Self-discovery sounds like an easy enough concept.
We know what we like and what we don’t like. We can be self-aware and introspective. We can understand how we act and react, and how our experiences might have shaped who we are. We are ourselves, therefore we must know ourselves.
But what happens when we lack experience and miss key parts of who we are?
Long story short, I married a man when I was 22. Back then, I thought I was bisexual. I had kissed women, and I knew I was attracted to them, but that was the extent of my experience. We got married, had a child, and tried to make things work through all of the ups and downs.
Last year, we decided as a couple to see other people. It wasn’t for lack of care. On the contrary, we care so much about one another that we want the other person to be happy. Our friendship was strong, but the romance was long gone. So, we decided together to find that elsewhere, and then decide what to do from there.
I, being squarely in the middle of the scale and curious, decided I’d only date women, at least for a while. It made sense, and I looked forward to exploring that side of myself. I entered the dating world, gained some experience, and realized fairly quickly that I was way, way further down the scale than I thought.
I realized, at age 31, that I’m gay.
Now, there were signs. Of course there were signs. It’s actually become a running joke among my loving friends. Some things are silly stereotypes, such as the facts that I played softball and drive a Subaru. Others were questions I had always asked myself, but had never answered. I see them now, in hindsight, and wonder how I might have missed them. Was it social expectations? Was it being told who I should be for so long? Was it simply a lack of experience, or fear?
Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. It could have been any number of them. It could have been all of them. Either way, I’m here. I’m late to the party, but I’m here.
Coming out was much easier than I had thought it would be. It happened slowly, one person at a time, but the overall result was far better than I had imagined. I feel lucky, after hearing so many stories to the contrary.
Firstly, I told my soon-to-be-ex husband. Well, I suppose that’s not true. I told the woman I was seeing, the second I figured it out, then I told him when I saw him next. I hoped that he wouldn’t take it personally, that he wouldn’t think that it discounted the good times in our marriage, because those times were still good. I stuttered, and danced around the subject a bit, and then I blurted it out.
He laughed. He didn’t yell, or cry, or ask what that meant for us. He laughed, and told me he wasn’t surprised. We were both relieved to have some questions answered, and he admitted to wanting a divorce. It was a nice, loving talk, and we decided together that it was best. Oh, and then we high-fived. (Yeah, we’re weird, we know.)
My closest friends were next, and every single one of them was immensely supportive. I knew that I had a good group of people surrounding me, and fear was far from my mind when I explained it to each one of them. I received hugs, and words of congratulations, and an abundance of supportive questions and comments.
Now, if I’m being honest, I was worried about what my parents might think. I hadn’t even told them about my separation at that point, let alone admitted that I was dating that new “friend” my mother had met. I decided one day to let my mother know that my husband and I would be divorcing, that it was amicable, and planned to come out on another day.
Well, we all know that mothers know. She basically guessed that I was seeing that woman, and was relieved to hear that I wasn’t cheating. When she told me she just wanted me to be happy, I cried with relief. When I told my father, when he hugged me and showed his support and joy, I nearly cried again.
Coming out to the rest of my circle happened one day, when I felt tired of keeping it to myself. I’ve always been the type of person to be blunt, and hiding away was slowly driving me mad. Mainly, I had done so simply because I hadn’t stated to the rest of the people in my life that I was getting a divorce, and neither had he.
I figured that National Coming Out Day was as good a day as any, and excellently timed, I might add.
I started with a group chat of all of the mothers of my son’s friends, informing them of my separation and that I was seeing someone new. I told them what my son knew and didn’t know, and asking them to not discuss the coming divorce in a way that would get back to him.
At the bottom of the message I wrote: P.S. I’m gay.
I received messages of congratulations, questions to ensure I was alright with all of the big changes, and assurances that they wouldn’t spread it through the parenting grapevine.
With that squared away, I simply posted some pictures to my social media pages with the caption, “Happy National Coming Out Day,” and let it be. It felt right. I wasn’t worried by then, because those who meant the most to me were supportive and kind, and I told myself that if anyone wasn’t, I’d simply remove them.
My social media pages erupted with love.
I know that not everyone will share the love that my friends, family, and acquaintances have shared. I have seen the looks, heard the throat clears, and read the news articles of those who received much worse. Even so, it feels right. It feels true. It feels like I’ve found a part of myself that’s been begging to come to the surface.
Coming out to myself opened a wealth of confidence and self assurance that I had never before experienced. For the first time, I knew who I was—truly. Perhaps self-discovery is more of a lifelong journey, and less of an all-knowing assumption. As we grow, as we change, as we gain experience, we figure out a bit more about who we are and what we want.
For the first time, I knew why I didn’t like certain things, which I had performed out of feelings of obligation or reciprocation. For the first time, things felt absolutely aligned in my life, without any wavering doubt.
For me, that’s truly saying something.