Sunday, August 30, 2009

Takes one to know one

Let me tell you about my worst year.

The summer after my Freshman year of college, I got a summer job working for the Utah Shakespearean Festival. Actually, I got two summer jobs working for the Utah Shakespearean Festival. I worked from 8:00 am until 12:00 am or later, 6 days a week. Half-way through the summer, the clutch went out on my car and I spent several weeks in late July/early August walking the two or so miles too and from work. I had also been cast in a student production that was rehearsing over the summer. Rehearsals usually started after my shift ended, when they weren't on my only day off.

By the time school started, I was experiencing some burn out. I had decided to finish off my general ed classes and had mostly signed up for classes I had no interest in - and half way through the semester, I had quit attending most of them. (To this day I have a history class on my transcript that I have no memory of attending. I got a D, so I must have gone at least once.) For my 20th birthday, I drove to Vegas with a few friends and got my first tattoo. Shortly afterward, my roommate tried to take everything under our bathroom sink that looked like it might be a pill and then locked herself in the bathroom for a couple of hours.

I, who have always had a passion for learning and a love of everything to do with school, quit at the end of the semester and moved back in with my parents. I got a job doing data entry at the IRS and promptly came down with Mononucleosis. (That makes it sound like I caught Mono from the IRS, which I don't think is true - they just happened to coincide.) That fall I also got word that one of the friends who had gone on the tattoo adventure had gone missing. A few days later they found his body and a note.

But the thing that stands out in my mind - over and above the suicide, the dropping out of school, the hellish summer, and the insane sore throat that goes with Mono - was not being quite able to come to terms with my sexuality.

The only redeeming thing about that year (and the main cause of my ensuing depression) was that that was the year I entered into my first relationship with a girl. I recently happened across this article which (to sum up) indicates that depression may be an important evolutionary development that helps us cope with things - particularly big problems we're unable to tackle all at once - like coming out.

The thing is, when I finally did come out, it was like everything just fell into place. I'm happier now than I can ever remember being before. Depression? What depression? And it wasn't the actual telling people part of coming out that seemed to do the trick (though that helped - keeping a secret like that is taxing.) Mostly it was just deciding for myself that I was okay with it - and when it boiled right down to it - I was the only one that mattered. *Poof* All better.

I tried, when that relationship ended, to "be good". I repented of my sins and went back to doing all the things I'd been raised to believe were good and right. And I was miserable. For years.

It turns out, I'm not the only one who had "Straight Blues" (as I just decided to call them) before coming out. A friend of mine recently told me a story about sitting on his bed with his father's shot-gun in his lap, trying to decide if it would be better to come out or just quit. He told me that he had the same sense of peace and happiness once he finally came out.

Not to say that coming out is by any means the easier path. It's just that, for me, the more I tried to choose the alternative, the unhappier I was. I think it was George Burns that said, "I'd rather be a failure at something I enjoy than a success at something I hate."