Not Looking for a Shipwreck and Romeo and Juliet

I don’t like the idea of coming out, it just isn’t for me, personally. So, once I realized I am queer, and that narrowing down to a more precise label felt tedious, I simply shrugged my shoulders and continued on. Looking back, I wish that I could say thank you to my younger self for many things, but mostly for that fearless moment of self-acceptance. Since that moment there has been doubt and fear and tears and courage and laughter. But there was a period of time where none of that existed. I just swam along, loving the heat of the sun and the feel of the water sliding around me—the bubble that I lived in, which kept me close to the surface. Now that this is past, I find myself pulled back to this time, and to Diving into the Wreck. If I could show this poem—and my interpretation of the slow, exploratory dive that allows the diver to swim down and face them self, a mirror at the bottom of the ocean—to my younger self, I think she would say, “Well, I haven’t read the book of myths, I’m not really interested in photography right now, and I’m not sure what I would ever do with a knife, much less diving equipment. I’m not prepared, I won’t be going deeper any time soon, and that is fine.”

The thing is, I was already swimming. I was already in the water, I had no boat to decide to climb off of, so I didn’t really notice when I started to drift down. The moment I started to slide was, and it’s almost too cliché, a two week long in-class reading of Romeo and Juliet. I was Juliet and another girl was Romeo and it was beyond embarrassing for reasons I did not understand at the time. I knew that I was queer and yet I did not apply that knowledge to my actual life. Romeo invited Juliet to the opening night of the play she was in, but Juliet was too nervous to go. I certainly wasn’t looking for the wreck, for the unseen truths it would offer me, and therefore I only found the myth. The myth that absolutely nothing had to change about my life because I recognized my queerness. As wonderful this recognition was it was not the same as coming to terms with it, with the freedom of change. This myth was so captivating, but I had swum deep enough to understand that it was only one layer, a color gradient in the water.

Through personal and academic study and lived experience I’ve spiraled deeper and deeper, but I wonder if discovering the wreck is something that I will knowingly do. I definitely need to live a lot more before I even consider thinking that I am approaching it. Maybe, like my understanding of the importance of this memory which only came to me now that it is in the past, I will one day remember that I came looking for the wreck only to discover I’m already looking back at it.

2 thoughts on “Not Looking for a Shipwreck and Romeo and Juliet”

  1. I love your comment that despite not wanting to consider the shipwreck you were “already swimming.” Earlier in the poem, there’s a line that I keep coming back to, “There is a ladder./ The ladder is always there/ hanging innocently/ close to the side of the schooner.” I think the use of the word “innocently” relates back to this feeling you had sliding unintentionally into queerness. The ladder might just be a ladder, but it represents the initial entry, one which many of us take without even realizing the path we’ve started. Good thoughts!

  2. Like Rebecca, I also love the part where you say that you “had no boat to decide to climb off of, so [you] didn’t really notice when [you] started to drift down.” I think this is something that a lot of people struggle with in a lot of aspects of their lives; it is very difficult to perform a self-assessment and realize where you are and what you are doing at that moment. I also feel like some people can struggle with this in terms of mental health as well. When you’re suffering from chronic depression, you may not have a breaking point (i.e. a boat to climb off) so you simply drift down until you realize you are at your lowest and you have no idea how you got there.

Comments are closed.