I needed to get my shit together.
And now, for the most part, I have. I feel more confident and right about myself than I have in years. It’s so strange to feel this way. There’s a recognizable stream of energy I had completely forgotten about and after weeks of hard work–and motivation building changes in my life–this source of energy has struck a familiar feeling of clarity I hadn’t felt in years. It was as if it had just showed up at my doorstep after a six year absence asking, “Remember me?” It’s been difficult to accept that I was willing to turn my back on what was good for me. Instead, I chose pain. I chose a tougher road for myself. I became an emotional cutter, of sorts.
The hardest part is looking back upon the rubble of my un-lived life and trying not to judge myself too harshly for the wasted time. Last night, I was laying in bed thinking of my three years here in Austin. What a fucking waste. This is such a great city. The people are great, the food scene is godly, and the atmosphere is lush with natural feats so astonishing my hardened former catholic heart can’t help but recall what it was once like to believe that all of this was some ecclesiastical rembrandt created by some grand design. How can all of this beauty be an accident?
Yet, everyday for the past three years, I have ignored all this. I was set on believing that everything would eventually get better for myself without having to take any responsibility for my life. What’s worse is that, in my selfish fight to ignore my problems, I used people to prolong this period of passive living.
And now I’m going to write something that’s very difficult for me to face. I haven’t dated nor have I been in a relationship in over six years. I have had a few flings, but nothing that was ever remotely close to being serious. After my last relationship, I recall jumping headlong into work and school in order to avoid the pain. But that never worked. And as the months and then years went by, I continued to punish myself for being single. I piled pain upon pain upon myself. How? Through incessant self-sobotaging thoughts. It’s insanity when you sit down and calm yourself down enough to realize how critical and unfair you can be to yourself. It became such a habit, I didn’t realized I was doing it. Emotional cutter, indeed.
I had a coping mechanism, too. When the pain got to be too much, I discovered a clever way to build up my self-confidence: dating apps and websites. All of these guys who ever reached out or showed any kind of interest in me was the only drug I needed to keep myself going. There was a guy I was talking to on OkCupid a few years back who seemed great. He had a nice job, seemed nice enough, and was very cute. He wanted to have drinks with me. I told him I was leaving town for work and wouldn’t be back for a few weeks, but I would be sure to get in touch once I got back. I never did and I never meant to. I never did because I already got what I needed out of him: his interest in me. As long I knew I was still capable of reeling someone in, I was content. I didn’t pursue anyone any further than that.
Instead, I sat on the sidelines and watched my life go by.
I feel it’s important to note that this isn’t about me being single. I have no problems with that. Finding a man is hardly a priority and it never has been. This is more important than that. My problem is that I have convinced myself that circumstances in my life will just work themselves out on their own. Instead of building a life for myself, I keep waiting for life to build itself around me. Clearly, that’s a foolish way to think, but it’s an effective way to hide.
Thankfully, I got tired of hiding. And I know this personal development won’t happen over night, but at least I’m finally working on it. Each day is better than the last. I’m ready to remember what it was like to be me again.
And finally, I think it’s time I return from that business trip.
I went on a caribbean cruise last year with a few best friends.
On our drive up to Galveston, one of these friends brought up an article he had recently shared on Facebook and he wanted to know what I thought of it.
“Bring it up on your phone.” He said.
I did so, reluctantly. And I say reluctantly because I had already read it and I hadn’t cared to comment on it because said friend had already expressed on his Facebook how “right” this article was. Whatever that means.
You see, the article was this inane one-size-fits-all piece (but more like a rant) on how gay society is too interspersed in the hook-up culture rather than focused on finding something “meaningful”. But who is this ass-wipe to judge what meaningful is to anybody else?
It took an inordinate amount of self-possessiveness from publicly shaming everyone who shared this article that day. And there were a number of them.
So, I went on and read the article with as little self-loathing as I could muster.
Then I said something that took the air out of the Jeep Liberty we were traveling in:
“This article is a pile of bullshit.”
I just couldn’t help it.
My friend looked at me curiously, “Why? I thought it had some great points.”
I looked at him as if ready to unleash my half-filled 32-ounce cherry slurpee over his head, “Well, would it surprise you to know that not even I am convinced that monogamy is right for me?”
We nearly jack-knifed on Interstate 10 due to that statement.
He looked at me in shock — reminiscent to how he looked at me what I told him Ru Paul’s Drag Race had jumped the shark.
Instead of continuing in quotes, allow me to explain how I feel about monogamy and open-relationships:
I’m not convinced that monogamy is for me.
First of all, I love living alone. I appreciate my solitude. In fact, on most days, I prefer it.
I just don’t know how I would be able to handle living with someone. I enjoy intimacy, but in moderation.
I also fear that if I were to live with someone on a long-term basis, eventually the novelty of the relationship will wane and we’ll only be living with each other for the sake of convenience and habit. And how sexy is that, right?
Moderation, you see, is the key. But not only that.
My last relationship was a huge learning experience for me.
He was a great guy with a good heart, we had tons of chemistry, and genuinely cared for one another. But we only lasted six months. Why? Because he found someone else more befitting of his needs. And for the longest time, I hated him for it. I blamed him relentlessly and it didn’t help that we share the same friends, so avoiding him was always a hassle.
Then, when all the debris settled from our imploded relationship, I realized it wasn’t his fault. It was no one’s fault. Because I could count several occasions within our relationship that I considered straying. There was one occasion early on in our relationship when I was approached by a handsome banker in a bar while out with friends. His group converged with ours and we instantly gravitated toward each other. Yes, I was naturally flirting with him because, hell, I’m in a gay bar, it’s common courtesy. Well, in the frenzy of an overpopulated bar and blaring house music, this banker man pulled me over to him beside the DJ booth and pulled me into a kiss.
Or at least he tried to. I pushed him back and told him I couldn’t.
But I wanted to. I wanted to badly. And if I had, I would have felt terribly.
There was another instance when a guy I had a tiny crush on began to show interest in me.
It all came to a head in another bar when out with my boyfriend and a group of friends. This guy shows up and we strike a polite casual conversation that builds and builds and builds. Before I know it, my best friend is dragging me out to the bar patio with a disapproving look on her face.
“What are you thinking?” She says.
Genuinely confused, I ask, “What? What’s wrong with you?”
“You were flirting with that guy for the past half hour!”
Half-hour? It hadn’t even seemed that long to me. When we returned inside, my boyfriend’s face said it all. He was hurt by it. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. But, I shrugged it off, and assured him that he had nothing to worry about. And that worked for about an hour.
Because when we arrived at another bar for after-hours dancing, this tiny crush of mine approached me again after having consumed one too many coronas. He put his arms around my waist and pulled me into a kiss. I was about to push him back, but my boyfriend intervened and did it for me. The night turned sour after that. But we got past it and moved on.
And then, months later, I was dumped for someone else. I blamed him and myself for my broken heart.
But now, I blame unrealistic expectations.
We have these pre-ordained agreements within ourselves that guide us most of our lives. We go to school, move out, go to college, get married, have kids, die.
As far as relationships go, we’ve mostly conformed to the idea of meeting “the one”, falling in love, getting married, and growing old together. But what if that isn’t enough? What happens when the natural stirrings for something new and exciting begin to takeover? Am I to bury those desires and go about my mundane life because there’s a piece of paper saying I’m committed to someone else?
This is not what I want for myself. In fact, it never has been and it doesn’t have to be. Isn’t this what the gay community is fighting against and has been fighting against for generations? We want same-sex marriage! We shout that conservative america needs to stay out of our bedrooms and become more open-minded. But still, its become clear, that even we ourselves have some evolving to do. Love is love, yes, I agree. But it also comes in all shapes, sizes, and numbers.
I’m not saying I don’t want to get married. I’m just saying that marriage does not have to be so definite. I would like to grow old with someone, but I’m a realist. I know one man for the rest of my life is not going to be enough. And I’m tired of feeling like it has to be.
So when people thumb their noses at others who approach life differently, it gets me angry. There is no one right way to live life. Who sets the rules? Does love need rules?
I don’t think so. And I don’t know what kind of love is meant for me. But I’m open to them all.
And if you’re not, that’s cool too and alright by me. You don’t have to be.
But you should let me be me.
And spare me the hypocrisy.
I’m currently working on the first draft of my personal statement for grad school. And boy is it rough.
Ask me to write about anything else and I’m game. But when it comes to writing about myself, I just hit a wall.
In all honestly, I really don’t want to go back to grad school; in fact, I feel as though I’m being forced.
You see, this is really my readmission application to business school. I first went after I received my BBA in accounting in 2011. I spent two semesters–nine expensive credit hours–thinking it was the only option for me.
Then I got a phone from an office in Austin, TX. This organization came across my information through the university’s career services website and felt I would be a strong candidate as on of their financial analysts.
I went ahead and jumped. I stuck the landing.
But now, I’ve hit the ceiling of that job. Yes, the pay is good. In fact, it’s most than a lot of my friends. But the job is not enough. I want more than what I do. And I don’t mean more responsibility either. I want what I do to mean something to somebody. And I’ll take a paycut to do it.
So, I decided the best way to go about moving in a direction I felt would help me accomplish that would be to finally sit for the CPA exams. So, I gave the Texas State Board of Accountancy my application of intent.
One problem. I have only 149 of the 150 required college hours.
One credit. One effing credit. That like a third of a class.
And it can’t just be any class, of course not. It has to be an upper-divisional business-related course. And why? Because I’ve already received by bachelors.
I guess I’m getting punished for graduating.
So, I’m going to take a few deep breaths and bite the bullet.
I’m going to take another big step toward something better for myself.
Not matter the costs.
There’s a stranger living in my apartment.
I have him for a roommate.
I can’t specifically recall when I let him move in, but I do remember bits and pieces.
I guess I can say that it started out like any other relationship I have ever had: Slow.
I started seeing him here and there when things got too difficult to handle. It was a comfort to have someone there for me, someone I wouldn’t have to explain ever minute detail of my life. He understood. I mean, how could he not?
He told me everything I wanted to hear, but never anything that I needed to hear. It was just the right amount of affirmation I needed to lay my head upon at night. But it never stopped the dreams. Those would never go away. So, ultimately, when I woke, I was right back where I started.
I’ve tried to evict him, but I can never seem to take hold of him. Because when I finally have him within my grasp, I lose focus. I make excuses for him and I let him go.
I no longer look him in the eye. I just can’t bear it. He’s just too attached, too standoffish, too unrecognizable.
I’m afraid there’s no going back.
I moved to Austin, TX in 2012. It wasn’t a huge move for me having lived an hour down I-35, in San Antonio, for the previous six years. Still, I was excited. I was moving to a new city for a new exciting job. At the nexus of my excitement, however, had nothing to do with Austin or my new job. The “what-if” variable is what really had me pumped for this change. At that point in my life, I needed a stiff kick in the ass. I was in my second semester of Grad school and hating it. I was tired of going through the motions. I was burned out from school and ready for more appealing and challenging real-world experiences.
So, on a whim, I applied for a state job in Austin. Two months later, I was hired. I knew breaking the momentum I had toward attaining my Masters Degree was a risk, but it was one I needed to take. I could feel myself slowly drifting into a place I knew I didn’t want to be a part off; I could sense myself growing weary and complacent–slightly depressed. Quite frankly, I was not happy. So when I was offered the job I was excited beyond measure. Looking back, I realize that it was the potential that’s always attached to change that had me fervently preparing for the move. So, I packed up, with my sixteen year-old persian cat in tow, and made the move.
As it turned out, the move was only an ancillary one. Looking back, I smile because I can still remember how much I thought my life would change. At that very moment I was transformed. And at this very moment I find myself working toward my next transformation. I seem to never be satisfied with who I am.
A few months after moving, I read that the high school filmed in Dazed and Confused was located just down the street from my apartment. Naturally, I geeked out and had to watch the movie (my favorite Linklater film) that very same day. What I appreciate most about this movie is its accurate portrayal of high schoolers reaching a pivotal point in their lives. Life seems to be full of those. The movie focused on future expectations and present choices.
My favorite scene comes when Cynthia, Tony, and Mike are cruising through Austin. Mike announces that he’s questioning his plans to pursue law and working for the ACLU. He mentions that he’s come to the realization that he just doesn’t like the people he thought he wanted to help. He then becomes impatient with them driving aimlessly around town and wants to do something. In fact, at this very moment, he says they should just be up for anything.
Cynthia then says, “I know, we are. But god, don’t you ever feel like everything we do and everything we’ve been taught is just to service the future? What are we preparing ourselves for?” Mike responds with “Death”. To which Cynthia replies, “If we’re all dying anyway, shouldn’t we be enjoying ourselves now? You know, I’d like to quit thinking of the present as some minor insignificant preamble to something else.”
This is the trap I have fallen into. Yes, changing and improving is essential. We all have to do it. It’s how we learn, grow up, and become better people. But I have abused and continue to ignore my present while waiting for the future. I’m caught in a doorway looking out unto what will be, instead of in toward what I already have. What comes will come, but it isn’t my reality. Not yet, anyway. And by constantly being focused on that, I’ve lost a sense of myself. There’s an important quality to life that comes from being present and to understanding that all you ever have is now.
Every morning starts the same. I normally scour the headlines of Fortune and Entrepreneur reading articles discussing the latest business trends or advice columns suggesting the newest ideas in social media marketing.
I enjoy reading these articles not only for the subject matter, but because of the backstory. I love reading about people. People who turn ideas into a business model. These people live unordinary lives. Everyday is different; they’re faced with new people, challenges, goals, failures, and successes on a daily basis. Reading about these people drives me. It keeps me going.
Personally, with the job I have now, I’m beginning to understand how important living an unordinary life is to me. My passions do not align with how I currently make a living. But I take solace in two things: First, I make a pretty good living which is something I’m grateful for, but knowing that making money is not enough to make me happy, well, it’s opened my eyes. That’s an important realization.
And secondly, this is not “it”. I see my current situation as a conduit for what I really want out of life. Being comfortable may be what most people are content with, but for me, life is more than finding my cozy crevice in the World. I want to create something. I want to live a life driven by my own mind-made externalities.
Hopefully, by creating and serving others through creation, I can be comfortable and fulfilled. That’s it.
When we first met, she would regularly write me letters. I would oblige and respond. This went back and forth for a few weeks, before I finally realized that she was into me. I felt like such an idiot for not recognizing it sooner. I mean, I had actually thought that our written conversations were merely us sharing experiences/views about life and not some potential boyfriend vetting process. So, I freaked out and kept my distance without being too obvious about it.
Luckily, an excuse fell into my lap. I had just started working at a local McDonalds and was given more hours. So, I had less time on my hands.
About 2 months later, I was asked to train a new employee. When I first met him, I found him very attractive, but being the closet-case that I was at the time, I really made no indication of that. I had become a pro at hiding my feelings. He was sweet, authentic, had a rugged charm to him, and became a reliable co-worker.
About a month after he was hired, I was working on a research paper in the library. Halle (the aforementioned friend) came in and sat right next to me, and Gary (my new co-worker) right next to her. I didn’t think much of it, until he leaned into her and started talking to her. It took me a few minutes to realize that they were dating. They laughed upon my delayed realization, but they happily confirmed that they were seeing one another and I was convincingly happy for them. Obviously, I was veiling a small amount of jealousy.
A month or so went by and Gary and I started spending more and more time working with one another. Halle would come in on Fridays to visit and things seemed to be going very well for the two. At that point, having been able to get to know Gary a lot better, my crush had completely subsided. His personality quirks really sealed the deal for me on that end. Every time he spoke, he became less attractive to me.
Anyway, a few weeks after that, I went in to work a later shift. As I clocked in I noticed something was stirring. Everyone was glancing my way in a “boy, do I have something to tell you” kind of way. Gary was working the front counter, and I was scheduled to work right alongside him. About 10 minutes after the dinner rush, he told me that he had something he needed to tell me. As he told me this, I saw a few of our fellow co-workers side-eyeing us. I was like, “Ok, sure. What is it?”
He looked at me dead in the eyes and said, “I’m gay”.
At first, I thought I was being pranked. At that point in my life, I hadn’t come out yet. I was terrified of being outed. In fact, it was my worst fear. I remember looking at everyone around me thinking, “They know. This is their way of getting me to admit it.” This hot wave came over me as I probably flushed with red. I rolled my eyes, chuckled, and said, “Shut up. Stop messing around.” This was in line with Gary’s type of humor, after all.
He then stopped me from walking off and said, “No, I’m not kidding. I really am. I’m telling everyone.” I stood there confused, and it was only because of the incredulous faces of my co-workers (half-working while fully-listening to this conversation), that I realized he was being honest. He was being far more honest that I would have ever been capable of being. I then looked him straight into his eyes and said, “Okay”, and I got back to work. I wanted to be as far away from that situation as possible. I knew people questioned my own sexuality–there’s only so much you can hide–and I didn’t want to risk having my “situation” compromised.
We didn’t discuss it any further that night, but my co-workers sure had a lot to share. I tried to have my half-hour break alone away from all the cackling hens, but one found her way to me. She told me that Gary was already seeing a guy, he owns a mustang, and had been coming through the drive-thru for about 2 weeks straight just to speak with him. I instantly knew who she was talking about. Then, it suddenly hit me, what about Halle? Does she know?
At the end of our shift, those working the lobby counter registers have the disgusting responsibility of going through the McDonalds playground cleaning all the slides (yes, bodily fluids are a common finding). I noticed that Gary had already started. Normally, I would pretend to have other matter so attend to while he finished cleaning that multi-colored cesspool, but this time, I grabbed a wet rag and hauled my ass up those slides. It was the perfect place to get him alone. No one could see or hear us while we were up there.
I quickly made my way to him (breathing only with my mouth to avoid the awful smells), and found him looking at me curiously as I fought to catch my breath crawling to him in utter disgust.
“What’s up?”, he asked half-laughing.
“Look, I’m happy you came out. I really am. I wanted you to know that it’s not going to affect the way I see you in any way.”
“But, what about Halle? Have you told her?”
He instantly looked down to his hands as he scrubbed, “No, not yet.”
I sighed, “Why the hell not?”
“It’s not that simple. I really like her.”
“She should have been one of the first to know, Gary!”
“Tell her as soon as you can! Otherwise, she’s going to find out some other way, and it will be so much worse.”
“Ok, I will.”
“Good”, I said. And I slid back down to pretend to work.
Well, the shit hit the fan over the next few days. I heard the whispers, but I never took part in it. I felt a little guilty. I know it had nothing to with me and everything to do with Gary, but I felt somewhat responsible. Here was this closeted guy hiding himself and, as a result, hurting a genuinely good person.
I remember running into Halle as school a few days after Gary came out. She knew I knew, but we never spoke of it. To this day, we have never discussed Gary. As of today, he is not a part of our lives.
We all graduated and went off to college. Halle and I stayed in touch. We remained friends and I really valued her as a confidant. But as distance and time does, we slowly grew apart, and our friendship faded yellow. We each developed strong friendships in college and moved on with our lives.
And finally, I had the guts to come out. I came out at 21 years old.
I instantly started dating and felt more alive by the day.
Somehow, it got back to Halle.
It may be because we aren’t as close as we once were, but she’s never really been able to reach out to me in the same way anymore. My approach with her has not changed one bit, but I sense a change in her. I can’t help but feel she feels betrayed by me. Perhaps she feels guilty of her sense of betrayal. Then again, she might not.
For the longest time I never understood why it was important for Gary to come out the way that he did. But now I feel he did it because it was eating him up inside.
And it was eating me up as well. And when I crawled up that slide that night, I wasn’t necessarily upset with Gary. I was upset with myself. And Gary knew it, too.