In my previous post, I discussed how much happier coming out made me, how fearlessly taking ownership of my sexual identity exponentially improved my overall confidence. So naturally, being the anxiety-ridden human that I am, it didn’t take long for all of this happiness to really start to upset me.
As I began to strut through life with my newfound self-assurance, I was suddenly bombarded with an overwhelming feeling of regret. Coming out was so much less scary than I thought it would be, and I couldn’t stop lingering on how much better my high school and college life could have been if I had just had the courage to come out sooner.
If I’d been out back then, I could have been feeling this happy the whole time, could maybe have even had a real relationship by now. I could have avoided so much confusion and tears and anger at all the wrong people. Why did I spend so much time locking away my feelings and crying alone? I kept reprimanding myself for having wasted half my youth, half of what are supposed to be the most fun and exciting and formative years of my life. All I wanted to do was go back and do it right.
When I voiced these concerns, people told me how silly I sounded, how young I still am and how much time I still have left. I was told how common it is to come out at my age, how people come out when they’re fifty and still manage to create new lives for themselves. I knew they were right, but I couldn’t shake the regret.
The first time I started to feel better was when I talked about it with a girl I was dating who had been out since she was sixteen. I told her how jealous I was that she’d been able to do that, and she shook her head and said, “if you had come out at any other time, you wouldn’t be you.”
I still think a lot about that. It is impossible to know where my life would be now if I’d come out sooner. Maybe it’d be better, maybe it wouldn’t, but it is probable that it would be somewhere completely different. Because I would have met different people and done different things and put myself out there in different ways. I might have different friends or live in a different city or have a different job. I can’t know. All I can know is that everything I have done until now has contributed to the me I am today. Since I am pretty content with where I’ve ended up and where I seem to be going, it doesn’t seem worth regretting the path I took to get here.
I felt even better when I spoke about it with my friend, Sally, who has been one of the most incredible shoulders to lean on throughout my entire coming out process. I hope everyone going through a big change in her life has someone like Sally to talk to, who is not only willing to listen to my every thought and feeling, no matter how irrational or fleeting, but who also spends inordinate amounts of time calming me when I hysterically text her saying things like, “I’ve wasted half my youth! My life sucks and everything is terrible!”
When this happened, Sally told me that I came out at the exact right time. All the “right time” means, she said, is whenever you are ready. She told me that regretting not being happy before because I am happy now is like someone meeting the love of their life at 25 and thinking, “If only I had met you when I was twelve, I could have been this happy sooner!” It is just not a worthwhile way of thinking.
The fact is it doesn’t matter that I didn’t used to be here; it matters that I am here now. Yes, in retrospect it seems like it should have been so easy for me to just do it, but hindsight is 20/20, and at any other time coming out would not have been the right choice because I wasn’t quite sure and I wasn’t quite ready.
Sally also reminded me that everyone we know is still trying to figure out what makes them happy. We are 23 years old, and none of us knows what the hell is going on. No one knows what they want to do or if any of the decisions they have made pretty much since birth have been the right ones. When we each settle on something that does make us feel fulfilled, it doesn’t make the rest of our lives regrettable. The rest of our lives will be what brought us there.
The most important thing that Sally told me is how lucky I am that coming out has done nothing but make my life better. There are people who come out and end up ostracized from their families and friends. There are thirteen-year-old children living on the streets because their parents won’t accept them. If my biggest problem is that coming out has made me happy, then I am doing pretty damn well.
I’ve decided that instead of regretting I didn’t come out earlier, I should just be happy I came out when I did. I could have continued to hold in my feelings and pretend I wasn’t in love, could have remained in the state of denial I’d become so comfortable living in. But I didn’t. I set those feelings free, and luckily, I still have so much of my life ahead of me to live right.
In her song, Innocent, Taylor Swift tells us that “Today is never too late to be brand new.” People come out at fifty, discover dream jobs at forty, find true love at thirty-five. I have only been out for seven months, and I cannot believe how much has happened to me. I can’t even imagine where I’ll be in a year or five or fifteen, and I can tell that soon it will feel like I was never in the closet at all.
My life is not a tragedy. I grew up with an incredible family and wonderful friends, and I have always been known as the energetic, optimistic, singing, smiling, happy one. Could being out have made it all a little bit better? Sure, but we can all name things that would have made our childhoods better, and as far as childhoods go, mine would be pretty hard to beat. I am so grateful to everyone who has helped me see that I didn’t waste half my youth not having fun, formative, and exciting experiences. I had plenty. And in a brand new way, I get to spend the next part of my life having even more.