Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It Gets Better

The string of suicides by the gay youth in America is disturbing and heart breaking on so many levels. That someone could feel that much despair and sense of life not getting better is mind boggling to adults. Even though it has been years since I was in high school, I still can remember how those moments felt as if they were the most important times in my life. As if nothing would ever be as huge as decisions made then. No matter what adults told me then - you couldn't get me to believe otherwise. I applaud so many people taking pledges online and making videos telling youth how it will "get better", but when you're living it alone in a state in the middle of the country - Hollywood actors telling you to hold tough feels a million miles away.

It definitely got me thinking back to my school days. Things were very different in the 80s. Someone could write your name on a bathroom wall and call you something bad, but we didn't have the internet so that a video of you could get thousands of 'hits.' In those respects, today's youth have it so much worse than we did then. But I also didn't have the internet to connect to other teens struggling with their sexuality and the issues I was facing. Like today's youth: I felt alone and completed isolated. The outside world saw me as the carefree, fun-loving guy that marched to the beat of his own drummer - at times acting crazy and being an 'individual' (and I'm sure many of them called me all sorts of names behind my back) - but inside, it was a fearful place as I believed the feelings I had were wrong. My church told me it was. Society told me it was wrong. There were no gay people on television letting me know I was normal. I would find myself hiding in the public library trying to read up on books about homosexuality - never checking them out due to fear. I came from a family that would discuss anything and everything - but that topic was off limits in my mind. I wasn't about to share it with anyone.

And then my sophomore year of high school, while working in a community theatre production - an adult reached out with a lifeline that blew me away. I knew the man was gay so I would constantly ask him questions until he felt the need to write me a letter about homosexuality. The letter said he could tell I was dealing with it (from my questions) and the three page letter answered many questions for me about my feelings behind being gay. Most importantly, he assured me that no matter what: God loved me. No matter what others said and the fear that filled my brain - I should hang on to that. I kept that letter hidden under my mattress all through high school; at times pulling it out for reassurance. I never know what became of him nor did he ever know what that one act of kindness did for a scared young Christian who was afraid of 'what he was becoming.' But it meant the world to me. That letter was my "it will get better" video - long before they were making them and I only hope I can do the same for someone now. One youth. One at a time. If adults could find at least one teen to mentor and not think in terms of addressing the masses, perhaps that would help some of them before they are at the end of their rope.

Oh - and btw: I have an amazing family who are the most supportive Southern Baptist, God loving people you'd ever meet. They love me and my partner of ten years and open their arms to us. It only took a few years to get past the fear of outting myself and the family coming to terms with it - but in the end - to have the relationship I have with them all now: it was well worth it. We're back to being a family that can talk about "anything" again...and it did get a lot better.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Knowing to say WHEN

How do we ever know when the time has come to end something, stop it or move on?  Careers, relationships, hobbies (knowing when to stop editing a book)...these are things people nurture, tend to, and watch change as we move along in life. 
I've seen many examples of people that knew exactly when their time was up. Certain singers who have called it quits because they realize they can never be as good as they were in their hey-day. Politicians who have quietly moved back into regular civilian life. Teachers who have reached the end of a very fulfilling career having seen numerous students through the door, but knowing time had come to step away from the text book. 

But for all of those, there are others who just don't know when enough is enough. Certain celebrities who have a 'farewell tour' every other year. People who are knocking on a certain age, but insist on doing things they did when they were younger instead of giving someone else a chance to take on that role. And writers who will continue writing even if publishers refuse to take on their literary works at their publishing house. 
But then again: it's those that don't give up that we end up hearing great things about. I suppose if you've found something you do well and you love - maybe you should continue doing it until your own body will no longer allow you to do it. 
The barometer that says "it's time to stop".  
I plan to keep moving until that internal clock tells me time is up.