I have news. The good news is that I’m in therapy. The bad news is that it comes with homework.
“You’re an adult now,” Ms. Kari tells me in her cramped office. We pause for the announcement system to remind us again about our abandon ship drill this afternoon—because the perfect time to square off with your demons is right before simulating jumping off a !@#$ing aircraft carrier. “You have to give yourself what you needed as a teenager. Write a conversation with teenage Finn and bring it back to me.”
It sounded easy enough in the confines of the office—acceptance, affirmation not for who I was trying to be but who I really was, space to ask if God was sending me to hell for what I was, even if I didn’t know what that was at the time. It didn’t take long for the reality of how hard my homework was to sink in, especially since an abandon ship drill is, like most things in the military, ten minutes of actual activity followed by an hour of standing around, waiting to leave.
My entire middle and high school career played out in my head, illuminated by the awareness that I have always been queer and lived through traumatizing events. Somehow, that light did little to soften the memories of me being particularly cruel to my younger sister. If anything, the illumination was like a burn against skin already scalded.
The longer I thought about it, the less it felt like I deserved the aloe needed to heal.
My sister called shortly after I pulled back into port, planning to visit now that she only lived six hours away—the closest we’ve been since I graduated college. I told her about my homework, dragging each word out of my chest like there was a tub-stopper in my throat.
“Did I deserve good things when we were growing up? Even if I was terrible?”
My sister was quiet for a moment. “Of course you deserved good things. We both did. You still do.”
“You don’t hate me?”
I could practically hear her shrug as she nonchalantly replied, “Nah, I’m over it. At least, I think I am. We’ll find out when I get into therapy too.”
We laughed at that because, whether we’re getting along or not, my sister and I have always been able to find a way to laugh in the dark. It seals our bond of blood.
I haven’t done my therapy homework yet. I have two more days and there’s still a part of me that resists, like I’m afraid of what might be on the other side of healing. At least I’ll have climbed my biggest mountain instead of carrying it with me once I’m there.
I feel like I’m usually pretty good at cinching essays up with theses and themes—bows with clean-cut words that make it all make sense, but maybe not this time. As a culture, it often feels like we get fixated on timelines and steps for healing without any idea what it really looks like. This is a picture of healing—conversations in driver seats years overdue, resistance, stewing on the roasting flight deck of an aircraft carrier, and homework. Lots and lots of homework.
So, heal the way you need to. Take your time and give your baby steps grace.
Those steps are what will get you over the mountain and across the sea.
Finnely King-Scoular (’14) is stationed at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, VA, where he lives with his wife, Rosalind (’13). His writing, including the Faerie Court Chronicles series from NineStar Press, focuses on contemporary fantasy with an emphasis on LGBTQ+ representation.