Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none. William Shakespeare
When I was eighteen, and a recent graduate from high school, I had no clue about life. Not even the color green could justify my naivete. I’ve often compared myself to a zygote just beginning the process of gestation. The one thing I did have right was my religiosity. I, as well as all the other clueless virgins in our young adult group thought we had it all figured out since our life reflected biblical virtues. It’s no wonder that by the age of twenty – eight with my virginity still intact – at least with women – I got romantically involved with a priest.
One of the things I’ve learned about myself along the way is that I live life in extremes; if I’m going to take on a new project, I’ll suck the life out of it until there is nothing left over except the shell of its former self. I can see why I was so extreme in my faith at such a young age, as well the choices I made while exploring the gay lifestyle.
By twenty – eight I was tired of hiding my sexuality and decided to live life the exact opposite way. My life with the priest was exciting, filled with trips to Europe, Hawaii and other previously unexplored locations. Although we had a great time together, I still carried that gnawing guilt associated with our forbidden relationship. If anyone were to find out, I was certain to lose all the close friendships I had made in my former life.
But could I count my “Christian” friends as real friends? At the time, was I really presenting my true self? The answer is no, I wasn’t. I had to do what I did in order to shed an old mentality that could have fooled me into believing that God could make me straight.
In Part 1, we discussed how we thought we had the world figured out when we were 18 and were ready to conquer it. Like many new adults, I thought I knew it all and was ready to finally be on my own and live the life I wanted.
As I look back, I realize that I spent most of my 20s trying to fulfill expectations. These were mostly expectations I had put upon myself or expectations of others that I was interpreting, perhaps correctly, maybe incorrectly, but either way, I wanted to do everything just right and do what I was “supposed” to.
“Supposed” to and “have to” are two verbs that can really sum up my 20s. I spent most of the time out of touch with my true desires, thoughts and goals and more effort was put into what I thought I “should” be doing. Although I used to like to boast that I did not care what others thought of me, I realize that I did in fact care very much and based most of my decision making upon this.
The need for good appearances really manifested itself in how much make-up I used to wear. As I was looking back on old pictures, I was shocked to remember how much time I used to take to get ready and how much gunk I had caked upon my face.
I spent my early 20s working hard on my education. My 21, I had my Bachelors degree, by 23, I had my Masters and my counseling credential when I was 24. I plowed through it with such tenacity because this was after all, what you were “supposed” to do. I hardly stopped to think if this was truly what I wanted. Was I studying the correct topics? Was I applying to the right schools? Was I headed towards the right career?
I definitely do not regret finishing my education early in life, but I do wish I had been more methodical in my choices and allowed myself more time to grow as an adult, before diving into a career.
I had the same boyfriend most of the way through college and when I was 22, he proposed. I definitely did not want to break up and he was a nice enough guy, so I said yes. I already had my Bachelors degree and was half-way done with my Masters. I decided to finish my Masters degree then marry him. It made sense in the natural progression of my life and fit in with what I thought was “supposed” to happen. It made sense that this would be the next step in my progression towards the American dream.
Here I am with tons of make-up on, the morning of my wedding. I don’t even recognize that person anymore.
What a huuuuuge lesson that turned into. I try not to dwell on regret or things I cannot change. But, this was undoubtedly a big mistake. I was not mature enough to make such a big decision, nor was he. He was definitely not the right person for me and just a few months into our marriage, I realized it had been a big mistake and things were going horribly wrong. I tried. Man, did I try. I tried to be someone I wasn’t. I tried to ignore those thoughts and feelings that my life was making no sense anymore. I tried to make it work. But, three years in, we both realized it was time to move on.
At 26, I found myself headed for divorce. I was embarrassed, shattered, broken and vulnerable. But, I at last felt authentic. I never wanted to be a divorcee and there is still a part of me that is very embarrassed by this, but it also showed the world that I was not perfect and I was done living up to anyone else’s expectations. It gave me the freedom to begin to cultivate my true essence and make peace with my flaws. It let me face my imperfect self and embrace my bad decisions.
From here, I was able to grow. I have worked hard these past few years to know the real me and make decisions that have been for myself and my true identity. I feel now that I live more authentically and have a deeper connection to my soul, the earth, my fellow beings and God.
I am sure when I am 40, I will look back at 30 and realize I had noooooo clue, but I am at peace with that. I am at peace with knowing I have not arrived anywhere. I am content to realize how little I know about anything and I am excited about all there is to learn.
Most days, the only thing I wear on my face is my nose ring. I face the world bare, vulnerable and open to new experiences.
In love and openness,