I was just telling someone today that sometimes when we pursue a dream or a career outside of the norm, it can feel isolating. Not everyone will understand your vision and even the people closest to you might judge or have a hard time knowing what to say or ask about your experience.
For instance, if I was going to buy a house, my whole family would know how to get involved. They’d ask me how many square feet, where is it located, how many rooms, etc. However, with a recent training program I was enrolled in for the past year and while pursuing my dream of publishing a book, many of the people in my life haven’t known what to ask or frankly, what I’m even doing.
I’m not sure if you can relate, but I’m here to offer my journey outside of the norm as a means of helping you to stay the course on your own.
Whenever someone asks me how I even discovered the program for which I was enrolled, a predominately Christian institution across the country from where I live, I tell them I truthfully can’t remember. What I do know, though, is that what spoke to me about the training and gave me the desire to delve more deeply into my story is the principle from which the program is built, “You can’t take anyone further than you have gone yourself.”
Upon getting accepted, I spent a lot of time contemplating whether it was the right fit for me. Being a man who is openly gay attending a religiously-based institution scared me and confused many of my friends and family. My story specifically includes harm experienced from Christianity, so why would I choose to participate in a program primarily catered to conservative Christians? One of the main reasons I said yes is because it wasn’t entirely for or about me.
It’s said, “In nature, the antidote grows next to the poison.” I believe doing repair work with the very people who represent the place I experienced the most harm not only helped heal my story, but it enabled me to fully embody my purpose and my calling.
For the past four years I’ve been engaging in conversations with families, parents, teachers, therapists, and members of the LGBTQ community about how to heal queerphobia within ourselves and prevent it from occurring in future generations. I felt, though, in order to be more effective in my advocacy, I would need to uncover my “blind spots” — areas in my life I hadn’t fully explored that are still a source of trauma, shame, and contempt.
One of my forms of advocacy, which I believe is connected to my calling, is bringing awareness to language and the messages we use that can continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes of the LGBTQ community. And one of the ways I’ve dreamt of being able to share my calling is by writing a book for parents. Part of having a parenting book is speaking to parents, including some who may not agree with me. Rather than getting triggered and caught up in the unhealed wounds of my past, preventing potential healing, I wanted to go deeper into my story as a means of being able to take others further along in their own.
Ultimately, my desire was to be able to hold space for those with whom I disagree and offer everyone I engage a presence of hope and healing.
Of course, the way healing works is that the very things I worried would happen while enrolled in the training program, happened. During the training, I was on guard the entire time and was very mindful of who I spoke to about why I enrolled. I also observed the awkward dance around matters pertaining to people who are LGBTQ. Which felt uncomfortable and frustrating, especially because we were specifically addressing trauma and harm by the church against sexuality.
What I’ve always known, though, is that God is available to everyone and works in each of our lives. She was working overtime in mine this past year and offered repair to specific themes of my story. Two of which are feeling missed and not being fully seen. While these did happen, what transpired during the program, is something that felt honoring and actually disrupted the narrative of my story. The program helped me name things that felt extremely uncomfortable for me to name and instead of being missed, I was met with compassion, repair, and care. The program modeled for me a healthy and healing way of handling my story. I felt as though I was given the opportunity to re-enter my story from a place of hope and love, which is the very thing that will help any of us to change its narrative.
I’ve always loved American mythologist, writer, and lecturer, Joseph Campbell’s analogy of the Hero’s Journey in describing our lives. I believe each of us is on a Hero’s Journey and part of our journey is discovering who we truly are, what our soul came here to do, and to be able to show our faces fully. Joseph Campbell said, “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” I believe the privilege of a lifetime is being able to affirm all children for who they are.
After a year of engaging story work and learning more about narrative-based trauma therapy, I completed my last session two weeks ago. And this week I officially received a publishing contract for my parenting book. Which was the reason I signed up for the program in the first place and has been a source of inspiration in the pursuit of my dream outside of the norm since 2015.
What I’ve learned and want to share with you is to never be embarrassed about expressing yourself, especially when it comes to doing something you love. I can completely relate to anyone who has a critical voice inside of their head. I sometimes still find myself questioning what other’s opinions are of me and the work I put out into the world. What I know, though, is that anyone who judges you is threatened by you doing something they themselves are fearful of doing.
Find people who will support you, even if it’s just a few. Keep doing what you love. Pursue your dream. Never stop expressing yourself. And please, share your story. We want to hear.