My abuse continued through my first year of college. Yes, I was over 18 at that point. I was an adult in the eyes of many, but I was still clutched by the emotional connection that my abuser cultivated. I don't remember much of my freshman year at the University of New Mexico. The memories are encased in the same fog as my high school years. I didn't have many friends and I don't have any memories of classic college freshman shenanigans. I just floated through the year playing the role of new college student who finally left his small hometown. I was a little lost. I thought maybe I could major in psychology or something. That sounded like a cool thing to say.
That all changed my sophomore year, when I took a work study job at the University's child care center for staff and students. That is where I found my love of teaching. My true memories of college began on the Children's Campus and not the campus of my college. I worked with all ages over the years but landed in the before and after school program for school-aged kids. Not long after, I enrolled in the School of Education and completed my degree in Elementary Education. I severed ties with my abuser in my first fews months of working at the center. I came out as a gay man not long after and finally started down the path of living my own life.
I love children's books. I have grown my collection over the years. My happy place in Portland is Powell's Books. Their children's section is huge and I can spend hours in there looking for the next great book to share with my students. In a book hunt a year or so ago, I found a book that I connected with on so many levels.
So as a teacher, I will tell you the story now and the connection I made with the story because good readers build comprehension by making connections to the books they ready (said in my teacher voice).
Norman was a perfectly normal kid, until one day he grew beautiful, colorful wings. His first flight was amazing. It was unlike anything he ever experienced, but then self-doubt and shame crept in as he landed back on solid ground. He worried that everyone would see him as different or weird. So as he went home, he found his large winter coat and covered his wings. For months, he wouldn't take the coat off. He missed out on so many experiences. He couldn't swim with his friends or play without getting too hot, but his shame kept the coat on him day after day. One day he let himself remember his first flight after he grew wings. He remembered the feeling of joy as he flew through the air. It was then that he realized it was the coat that was making him miserable and not his wings. The coat was suffocating him. So, he finally took it off and let himself fly. He was back up in the air feeling happy and free. And then the most amazing thing happened as he looked down at the ground. He saw other kids taking off their heavy coats and letting their wings out. Before he knew it he was flying side by side with other kids with bright colored wings. He wasn't normal at all and that was perfectly ok. He was perfectly Norman. That was all the mattered.
I brought that book down from the shelf yesterday and read it because that is what I am trying to do here, on my blog, with sharing my story. All these years, it wasn't the abuse that was weighing me down. I survived my abuse. I created a beautiful life for myself. It was the secrecy, shame, and guilt that kept me from letting my wings out. It was the belief that the abuse was my fault that kept me from flying. The secrecy of what happened was suffocating.
But just like Norman, I finally had this realization that taking off this coat would finally let me fly. So I started a blog and decided to share my story for 30 days leading up to my 38th birthday. I started this personal project to round out a year where I finally accepted myself as a sexual abuse survivor.
As I tear off my coat and take flight, I hope to have the same impact as Norman. I hope I can help other survivors tear off their coats and take flight.
This is why I am here. This is why I am writing. I am perfectly Jake. And that is perfectly o.k
Thanks for reading. But the book Perfectly Norman here https://www.powells.com/book/perfectly-norman-9781681197852