33 of 100

29 01 2017

33. If you could go back to one point in time to give advice to yourself, when would you go and what would you say?

It’s difficult to say at exactly when I would go back to in my younger days.  If I thought I would be ready to understand what I would tell myself now, I think maybe 9th grade or the summer between high school and college.

I’ve historically been very hard on myself, and had incredibly low self esteem.  Even now I struggle with these issues, and struggle to take care of myself as well as I should.  Going back, I would talk to my younger self about these issues, and the pronounced negative impact they have over time.  Since even now I am a work-in-progress on these issues, I don’t really know if much of a positive change would result.  Still, it would certainly be worth the effort.

Growing up gay in a family, church, community, and country that relived gay people certainly didn’t help me find a good path early.  While I was closeted, of course, I now realize everyone probably knew.  But I spent enormous effort trying to deny and change that part of myself.  I was so consumed by that effort, and felt such shame, that I really couldn’t see any of the positives that I had going for me.  I was a smart kid that did well in school.  I was very healthy, tall, thin, and energetic.  But I really saw myself as ugly, not smart enough, and fat.  (I was utterly shocked as an adult in my 30’s when I visited my parents and saw pictures of my younger self.  I was rail thin.  I remember the difficulty mom always had buying pants for me – because I was too tall and thin.  But somehow I always really thought I was fat.)  I was not only ashamed of my self for not being like the other guys, but I was also ashamed of my body.  I struggle with this still today.

As a result, I became very focused internally. I really didn’t know that other people had struggles, too.  While always polite, I would never let people get too close.  And still today I it is difficult for me to build strong connections with other people.  Even as a child I was treated so differently from my straight, athletic, outgoing, golden-boy brother, as my patents always sought to isolate me.  I don’t think they had negative intentions, but – and I’m speculating – I think were afraid if other people spent much time with me, or got to know me, they would see the terrible thing inside me (being gay).  The hope that they were trying to protect me is all I can come up with in any positive way to explain why they never wanted me to grow friendships or explore the world on my own.  They only three times ever gave me permission to go a friend’s house.  Once was to stay overnight with a classmate (sixth grade).  Once was to take a girl valentines flowers and chocolates (eight grade).  And once was to hang out with classmates after high school graduation.  As a background note – I never told anyone I was gay, or had a boyfriend, or engaged in any same-sex kissing, etc, until I was almost 30.

I was also not allowed to drive myself virtually anywhere, even though my brother was allowed to go with friends on trips out of town and even stay overnight at hotels.  I was never allowed to do such things.

By the time I got to college, I was so inside-my-own-head, and in such a shame spiral, that I still didn’t make new friendship connections, even though I was on my own.  I couldn’t even imagine why anyone would want to befriend me to spend any time around me.

So, I would love to talk to my younger self about all of that, but I don’t know how much impact one such conversation would have.  I think I would need periodic visits to check in with myself and see how things were going.  A single point of attempted intervention would likely have limited impact compared to lifetime of love, encouragement, and support that was needed.




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