Sometimes the simplest things in life impress me the most. Usually, I realize this many times throughout each day, but never more so than when I go home to visit my mom. When Im there, I often head over to the beach to sit on the jetty that separates the Atlantic Ocean from Barnegat Bay. I like to stare off toward the horizon and imagine what life is like on the other side of the ocean.
Last September I did this for what seemed like an entire day. I thought about what it took to get me to this point. Earlier in the year, I began to face the life that I was tried to run from, because in the end, denying the fact that Im gay just beat me down anyway. I knew I had a long way to go, yet it seemed as though Id learned so much about myself already. As I thought of this, I recalled a simple conversation that occurred between my roommate Katie and me not too long ago. Without even knowing it, she helped teach me an important life lesson that I continue to learn as this year draws to a close.
It occurred about four months ago as I tried to leave the house to avoid being later than I already was. However, before I got to my car, I heard Katie trailing behind me asking what Id like to do for my birthday. She offered to cook dinner or to make a cake, anything really. She just wanted to do something to celebrate. While it was nice of her to offer, I told her not to worry about doing anything. I just wasnt in the mood to celebrate.
I sounded kind of nasty as I told her this, which made me feel even worse than I already did. And I wondered why I reacted that way. "After all," I reasoned, "she was just trying to be a friend."
The next night, I came back home to find her busily baking something for me in the stove. I wasnt surprised to find out what shed done, but it was still an unexpected gesture. And a very warm one at that like I said, she didnt have to go through the trouble.
Im lucky, Ive got it easy. There are a lot of good things in my life. Ive got my health, a decent job, a lot of very good people around me, and I try not to take life as seriously as I used to, but I guess everyone has bad days. Quite a few people around me are willing to do the same sort of thing Katie did and not think twice about it. Despite this, I still didnt know what I had, much less how to appreciate it. I needed to learn.
Later that same night, I was on the phone with an old friend who I hadnt spoke with in quite a while. In mid-sentence, I heard a lot of noise in the living room, and it seemed to be drawing closer. I looked up to see a darkened figure clutching something and belting out a mean tune of "Happy Birthday." Judging from the voice, I knew was Susi and she had brought what turned out to be some "birthday milk." She gradually fell silent and I just sat there with my mouth open. Soon enough, a slight grin began to twist across her face.
Then I just started to laugh so hard, that I couldnt get words out. I had to hang up the phone and just give her a big hug, to say thanks.
And thats what it hit me...I was actually laughing. And it was great. I hadnt done that in a long time. For the better part of five years, I asked a constant question: "Will my life be good?" I always questioned my prospects of being a happy person, simply because I am gay. Even when I could accept myself, I wondered if I knew how to live normally. And I got so wrapped up in these concerns, that I began to ignore those people around me who were disproving these fears all along. Katie and Susi were good friends, and Id told them several months prior to this day, that I am gay. They didnt care, as long as they saw me happy.
It seems I had found the answer I was looking for. That night, it dawned on me; the hardest part of coming out to everyone was that I had to believe these people who said they were my friends, really meant it. And when they proved my importance in their lives was something very real, I was amazed.
So, as we gathered in the living room, we didnt even cut the cake, we just sat around the coffee table eating out of the cake pan and sucking down the "birthday milk." And thats when I knew it was time to start trusting people again.
Occasionally, I still have to tell myself that its okay to open up to people, but old habits die hard. The other day Doug Ferguson reminded me of this. Ive never met him, but I admire his strength more than words can describe. I think hes got a lot to teach all of us. Some of Dougs writing has been contributed to Oasis, and if you havent read it, you really should.
He uses his words in a very powerful way. Perhaps what seemed to strike me over and over again is his believe that we all tend to leave some sort of impression on those close to us. So, the image you leave with these people is the true way you make your mark in this world. Your legacy lives on through their memories of you.
If you can embrace those around you, then youll never be forgotten. To do that you have to be willing to let them embrace you too. Theres no reason to go through life on your own...and thats the lesson I learned last August. The funny thing is, I've known it for a while; I just needed to be reminded.
Thanks Doug. Who would have thought Id still be saying "Happy Birthday" to myself in December.
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