Friday, January 5, 2018

The People We Once Were

At the age of 24, I sat each of my family members down individually and told them my truth. I told them my deep dark secret, knowing it would change everything. Even though I had already been in a relationship for a few years at this point, I was still very much naive to how coming out would forever impact my life. Not only did I not realize the depth of how it would change MY life, I also was blindly unaware of how it would alter the lives of my family and friends as well. But for the first time in my life, I was making a decision that I knew was in my best interest and no matter the repercussions, it had to be done.

We all make choices in our lives. Choices that effect not only ourselves but those around us and possibly even further depending on the choices made. While our intents may be pure, to each choice we make there is a cause and effect. Sometimes our choices causes pain and harm but we do not get to choose the consequences. All we get to choose is if we make the choice or not and then the ripples begin.

At 24, I was unable to keep up the lie anymore and I had to tell my loved ones that I was gay. I have made many choices that have effected my family throughout my life. From them sitting scared and confused in the waiting room of a police station to me leaving for two years while I served an LDS mission in Detroit and now me choosing to live away from them in California … I have put these people through a lot (to say the least). I am grateful that these events, along with so many others, have made us stronger and more compassionate towards one another. To think of how far my family has come and how understanding they now are is a tribute to what incredible and empathetic people they are. They have been forced to open their eyes and see things from a different point of view and they are each better people because of it. However, when I was 24, all I could think was how I had to end the bullshitting. I had to let go of the expectations my family had for my life and that my religion had placed upon me. I had to stop lying. Making that choice was harder than almost any other I have ever had to make.

In the years since coming out, I often wonder why I waited so long or why I held myself back. The main answer to that was, quite frankly, religion. Feeling as if there was something wrong with me and God wouldn’t let me through those pearly gates for being the man He had created. I was so scared that I was doing something unforgivable by being myself and allowing love into my life in a way that felt so natural. No matter my reasoning, I cannot blame religion or anything else on why I chose to hide or stay in the closet. I am accountable and the choices were mine. As odd as that realization has been, it is truth. I chose to lie, I chose to keep this aspect hidden (as best I could) from those around me. I chose to be in the closet and I obviously chose to eventually come out of that closet. But the choices, nevertheless, were mine to make.

While we all have the ability to make these choices, they tend to bring reality checks knocking at our door. I use to have a dream to live in California and work for Disney. Choosing to follow that dream has cost me everything (literally everything, California is as just as expensive as you think it is and then times that by 10). Jokes aside, I lost the life I once loved. The house I made my home, the dogs I loved with all my heart and even the guy. Perhaps people should be more honest about what it takes to chase a dream or there should be a book titled “Chasing Dreams for Dummies” because it is not always a Hollywood movie where everything turns out perfect in the end. That being said, I made a choice to not live my life with “what if” hovering above me and now I have to live with that.

With each choice we make, our perception shifts and we see the world a little brighter or a little darker depending on the results. I, myself, have noticed lately how darker I have allowed my perspective to become. I use to be care-free and I use to laugh so hard it hurt. I use to love life. I loved that version of me. Now, as I near 30, I find myself a much more anxious person and not nearly as care-free as I use to be (or would like to be). As I make new friends out here (and I have made some great ones) it makes me a little sad that they don’t know that side of me. They have met a more reserved and cautious version of that little boy that use to stand center stage and sing his heart out.

As I have reflected on this more and more over the last few months, I have had somewhat of an epiphany. With each interaction I keep in mind that we are all those 10 year old versions of ourselves just dealing with these adult reality checks that keep being thrown at us. Some of our 10 year old selves are a little hurt and a little bruised while some are just happy as can be. As we have gone through life we’ve all been the “good guy” and we’ve all been the “villains” at one time or another. We learn with life that not everyone always has the greatest perception of us and we must take accountability for the roles we have played. We must be cognizant of the ripple effect our choices and actions have. Breakups, along with other life events, remind us that things may not have always been as they appeared to be. People change and they grow but if you are not changing and growing together in a relationship the world will find a way to let you know how divided you have become. Some say people don’t change but I have to disagree. I challenge each of us to truly look inward and ask ourselves if we feel we are the same person we once were. Life forces change upon us little by little - it is as simple as that - and as each change comes upon us, that is where we gain control. We get to choose how to react or move forward. And we must do just that; move forward.

2017 was rough, and I let it get the best of me. Now that 2018 has arrived, it’s time to figure out how I want to move forward. In years past, I have given myself a motto to serve as motivation throughout the year and I believe Twenty Eighteen is demanding I continue this tradition. I choose to continue establishing my new life out here in California and in order to do so I must continue to stop bullshitting. I have to remind myself that I have to be the change I want to see in this world and I am accountable for the circumstances I allow myself to be in. The old me wouldn’t have put up with a lot of what 2017 brought my way. I love who I use to be but that doesn’t mean I can’t become an even better version of myself. A version that includes who I use to be while also remaining true to who I have become. My hope is that we all live our lives by our own terms. Stop being scared of how you think your family will perceive you or the life you want to live. Stop holding yourself back because you’re afraid that you might actually be happy in the life you deserve. Demand your own happiness. Realize that by allowing others to know your truth that you are helping this world become a more compassionate and understanding place. It is scary to go off the beaten path and to imagine a world where you can live your life the way you want but if we don’t make the changes in our own lives how can we ever expect this world to progress. In retrospect, me coming out to my family was not a big deal. But by choosing to come out and live my truth, my family has changed. And that change will continue on with the next generation that they are raising and so forth.

Let yourself live the life you see fit and be the best version of YOU. I told my family my truth when I was 24. I was scared to death that it would change everything … and thank God it did just that … it changed everything.

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