You’re at a peak in your life, and on the cusp of greatness. What do you have to lose by moving away and exploring the world around you with fresh eyes?
As a child growing up in the south I used to dream of what life would be like away from my family and friends and in a more inclusive and understanding place. My biggest fear used to be that I would never get the opportunity to live my life on the other side, the greener side with more of everything. Coming out at the age of 18 wasn’t easy with my radically Catholic family. I came out 3 times, each time harder than the first, before my parents finally accepted it. My sexuality was always the elephant sitting in the room that no one wanted to even speak of its existence. When I did speak about it I always had to fight about why “I never really gave myself a chance to date men,” “why I couldn’t be different,” and why I was “trying to hurt my family.”
By the time I turned 25 I was itching to get away and get out. Not only was I still struggling with my sexuality and my hindered relationships with my family, but I also believed staying in my hometown was keeping me complacent. The longer I stayed was the longer and harder it would be to get up and uproot myself, and I feared I would settle into a life of comfort rather than sound understanding and clear decision. I would never know if I stayed out of fear.
I made the move two years later after my life hit a breaking point. When I look back now, I understand that I thought leaving would answer all of my problems. A few things did happen when I finally left, but sudden enlightenment for fixing my life or instant success wasn’t one of them.
Life isn’t very different from state to state. A job is just a place to go to work and make money. Being an adult still means paying bills, handling your issues, and staying responsible for your life and your decisions. If you remain the same person and refuse to change, you will still face the same struggles and your issues might even feel worse with the added pressure of being alone. Moving away to a place where you have no one and know no one is like looking at yourself in a mirror without makeup, clothes, or cover up filters to block or shade the clear light of day. You come to understand yourself in a different, whole hearted way, and either you love what you see or you don’t. While this experience has allowed me to grow as an adult in so many ways, it has still been a challenge. I am reminded that running away from problems doesn’t fix them; moving away forces you to deal with your own inner demons and either conquer them or find a way to live in peace with them.
While struggling through my issues and facing my demons, I learned to define home for myself. If life was still going to challenge and try me in the same ways no matter where I lived, then home was the one loving place I could go to at the end of my day to feel safe and whole. Home wasn’t just a familiar place, but home was a feeling of sanity and understanding in a world of chaos. Home was the feeling you got from knowing you weren’t alone, and that others were there to support you through your hard days.
With that being said, moving away allowed me to understand and value the people in my life who had always been there to comfort and guide me. Though we had been through so much and they sometimes challenged me immensely, I learned that the relationships and love my family had for me, and I for them, was resilient. The question of whether or not they could love me as I was faded away. Since I was already miles away and standing on my own, I didn’t need to fear them disliking who I was so much that they left or disowned me. Without the fear of being alone constantly looming over my shoulder, I was able to be more honest with my family about my sexuality. If they left it would hurt to see them go, but there was no longer a fear of abandonment. I think they realized my strength in this as well, and came around because they knew if they didn’t I might never come back home. I know and understand I am lucky in this because some people do not grow closer to their family from this conflict, but I found it to be effective for me.
This has been an interesting journey of independence, self-love and understanding, and appreciation of things often taken for granted. In being away, I have forced myself to look beyond today, but to truly think of my future and the life I want filled with the things of importance to me. Because of this new knowledge of what life is like outside of the place I grew up, I am better able to live my life without question and appreciate the comfort of “home” in all it’s wonderful glory blended with unique struggles. This year I lived freely and I know without hesitation where I would like to be, who I want to surround myself with and the person I want to be. This was something I had to see and learn for my own growth.
“Would you look back on your life ten years from today and regret anything” has been a question of importance these past few months. People have become deeply concerned about my soundness in my decisions and my shift in priorities. I think sometimes other people can project their fears and ambitions onto you, but I have learned it is not my duty to carry them. It is okay to take a deeper look and re-focus myself towards what matters in life. After contemplation I can say that if I left here tomorrow, I would be at peace with the accomplishments and successes I have made here from just learning and proving I can stand on my own in such a short time. I am strong. I am capable. I have clarity, and that is glorious in itself.