I grew up in a suburban oasis, where most little boys played hockey on my block every day after school, while the girls chalked driveways and shared imaginative stories about magical creatures and horses alike.
My childhood consisted of me constantly trying to fit in and respect the gender norms that were drilled into me.
Still, I played with the girls on their driveways, but I'd hold their hands so none of the boys made fun of me.
Think of that. I was only 7 or 8 years old, and I was already hiding who I truly was behind a mask society handcrafted for me.
This is an open letter addressed to that little kid I once was: the one who didn't like playing hockey with the other boys, but who had the biggest imagination out of his entire class.
The one who felt sad he was different from every one else and feared what the rest of his life would be like.
This is dedicated to that little boy who is still inside of me, who peeks his curious, frightened head out sometimes and causes me to feel worried about being who I am.
But he's also the one who keeps me smiling, passionate about life and constantly imagining a golden future no matter what.
I rolled out of bed at 7:05 am to start my day. I still do that same stretch the moment I wake up that you do every single morning, when you press your toes to the ground and reach toward the sky as high as you possibly can.
The shower started, and the sun reflected onto my clean skin. I felt immediately rejuvenated, knowing today was going to be another happy day, just like each has been for a long while now.
After making breakfast and organizing my bag, it was time to catch the train. I threw on my shoes and a coat, and then ran back to my bedroom; I was forgetting the single most important thing I do every day before I leave my apartment.
I crawled back into my bed, with my backpack still on and snuggled into the sheets. I pulled down the comforter slowly, letting some light from the sun shine through.
Then, I kissed my boyfriend goodbye and told him I love him more than anything.
Your life has become so beautiful as you've grown up. You've experienced so much, traveled to so many places and have met so many beautiful souls.
I know sometimes you hide yourself away in the bedroom and cry yourself to sleep. You never need to feel that way again.
I promise the love and happiness you see older boys and girls have for each other is something you will feel just as strongly. In fact, you have one of the biggest hearts out of anyone I've ever met.
Never be afraid to share that heart with the world.
But it's also important you know this: No matter how much it hurts me to tell you, life is not always going to be easy for you.
There will be times when it seems like the world would rather you lock that door to your bedroom and close yourself off from everyone. Don't.
If you hide from the light of the world, then the sun can never reach you.
When you feel like staying in society's shadows, step out into the sun. Ignore the people who make you feel anything less than perfect.
I want you to always feel like you can smile because you do every day in the future. Even on your darkest days, you always find the light. I just want you to know you can do that even sooner.
You can be who you truly are, out in the open. You can be the boy who doesn't play hockey and writes stories about castles and queens.
You can listen to the music that soothes your little soul. There's no need to feel afraid, ashamed or embarrassed about any aspect of who you are.
One day soon, you're going to embrace who you are and feel more confident than you ever have before.
You'll realize every single person who truly mattered in life is still right alongside you, supporting your every move.
More than anything else, you'll be content with who you are, and you'll see all of this worrying was unnecessary.
I want you to know how beautiful life can be when lived authentically. You can be just the way you are.
At the big boy age of 22, I clearly understand happiness is a choice and sometimes wish I had known this when I was just a little boy coming home on the bus.
And don't worry about the boys making fun of you. As it turns out, most of them just wanted to kiss you.