During my teenage years I would have considered myself a very outgoing and friendly person. I had many friends from multiple high schools and I was always doing things with my friends. I had four extremely close friends and I loved each of them. I had a lot of fun with them and miss those days, it still fun to catch up with them every so often but distance and life have caused us to grow apart. But the older I got the more I began to realize that I was different. I liked guys.
My first year of college was a time of transition and change for me. I began to shut myself off from those around me. I had great roommates for my freshman year and they did a lot to try and include me but I hide behind my homework and classes so that I wouldn't have to do much with them. At the time I didn't realize that I was doing this because I was attracted to one of my roommates. It was easier to avoid him and thus the group than face what I was feeling. My freshman year began the "new" non-emotional me. This pattern of social avoidance started that year and continued until I finally came out to my wife earlier this year. I had begun to hide who I was because I felt ashamed that I was attracted to guys. It wasn't until the second year of my masters, and nearly 10 years after my freshman year that everything fell into place and I realized I had done all of this because I was gay.
I didn't really form any lasting friendships while I was in undergrad and getting married made this much worse for me. I had three part-time jobs and was a full time student giving ample excuse not to venture out socially. I hide behind the piano and organ at church so I wouldn't have to interact with people until eventually I no longer sought to establish friendships or even simply talk with people anywhere I went. I came across to people as being very stern and "business" focused. I thought I was ok with this, I thought I would be able to keep up this façade for the rest of my life so that I would never have to face the fact that I am gay. Boy was I wrong!!!
Since January, when I came out to my wife, I have had no choice but to explore my emotions and assess how I have cheated myself out of truly living. Establishing quality friendships is one of the biggest areas I have cut myself short. I was/am emotionally stunted but I feel this changing each and every day. I have begun to force myself to not only respond to people when they speak to me but I seek people out to establish better relationships.
I have never been one to have a guys night out nor have I been one to go out to lunch with a group of school mates. But this week I took a big first step and went out for drinks and lunch with a couple of the TAs I teach with. I had a fantastic time we spent two and half hours talking, laughing, and having fun. I can't believe that in all of the years of my education this is the first time I have done this. This experience was the catalyst for me to realize how cut off I have been in terms of friendships. This is changing and I am excited for this part of my journey. Besides working to cultivate deeper friendships with those around me I have begun to reach out to all of my past friends and I am working to build lasting friendships with new people.
I just cannot believe how stunted I have become emotionally because of my suppression of who I am. The next step for me in my journey is to continue to cultivate the friendships I have with other gay men and expand that circle to include many more people who will be a support system for the difficult times ahead. I now feel ready to begin coming out to some of my friends who are gay and are probably unaware of my orientation. The thought of coming out to them is exciting and encouraging, quite the opposite of how I thought I would feel.
My growing friendships have given me new hope for life. Getting in touch with my emotions has made me cherish each day and I am excited for each new day because each day is a chance for me to engage in living rather than just pretending to live. I now understand the importance of friendship and I am excited for life!