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My name is Aaron, and I have struggled with sexuality, losing people I love, having depression, anxiety and self-esteem issues and being bullied both physically and mentally because of most of those. I have always been the odd one out. In my family, in school, in friend groups, and even now, with everything I do. However, the way I look at being the odd one out has changed drastically. 

Here’s a little backstory. I am the youngest of three. My two older brothers are 8 and 4 years older than me, which means we’re not as close as most people expect siblings to be. All three of us are quite different. My oldest brother used to be quite mean towards me, and my other brother seemed to excel at almost everything he tried. My parents are both hard-working individuals and that means I was raised in a reasonably wealthy household. I had a lot to live up to. We aren’t crazy rich, but we never had the trouble of not being able to afford something we needed. Anyway, I digress.

When I was around 4 years old, I started going to school. My mum is a primary school teacher, so when she started teaching again, I just kind of got dropped into a group to get used to the idea of interacting with other children. This was the first real interaction with other children apart from my family, so that was quite a shock to the system. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I ended up getting scratched in the face and crying lots. Naturally, I didn’t really feel like going to school again, and my dad started working home on the day my mum worked, until it was time for me to properly start school next September. 

This is when I first became “best friends” with someone. The quotation marks are there, because this was the first person that would repeatedly hit me when I didn’t do what she wanted me to do. This person luckily disappeared from my life very soon, and if you’d ask me now, I wouldn’t even remember her name, however, this did shape my vision as to what friendship was. The next friend I made would be a lot more interesting. Since I no longer had any friends, one day my teacher introduced me to another boy on the playground. I’m guessing we both were alone, and they thought that’d be a good way for the both of us to make friends. It was. We quickly befriended each other, and even though we were in different groups, we would always meet up during playtime and play weird games together.

Then the next year, the two groups merged into one class and we got to be friends all the time. Meeting a whole other group of kids also lead me to make another friend. However, at the end of that year, both those friends were leaving school, and so I was alone once again. 

This was also around the time my aunt got really ill. I was very fond of my aunt, and she always seemed to be very fond of me as well. It went from always playing together and running to hug her to not being able to see her at all, and just my mum getting to see her. At the time I didn’t really understand why, and I was just jealous that my mum got to spend time with my favourite person in the world. Then, she passed away. I was around 6 or 7 at the time, and at that age I knew nothing about death. I hated it, because someone I loved was just taken from me, without explanation or warning, and it hurt like hell.

My mum seemed to distance herself from us, always being on the phone to my uncle, trying to help him grieve. My dad seemed to carry on with his life, working a lot more, and being home a lot less. I felt very alone, and had to just keep going to school, where I now had two friends, one of which always pulled pranks on me that I didn’t like, and humiliated me. The other introduced me to Harry Potter, and became my best friend throughout primary school. We were both weird together and spent a lot of our time together. I managed to befriend some of the girls. One of which I would at the time consider to be a good friend, but who ended up being physically abusive. These things, and the fact that I seemed to excel in academics, did cause me to get bullied a lot, being called things like nerd, weird, smelly and gay. 

At that time I wasn’t even aware of what gay meant, and why people were calling me that. Then our final year came along, and we went camping with the entire class for a few days. However, I had an induction day of my secondary school, which meant I arrived the evening of the first day. When I arrived, it was dinner time, and everyone had been waiting for me to arrive before having their dinner. 

They chanted my name, and for some reason, at that point, I didn’t feel as much as a loner or an outsider. I ended up having quite an alright time. Naturally, that was when primary education finished, and we all went our separate ways.

 I was the only one of my school to go to the secondary school I chose, and it left me alone, again. I hoped this would be a nice clean slate and a way to choose who I got to be. On my first day, I was very nervous and intimidated, and when I saw a familiar face sitting on the steps in front of the school, I gathered up my courage and asked if we were in the same class. That person ended up becoming my best friend, and to this date is still one of the people I truly consider one of my best friends. 

However, my luck ended there, as throughout most of my secondary education I got bullied for being a nerd, gay, weird and lots more. I made a friend who would end up leaving at the end of that year. I made another “friend” who constantly physically abused me, and I ended up falling into depression when I was around the age of 16. At this age, the bullying really got to me, and I started doubting myself as a person. My self-esteem crumbled, I was struggling with my identity as well as my sexuality, and I had nearly no one I felt comfortable enough to talk to about this stuff. I was living in constant fear of losing my one best friend to suicidal thoughts, kept thinking I wasn’t worth the life I was living, and kept wondering why no one seemed to care about me as a person.

At the time, I was having a lot of rows with my parents, because they didn’t seem to understand how I felt, and being at home became something almost as scary as going to school.

Yet, there was something keeping me here. Even in that dark time I went through, I managed to hold on, because there was a light shining somewhere, and I only had to find it.

I joined the drama-club in school, and met some people who ended up being my friends. Apart from that, I joined a musical theatre group outside of my school, and I slowly started noticing that I actually did fit in, and that I did have things that I was good at, and, more importantly, loved to do. I fell in love for the first time, and even though I was too scared to act on it, it made me feel something other than sad or scared. I became part of something that I loved, and that made me see myself in a new light. My self-esteem started growing again.

That was the time that I had to face the facts. I had somewhat of a hard time admitting it to myself, because I would be saying that everything people were saying about me was true, but somehow, admitting it to my friends was one of the easiest things there was.

I still remember sitting on the sofa in my friends cabin (we were celebrating her birthday there) and playing truth or dare. Now, in my friend group, it’s less of a silly and more of a serious game, and they asked me if I was gay. And I told them I thought I was. And at that moment, I couldn’t have asked for better friends, because they were all fine with it, and they didn’t make it a big deal, and that was my first “coming out” and I didn’t cry or anything.

I also found a very good friend in YouTube. Literally, YouTube became my friend. I started watching a lot of YouTubers, which helped me to forget how shit life was, and gave me hope for the future. One of the YouTubers that ended up helping me the most was Emma Blackery. I also started watching a lot of gay YouTubers, and started to see how normal it was nowadays to be gay. I even went to a gathering of Shep689, and got inspired to start creating, and being myself. So I did. 

The next big step was showing people at school who I was. I decided to audition for the schools talent show, and I managed to get through with a song. I did something I loved, on a stage, in front of everyone who told me that I wasn’t good enough, and I showed them that I was. And then I played in several amateur musical productions outside of school as well, and I loved it. Self-esteem growing. 

The following year, I got asked to sing with a band in the school talent show. And I did. I even dyed my hair bright red for it. Walking into school and seeing everyone’s reactions to it was so great and I didn’t really care whether they liked it or not. 

My grades, however, weren’t brilliant, and I was having a lot of anxiety about my finals and about what I was going to do after that. Finals came around, and I managed to (just about) pass them in one go, graduating from secondary education and having no plan whatsoever.

This is when my parents forced me into making a decision. Signing up for a course or working full-time. I decided to sign up for a course in International Music Management. One of the worst, but best things to happen in my life so far. The course was awful, but the people and experiences were amazing. I finally got to a place where people weren’t as judgemental towards each other. I also managed to get into the same uni as that first love I mentioned earlier. It was definitely a bonus. I also met one of my other best friends, who I’d end up moving to Guildford with. 

During all this, I had auditioned, and got one of the lead roles in an amateur production of the musical Bare. The story, music and feeling of the entire piece resonated with me so much from day one, and this has been the most meaningful production I have starred in so far. Working on this piece helped me so much with accepting my own sexuality, and not being ashamed of being myself, because I felt part of a group that accepted each other and was passionate about the same story. 

I managed to pluck up the courage to ask that same guy that went to my uni out. It didn’t lead anywhere, and I ended up being quite sad about it, but I felt proud of being able to act on my feelings and doing what I wanted. 

Then, I did something I never expected myself to do. I decided to go to the D-Tour in London. A lot of international gay YouTubers were having a meeting, and since I was very much into YouTube, and wanted to also become more part of the gay community, I decided to go there. On my own.

I booked tickets and a hostel, and I flew to London for a weekend. 

It was only my luck that the day before I flew to London, I went on a date with a guy that I ended up thinking was quite cute. Then, I spent my weekend away from him, and two days later, whilst sitting in the Queens Theatre, ready for a showing of Les Misérables, I got a text from him. He didn’t declare his love then and there, but he did send quite an emotional text about the way he felt, and that was one of the moments in my life I bawled my eyes out, out of happiness. Most people in that theatre must have thought I was going insane, but then it was showtime, and I was sat there, contently crying, first about my life, then about the show. 

Naturally, I ended up dating that guy and coming out to my family because of it. We lasted about a month, and that was when my whole life went on pause. Everything ended at once. I had long before decided that I was quitting my course. The show I was playing in had recently ended (and a lot of my new friends from uni came to watch, which was incredible.) And then my relationship ended.

I had nothing, except for an existential crisis. My YouTube videos got shittier, and I didn’t really do anything except sleeping. I fell back into depression.

However, not as bad this time, I did spend most my days asleep or in my room, watching YouTube videos. 

This is where I am grateful for my friends, because the one thing that got me back up on my feet was one of my best friends I met at my shitty management course. She decided she wanted to study in Guildford, but was way too scared to move there on her own. I first jokingly said I’d move there with her, but I actually ended up enrolling for a course at the same uni, and am now doing what I’ve always wanted to do since I was a little kid, all because of her.

Life here has been great, but not always easy either. I ended up meeting many new great people, and made friends that I know are going to last. But I also met someone I love, who I then lost. I’m still finding that hard, and right now, I’m not sure if I’ll ever get over that. But I have my friends and I love them to bits, and I’m doing what I love. So now, all I can do is keep going, and seeing what my future has in store for me.

 I’m still struggling with anxiety, trust-issues, depressive periods, self-doubt, and I still find losing people one of the hardest things, but I’m happy with who I am, I have no issues whatsoever with being gay, and I’m glad that I’m different. Life isn’t perfect. That’s what makes it perfect, because that’s what makes it exciting, interesting, emotional and worth living.

 I’m being me. That’s the best I can do. The same goes for you!

 Lots of love

Aaron Hale