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Tell Your Story

09/18/2012

Human beings are story tellers. We tell the stories of our lives – mostly without even thinking about it.

Those of us who have come out recently often do this in a conscious way. We do it as a rite of passage. “See? Here I am. I’m out. And this is how I got out.”

But it’s not just late bloomers. I’ve heard coming out stories from gay people of all stripes. We tell the stories as a sign of membership in the club. We tell them to share, and therefore ease, some of the pain – of growing up gay, of living in the closet, of the coming out process itself.

I often find myself telling my coming out story to someone I’ve just met, and if that person is also gay, hearing one in return. It can be overdone of course, but generally speaking, it’s good to tell others your story, and to listen to theirs.

But we need to tell our stories to ourselves – first and foremost.

Why?

It makes things real. Telling yourself your story reminds you of both the struggle and the benefits. And it keeps both in perspective.

Telling my story reminds me of where I came from. It reminds me of where I’ve come to. And – most important – it reminds me that neither of these places is completely good or bad.

Coming out is good. I’ve said that over and over in this blog. But most people leave something good behind in coming out. And most people have found their lives – while improved – less than perfect when out. This is life as it is. Always compromised in some way. Perspective is key.

So tell yourself  your story.

Remember what it was like before you came out, when your dark secret or that nagging sense of doubt was a part of your life every single day. And remember the good times you had, because there certainly were some of those, too. Maybe it’s the joy of seeing your newborn child, or having fun at your wedding. I had fun at both of mine. If you’ve not been married or had kids, maybe it’s enjoying sports with your buds, or even getting a promotion at work. Into every life some sun must shine. Honor that.

Remember your coming out. The fear, the pain, the excitement, the relief. Relive your first experiences after you were finally out. I thought I was literally going to have a heart attack the first time I walked into a gay bar all by myself. Remembering that makes me laugh at myself, and also makes me want to hug the frightened child I was in that moment.

Finally, look at your life today. Even if you haven’t been out for long, look honestly at the benefits and the losses. Remind yourself that life is never perfect – compromises and struggles will always be there – then, standing apart from the stresses of moment, assess whether your life is better than is was before you came out. If so, congratulations. You’ve come home.

If you can’t say that on balance you are better off, then work to deal with it. Once you’re out, it’s pretty nearly impossible to go back in, so you need to get to work on yourself and get happy being out.

As I said, this is all about perspective. I find it especially helpful in dealing with the inevitable day-to-day frustrations and disappointments. Reminding myself of my story, telling it again, whether to myself or to a friend, reminds me of how great life can be when you come out of the shadows.

Telling the story can be as enlightening for the teller as for the hearer.

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