1. Exist. Be born. Do normal baby things. Cry a lot. Play with your toys. Start to learn how to talk. Gasp out some baby words and toddler phrases. Learn to walk, learn to play, learn to laugh, learn to tease your little sister.
2. Get older. Go to school, make friends, make enemies, make inappropriate jokes and ugly drawings your parents hang on the wall. Have a moment you realize that you’re different. It might be a fleeting moment, something where you feel apart from everyone else. You might hang out mostly with the opposite gender, you might defy gender norms, you might just feel out of place. Ignore it. Keep going on with your life. Try to understand American history and length times width. Fall asleep during free reading time.
3. Experience puberty, it’s weird. Your body takes over your life and makes all kinds of changes you aren’t really down with. It’s like your parents only somehow worse and a lot more intimate. Fight against tons of annoying body hair, start to smell like ass when you don’t wear deodorant, start feeling attracted toward the opposite sex.
4. Keep growing. Keep waiting for that day that fabled teenage sex-drive kicks in for you and you find the opposite sex irresistible. Keep waiting.
5. Feel different. Feel left out. Sometimes, feel alone. Find yourself staring at that cute guy across the hall, then remember your not allowed to do that. Try to stare at the cute girl in your chemistry class — feel nothing.
6. Hide who you are. Change your voice, change the way you dress. Talk about all the hot girls on television and at your high school football games. Avoid highlighting any differences between you and everyone else. Push past it, push it away. Talk to your best friend about how Carly has really cute eyes and you might want to ask her to the homecoming dance.
7. Get defensive. Find every person who talks about you “being gay” and tell them you’re not. Complain to your friends about how “everyone thinks you’re gay.” Complain to yourself about why you can’t “man up” and just like women already. Sit in a quiet church sanctuary on some quiet fall afternoon. Ask God why you are like this. Ask God to help you. Pray to be straight. Pray to be happy. He’ll answer one prayer, but not the other.
8. Wake up the next day and somehow convince yourself you’re still straight. Bury yourself deeper in denial, self-loathing, depression, and pain. Watch your friends have happy heterosexual relationships, and wish that someone wanted to hold your hand.
9. Grow up. Become an official adult, go to college or start a job. Convince yourself that this will be a “fresh start” that you can finally be the popular, hot rod, straight WASP that you were always meant to be. Go on dates with women. Get good grades, do well at work. Still feel like shit. Hate yourself.
10. Finally get tired of being miserable. Go for a fall walk in late October wearing your $79.99 black peacoat you recently bought from JC Penney. Bury your hands in your pocket and listen to Adele. Finally, finally, decide to try being yourself. Whisper to yourself in the dark, “I have to do this.” Then do it.
11. Hang out with your best friend. Talk about the weather. Nervously laugh about some joke that isn’t really funny. Tell him you want to talk about something. Let awkward silence thicken through the air. Cut an opening through it and cough out the words, “I’m bisexual.” Cry.
12. Feel love. For the first time in your life, feel someone accept you for who you are.
13. Experiment with being yourself. Stop punishing yourself for noticing a cute boy. Stop hating yourself when you think about dating your same gender. Stop hating yourself in general. Let yourself buy the clothes you want, start talking however the fuck you want.
14. Get nervous. Question yourself. Are you doing this right? Are you actually bisexual? Are you actually…gay? Be uncertain, second guess yourself. Stay awake at night trying to figure yourself out. What label are you? Who are you?
15. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Go on a date with a guy. Kiss a guy. Text guys. Wonder what the fuck you’re doing. Realize you have no idea. Accept that you have no idea. Keep doing it anyway.
16. Wake up happier. Go to sleep happier. Realize how far you’ve come, and remember how far you have to go. Be okay with that. Take every day as it comes, remember you’re only human, and enjoy each and every day of being yourself.
Jacob Geers is a writer and digital media strategist. For more of Jacob, follow him on Twitter.