A little while after I came out, I realized that this crazy thing had happened to me without my even noticing: I had become happy. Like really happy. It was odd because it didn’t seem like anything else had really changed. I was still single, still heartbroken, and still not quite sure how to do grown-up things like date, hang curtains, and keep myself alive. But gradually, all of that confusion and anxiety that accompanies post-grad life became background noise to the friends and nights out and new jobs and new experiences.
I was more outgoing than I’d ever been. I was making new friends, reconnecting with old ones, having great conversations with strangers in bars (don’t worry, mom, I was clutching my pepper spray the whole time), and just all around having fun. In only a few months, I went from being unemployed and having a very limited social life in the city to having a job I really liked and people to see almost all the time.
Now, none of those things have anything directly to do with my sexuality. Most of my favorite memories over the past seven months have not even been my romantic endeavors, but rather those times spent with groups of friends cooking dinner or screaming song lyrics in cars. But even on nights where my being gay never came up, the fact that I was now not only aware, but excited about who I am made me different than I’d ever been. It made me more excited about everything, excited to just be living life. Finally, I wasn’t afraid anymore, and that fearlessness began to percolate everything I did. I began to joke to my friends that this was the coolest I had ever been, but in reality I wasn’t joking at all.
I think part of this would have happened no matter what. Through other experiences like college and studying abroad, I have been growing steadily more confident and outgoing anyway. It’s part of growing up. The more you move around and keep starting over, the more you learn to build new communities for yourself. Still, I don’t think it is a coincidence that my recent boost in confidence came about right around the time I happened to come out.
I’m not saying that coming out solved all my problems. There is this notion that coming out means you suddenly have “found yourself.” Well I ask you straight people of the world, does assuredly dating members of the opposite sex make you feel like you have found yourself? I bet not. Owning your sexuality is just one step in a long process of figuring out who you want to be. Nonetheless, it is a very big step in the right direction. It may not have solved all my problems, but it made the ones I had a whole lot easier to handle.
It all comes down to not holding any of yourself back, and I think this kind of confidence can grow out of freeing anything you’ve repressed about yourself, not just sexuality—whether that means pursuing a career about which you are passionate even if it won’t make you rich or joining that club in school even if your friends don’t think its cool.
The truth is being “cool” comes from being happy with doing what you want to do. Anything is cool when it’s done with confidence, so the less afraid you are to own what you love and what you want, the cooler you’ll be, you’ll realize how much better life is when you do as my new hero Kacy Musgraves says and just “follow your arrow wherever it points.”