800 Days of Me
“You could be the person you know within yourself you can be. You can live the life you know within yourself you are meant to live. But you have to pay the price.”
Eight hundred days ago, I paid the price.
It wasn’t a debt, but rather the price of living. Living as me, loving life rather than merely living through life, living with the chops to say this is me, take it, leave it, love me, like me, hate me, but I’m gonna be here and be me, living.
You see eight hundred days ago, I came out.
Yep, I’m gay.
But, this isn’t my coming out story.
That is a story shared between my Dad and me. Between my Mum and me. Between my sister and me. Between my Marmite and me. And, the many of you that have sat me down over the last year and said, “speak.”
No, this is about what coming out did for me. What living as me for the last two years and then some has done for me, along with those that choose me without any ifs, ands, or buts.
“Life is short, if you turn around you might miss it.”
— Ian Tang
This sounds flippant. Trust me, I get it.
But, let me be clear: you get one life, one shot, one you, and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to do it with all of me.
For years, years I tell you, I was scared of basically everything around me. New experiences, stages, people, things, decisions.
It didn’t matter, everything was terrifying.
And, I hid that fear behind anything I could, mainly my body and the good ‘ol, “Yeah, everything is well, thanks”.
Protection was garnered by food and sustained by being overweight.
I was the fat, friendly guy that made sure you were doing ok and knew exactly where all the best spots to eat happen to be, largely because I was eating at all of them. All the while drowning behind the fear of trying to do anything about said body.
Being you allows others to be themselves.
“We progress when we ensure everyone has the chance to be their most authentic selves.”
It’s simple. If you want people around you to be themselves, you gotta be you.
The more you’re you, the more people are them. Trust and transparency are built via gut-wrenching, unapologetic authenticity, not the contrived, competitive, protective self. Forget. All. That. Crap. Just do you.
When you’re scared, admit it.
When you’re hurting, cry.
When you’re wrong, say sorry.
When you have no clue how to get something done, ask for help.
When you’re happy, whip that beautiful smile out.
And if there is one thing I wish every leader knew is just how much more rewarding leading is when you admit what you know and get help with what you don’t.
Going at it alone never works.
The bodies of lonely people are markedly different from the bodies of non-lonely people.
— Ashley Fetters
The thing about not saying this is me is the endless amounts of self-sustained loneliness that it causes. We owe ourselves the opportunity to experience life amongst other people and do it in a way without reservations. For what is life without a tribe along the way.
And my, my the tribe that has surrounded me, my chosen people, the ones that chose me, they have made all the difference.
The stage. Oh man, the stage.
But to be moment makers, to be high level performers both on and off the stage, we need to take great risks and not worry that we will be criticized for doing so because when we are not worried about what other people think then we are that much more free to deliver the life-changing reality performances and then so what if we’re criticized.
— Amy Port
I’m a speaker. But, I couldn’t call myself that without reservation until after I came off the stage after my first speech as an out gay man.
That 30 or so minutes on stage.
That was speaking.
Words flowed. Pauses came at the right moments. I could feel the audience’s emotions as we went through the talk, more than my usual incessant need to flee the stage from judgement.
As I’ve been taught by those that have elevated my speaking to new heights, performing on stage isn’t about acting. Sure, it leverages so many aspects of acting, but when you get on that stage it’s about amplifying you, the real you.
There is no giving up.
The people who don’t give up are the people who find a way to believe in abundance rather than scarcity. They’ve taken into their hearts the idea that there is enough for all of us, that success will manifest itself in different ways for different people, that keeping the faith is more important than cashing the check.
— Cheryl Strayed
I almost gave up.
I almost gave up on life.
I almost gave up on love.
I almost gave up on figuring me out.
But, do you know when I figured out that I wouldn’t get close to almost on all that ever again? When I forgave myself for being myself.
That forgiveness didn’t come easy. It happened in tiny increments over years at the most consequential and inconsequential of moments. It took time and attention. It took a lot of hating myself and then figuring out how to love myself in spite of that previous hate.
But, I didn’t give up, and it has made all the difference.
Everything tastes better.
To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living.
— Anthony Bourdain
Behind my family and friends, food makes me tick. And, it has never tasted better. Never, ever.
It wasn’t all gravy — nothing ever is when you upend your unauthentic normalcy for sincere you. It’s brutally messy. Please don’t think for a second that if you chose the path that your were meant to live, that it will be all sweet.
The scope of shame, guilt, and judgement delivered my way has transcended mediums via the ever so gentle digital unfriending to the text message that said, “We hope you enjoy your new life, but we have no interest in participating in it,” to the best of intentioned, but gut punching whisper of, “I always knew,” to the people that demanded an explanation they then couldn’t understand.
If deliverance for this life meant that I was provided these experiences, let people in my life go, or they had to let me go, then that again was the price that had to be paid.
Trust me when I say, I’m acutely aware of the impacts my truth meant for those around me then, now, and for the future.
Everyone has a story. This is just one part of mine.
Acknowledgements. Thank you to my Mum, Dad, my sister, Megan, for their unwavering support. To friends who called, texted, FaceTimed, and hugged and kissed me from near and far, especially Fernando Rivera, Mike Ganino, Blake Love, Gray Harrelson, Matt and Allison Gloyd, Warren Hitchcock, Paul Pintek, Heath Slawner, Dan Stevens, Ashley Venetos, Susan Baier, and Neen James. To my Lancaster and Central Pennsylvania chosen family that has adopted me, thank you. To my colleagues at Godfrey, thank you for allowing me to be me from 8–5, Monday through Friday. And thank you to the one man that allowed me to love and experience love from another man, even if it was for only a short while. You made my life abundantly joyful during our time together.