happy.” and “You think you are nothing. You think that nobody loves you. You think that it will be easier just to die. Think again. To someone, you are everything. Somebody loves you. Somebody would die without you. Think about that.” and “Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities.” AND “Don’t lose hope. When the sun goes down, the stars come out.” AND “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift that’s why they call it the present.” AND “Every day we walk out into a tragic world, but we must remember not to become tragic ourselves.” AND finally “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”

I also came up with my own: “The only relationship that will last for a lifetime is the one with yourself.”

Yes, I have learned from each and every one of these quotes. But as I enter 2012 with a smile, I will not have a “final word” or an afterword, but simply end with this:

“Absolutely no regrets, only choices. Because at the end of the day, I can sit here and say: ‘I’ve made my own.’ “