1995: A Turning Point in My Life

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Part of me feels I should say I’m sorry but I’m not sorry.  A lot of shit has been going on in my life, and I’d like to hope most people would agree that real life takes precedence over a blog or keeping others entertained.

There’s a lot to write about, a lot I need to tell you, but I had a bit of an epiphany today, and I wanted to share it with you all.

Last night, I was feeling a bit nostalgic, very awake, and slightly under the influence of a few glasses of vino, so I rummaged through our cabinets below the bookcase with our DVDs and Blu-Rays in them to haul out my old photos from my pre-New Zealand days.

Some bring tears to my eyes.  Some make me long for yesterday and for those who are no longer with us.  Others make me smile.  Others again make me laugh heartily.

I found a photo of someone I haven’t spoken to in a long time, someone who, to be totally honest, hasn’t crossed my mind a lot lately.  He does once in a while, but with time marching on and a million other memories cramming their way into my head every month or three, and having seen each other last in 1995 when we were both totally different people, these thoughts grow fewer and farther the more distant that year becomes.

He, like so many other friends and family and loved ones, holds a special place in my heart.  This doesn’t mean I’m madly in love with him or anything; it just means I recognise the impact he made on my life and the way he touched my soul.  There are a lot of people in my life who have done this, and they are all special in their own right.

1995 was a strange year, full of twists and turns and surprises.  The Man I Loved, I felt at the time, was playing me as a standby, and I suddenly realised it was hurting me and my self-worth a great deal.  In a moment of absolute despair, I was chatting online with one of the most amazing people in my life, one of my best friends ever and my “twin sister”, Anne, and I came out to her.  She was amazingly supportive and loving and helped talk me away from the ledge I felt myself being drawn closer to emotionally.  The Man I Loved, and whose love felt like it was requited when he was in the mood to do so, nearly destroyed me by leading me down the path to one of the darkest points in my life.

It was through Anne’s help that I decided to distance myself from The Man I Loved, first emotionally, then physically, leaving my university and moving back home to research other universities.  (This wasn’t the only reason but a major one.)  Anne (God bless her) gave me a zillion university brochures she had from when she was picking her school, instructed me how to weed out the good from the bad in my mind, and operated as a sounding board to all my ideas about schools.

To be honest, I was feeling very blue, very depressed, very uncertain about my life.  I never thought I would find another man I would love as much as The Man I Loved.  Poor Anne listened to me harp on about him and being lonely and uncertain and gay when no one else really knew I was gay.  She was always supportive, kind, and helpful, and I am always thankful for her in my life.

I’m digressing.  The summer of 1995 came along and threw me into the deep end.  Going back to the guy I’ve not spoken to in a while, we’d met back in 1992 but hadn’t had a lot to do with one another initially.  To be totally honest, I don’t remember how we kinda ended up going from being two guys who knew one another and seemed to have very little in common to two guys who shot the shit about a lot of different stuff and had some really awesome conversations and good times, but it was out of left field and a nice change, like a nice, cool, dry breeze on a hot, humid day.

Looking back, thinking about it now that I’m older and wiser, he saw I was vulnerable and hurting, and he never prodded or asked, but through kindness and being himself, he made me feel better.  While he was married and straight, and me gay and very much unattached, he didn’t seem to care what this would have on his reputation. He taught me to have self-respect, to believe in myself, to trust my instincts and my abilities, and while I’m not always the best at doing this, I think he instilled these important things in my life by leading by example.

When I got upset — and there were a few times where I got really upset — he’d put his hand on my back or my arm, steady me, talk to me calmly, and make sure I was okay.  One of the things I’ve discovered he taught me was that the human touch can do wonders to ground a panicking or upset person.

He pulled me out of my dark patch.  He showed me there are alternatives, that being me is the best thing to be, and strength comes from within.  Whenever we were together, a lot of the time was so different from anything I’d ever seen or done or experienced that it opened a world of possibilities to me.

It taught me a few things I thought I wanted but didn’t have were things maybe I didn’t want because I’d never seen the negative consequences they brought.  (As The Witch says in “Into the Woods”, “Sometimes the things we most wish for are not to be touched.”) I learned grace, to accept when I wasn’t the centre of attention or in the limelight, how to support someone from the wings while they’re on the stage.

Knowing him also opened up another world to me, a place I’d never thought I’d see.  I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, having gone from what I felt was the black-and-white, hum-drum life I had, emerging into an exciting world of colour, and lions, and tigers, and bears (oh my!).  (I know now there’s nothing wrong with that black-and-white, hum-drum life.)  I wasn’t as secure in myself as I am now, and I have to be honest and say I let a few of these amazing opportunities that unfolded in front of me pass me by.  In saying this, I’m not kicking myself for letting them pass me by, because I still had a pretty amazing time and I have a pretty amazing life.

To be totally honest, I don’t think I would’ve taken the leap to come to New Zealand to study and see how Noel and I worked out had I not met this guy I’m talking about.  And maybe, in that alternate reality where I never came to New Zealand, I might be thinking, “What if?  What if?  What if?”

The last time I ever saw him in the flesh was the weekend of my orientation at my then-new university: Elmhurst College.  He was in Chicago for work, I had orientation but ditched the rest of it so I could spend time with him and his wife.  It was that weekend, 20 years ago almost exactly, when the photo of us was taken.

I don’t know why it took 20 years for these thoughts to dawn on me, but I think maybe some of the things I have been going through recently, and the support I’ve been receiving from my counselor, has helped me realise these things.

To the him in this story:  Thank you.  I didn’t say it at the time, but thank you; I appreciate everything you taught me because it not only saved me but also made me a very different person today than I could have become.

And maybe one day, our paths will cross again.

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