“Owning your story is the bravest thing you will ever do.” -Brene Brown
“It is better to be hated for what you are, than to be loved for something you are not.” -Andre Gide
Coming out of the closet. What does that mean to you when you hear those words? Most people would assume it means someone who is gay or bisexual “coming out”….telling their friends and family who they really are. I recently watched an episode of American Idol and there were two young men auditioning that shared their own personal stories of being gay and the pain they have felt with fully living that life. One of the man’s father was a preacher. He had grown up in the church but knew at 9 years old he was gay. He even tried to “pray the gay away”, as he was raised with the belief that being gay meant eternal damnation. He lived with that secret for 10 years, giving in to the fact at one point that he would just never get to live the life he dreamt of. And even after finally telling his parents he is gay, they still will not accept or be ok with him living his truth. He was broken, and music was his only escape from the pain. The other young man had not even told his parents. In fact, he was “coming out” on national television and only when his family watched the show would they know his truth. He was raised in Israel and once he was able to get out of the house, he moved to California to finally be able to live an open and free life.
I tell these two stories because it hit me watching them that night that we are all coming out of the closet in some way in our own lives. We all hold that truth inside of us that we are scared to share with the world, with our friends, and most importantly, our family. I saw how that reflected in my own life and realized I had always been a “spiritual person” deep down inside. I had always known my own truths that I was too afraid to share with people. Always covering myself up with having lots of friends, staying busy, and doing what everyone else told me I was supposed to do or how I was supposed to live.
I think we all know our own truths at a very young age. What we are supposed to do in this lifetime and what our true purpose is. But that light gets diminished over time and we start to believe everyone else knows our truths better than we do. We start to learn how to hide in plain sight. We become very good at “adapting” and playing the lead role in the play of what life is supposed to like. At least I know I did.
For me, beginning my own journey of self-discovery became very much like coming out of the closet. People had always told me I was smart, deep, thoughtful, an old soul starting at a very young age. That I could do so much with my life. But their perception of “so much I could do with my life” was not the same as what I would learn to be mine. It wasn’t going to college for 4 years to get a piece of paper saying I was officially labeled smart. It wasn’t getting some big-time career only to work all hours of the day to make endless amount of money while dying a little inside. It wasn’t having a husband with 2.5 children, a dog, a cat, and a lifetime of keeping up with the Jones’s. Don’t get me wrong; I am not bringing down any of that. I’m not judging those that do those things in their own lives. I just knew it wasn’t meant for me. That isn’t my perception of doing so much with my life. Those aren’t my truths. But it took doing some of those things to shove me onto the path of self-discovery and really finding out, or better yet, remembering, what my truths are. And when I discovered that truth, who I really was, I came running out of the closet. It may have taken awhile to get the courage to turn the knob. But once I cracked the door, there was no turning back……
It was not easy for me to tell the world who I really was. To really own it. Own my truths. In fact, I am still discovering how to do that better every day. But I remembered something the other day that I hadn’t thought about in a long time. About six months before I left my marriage and began a new life, out of the closet, I remember watching an episode of Oprah’s super soul series. She was interviewing Diana Nyad who I didn’t really know at the time but for some reason she really spoke to me. This woman is amazing to say the least but it’s something in particular she said that changed the course of my life. She had broken the record for swimming from Cuba to Florida nonstop. I believe it was a 56-hour swim or something crazy like that! She had other medals for long distance swims, but that was definitely her biggest. She is now in her late 60’s and was talking about how she thinks about the end of her life more now. She doesn’t believe in a God necessarily….in fact she even called herself an atheist. But she said, as death gets closer, and she reflects on her life, she doesn’t care about world records, or medals, or how much money she has accumulated, or how much fame she has. What she thinks about most is the kind of person she is and if she is really proud of who she is and what she represents and HOW she has lived her life. If she really showed up. That hit me hard in that moment. I had started down this path months before I watched that and was becoming much more self-aware. I asked myself the same question in that moment. It was a big fat mirror in my face. And what broke my heart, was that I KNEW I was not living a life I was proud of. I was not being the me I was proud of. I was not proud of what I was showing my kids life was like….or better yet a lack of what life could be. I was not living a life of purpose. I had this inner deep desire to make a difference in the world, to make my life “matter” and I wasn’t living anything close to that. It’s one thing to tell your kids they can do anything they want with their life, and happiness is more important than anything else, and a whole other thing to actually show them. I knew I wasn’t showing them.
It took me another 6 months after watching that to “come out”. But the reason I am telling that story is because I thought about it the other day and asked myself that question again. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for MYSELF at that moment. Because I could finally really and truly say I am proud of the person I am today, the way I live my life, what I show my kids is possible, and making a difference in the world just by showing up! I live by example and most definitely live a life of purpose. It has not always been a walk in the park but what a payoff!
We all have our own inner demons, our shadows, our closest to hide in. But just by taking one step out of them, and living fully in our truths, we are changing the world. Because all those people we think are or will judge us? Those are just our own judgments against ourselves. And by taking that step, we are telling our insecurities, our own internal self-hate, our own bullshit, no more. You will not give in to the self created fear. You will not listen to those voices anymore. We will only listen to the voices that ask if we are proud of the lives we live. Diana was just a voice inside of me asking the hard questions, urging me to make a move. Even now, I sometimes find those insecurities trying to sneak back in. Trying to keep me from showing the whole world who I am and what my gifts are. To really own them and myself. But I am readier now than ever.
So, world, watch out. The door is open. And I’m running out of the closet and never looking back…