Your Voice: A Student Publication


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Your Voice: A Student Publication


Your Voice: A Student Publication


Viky’s College Essay


I looked over at the clock. 12:30am. We’ve been standing here for over an hour, I thought. “You girls have to understand, what you did today could have hurt my reputation. OUR reputation,” my dad said, in his broken English. I tried to contain my laughter. My mind replayed the image of my sister chasing me down the racks at Macy’s over and over again. “Do you think this is funny, Viktoria? Your dad and I worked very hard to be where we are now…” 

With this, my Mom launched into another account of how she’d immigrated to the U.S., a country she knew nothing about. A story I had heard so often from both of my parents, I could tell it myself. The message was always this: as daughters of the prominent Albanians they had become, we were to behave ourselves in a way that would not taint their reputation in the traditional Albanian community of Worcester, MA. Whenever we would go out in public, people who knew my parents scrutinized my behavior and the way I spoke and dressed. Every part of my identity and self-expression was vulnerable to my parent’s disapproval, and I never met their ideal. 

Once I started questioning my sexuality, my parents’ attention to their reputation made the thought of coming out daunting. I didn’t know anyone who was gay and Albanian in Worcester, so I couldn’t follow in anyone’s footsteps or even picture my parents’ reactions. I tried to ignore my sexuality and even reverse it, since that seemed like the easiest option. I knew there was nothing inherently wrong with my sexuality, but I felt like something was wrong with being gay specifically in the context of my family, almost as if it wasn’t how the story was supposed to be told. 

I eventually came out to my mom, who welcomed me with open arms. My dad found out a few months later. Months of arguments ensued over the kitchen island, which always ended with me crying into my hoodie sleeves and not being able to look my father in the eyes. It became exhausting to fight the same fight, so I stopped. I finally realized that I didn’t have the power to change his outdated ideas, but I could choose to respect him and the opportunities he gave me without denying my own identity. While my sexuality might not always be the preferred topic of discussion, I still love my parents and want them to be a part of my life. At the same time, this experience with my family made me value authenticity and helped me internalize that I need to stay true to myself. This understanding of authenticity took so much patience and time with myself and additionally, with the help and support of a community who loves and supports me, made this journey less lonely. 

College is my opportunity to fully explore my authentic self without the pressures of my community and family’s expectations. I want to continue to be a part of LGBTQ+ organizations, and clubs, and possibly even be the head of one and make it a part of my college experience. I’m grateful for the warmth and love my high school community gave me, and I want to pass it forward to others in college who might be in the same position I was in. I no longer want to worry about tainting my parents’ reputation, I do want my own reputation, my own mark on the world. While I still might not know what exactly I want it to be, I do know I want it to be mine.

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    Mrs. SheldonFeb 16, 2024 at 7:08 PM

    Your point about the value of authenticity is so spot on. Thank you for sharing this important piece.