I absolutely dread the end of summer. No. I won’t miss the heat (and I don’t care what they say, this summer in Rochester has to be one for the record books) and God only knows my hair won’t miss the humidity. But as we move in to the fall, my spirits kind of sink. Before you know it, August is gone, September is half over, and bam, there’s the first week of October staring me in the face. Why does the idea of October make me recoil?
The first week of October signifies another passing year in my life. That’s right. My birthday. And every year I have to smile and nod when the people who love me try and celebrate my life, when in reality all I want to do is hide under the covers and wait for the whole thing to blow over. You see, like many people approaching the end of their twenties, I constantly fight myself as to where I am at this stage of my life. We have such lofty dreams when we’re younger, don’t we? I’m going to be wealthy. I’m going to have the partner of my dreams, the nice house with the picket fence, the kids and the dog running through the yard. I’m going to have that great job. I’m going to be loved by everyone who meets me. Hell, everyone who meets me is going to want to be me.
And then, as time passes you by, you wake up and realize that this may not happen for you. And this is where the vicious cycle of bullshit begins. You go from dreaming big to doubting even bigger. I’m never going to get ahead financially. I’m never going to fall in love again. Everyone and everything is going to pass me by. I’m going to die alone.
Why do we do this to ourselves? I’ll tell you why. It’s because we have constantly drilled into our heads the difference between success and failure all of our lives, and worse yet, there doesn’t seem to be any in between, at least as far as society goes. And by society, I mean gay and straight alike. I know I’m not going to win any popularity contests with the moral right. That’s a given. Quite frankly, I’m a little bit too loud and little bit too over the top for their taste. But I find sometimes the attitude among my own tribe, if you know what I mean, just as damning.
When did we start judging each other? I got into a huge debate the other day with a friend of mine because I refuse to jump on the bandwagon when it comes to supporting gay marriage. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t support it, but realistically, that’s not part of my life right now. The first boy I ever loved committed suicide because he, like so many of our youth, thought not living had to be better than living with this gay thing. It’s been 10 years since that happened and I’m still not ready to let that one go. Likewise, I have run out of fingers to count the people I have lost to disease, illness, or drug use in such a relatively short amount of time. How can I possibly wrap my head around domestic bliss or furthering the gay movement when I can’t even keep the people I love in my fucking life.
I’ll level with you. The only agenda I have is to try and get through another day on this earth, loving myself and the people around me just a little bit more and being the best version of Robby I can be. Sometimes dealing with myself seems more daunting than dealing with any kind of social cause. We have to stop this constant judging of ourselves and holding ourselves up to standards that we can not possibly conform to. And the biggest challenge of them all is to do this and not feel guilty about who or what we are at the moment, regardless of how people think we rate.
All I can hope is that in the next few months and with my birthday staring me in the face like some evil demon from a Clive Barker film is that I stop nitpicking my life to pieces and feeling shame for not being “successful” enough or for not feeling like the “right kind” of person and instead, embrace what accomplishments I have had, feel blessed for the life I do have, every unconventional moment of it, and be OK with the reflection in the mirror. I wish the same for everyone. I don’t know about you, but inner strength and confidence will be the first tools we need to make this a better world.
Essential Download: "Wouldn't It Be Good"
Artisit: Nik Kershaw
Available On: The Essential Nik Kershaw
Originally published in the August 2005 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.