For as long as I can remember, I’ve known that I was gay. Growing up in a conservative Christian family that was very active in the Church, this fact was a constant struggle, something I fought tirelessly and endlessly to disguise. I dated girls occasionally, but never for any extended period of time or with any legitimate interest on my part. Instead, it was simply one component of the elaborate facade I built to “protect” myself and hide my secret.
Growing up in an environment where homosexuality was regularly derided as sinful, as a sure path to damnation, the question of whether or not to keep on living was ever-present. The misery that hiding, that being the unwitting target of jokes and ridicule, that lying to everyone around me brought with it was often so overwhelming that suicide seemed the only solution. If I couldn’t be happy with something I had no choice of being in the first place, what was the point in continuing on?
In the years since I began high school, I’ve pursued four distinct career paths, each so very different from the last that most people conclude that I’m insane when I list them.
I began high school set on a career in architecture, and I even took numerous courses that taught hand and computer-aided drafting, architecture terminology, and so on. By the beginning of my senior year, however, it was clear that architecture was the wrong career path for me. For one, I despised the tediousness of creating elevations, and I always seemed to struggle with floor plan layout. I would inevitably end up with some odd space that didn’t quite fit into any of the surrounding rooms, forcing me to call upon a classmate to assist me as I reworked the design. At the same time, thankfully, a hobby had developed into a full-time obsession and thus seemed like a logical career path.
Having recently passed the six-months-on-unemployment mark, I’ve been thinking a lot about what this experience has meant for me. Overwhelmingly, my thoughts turned to whether or not I’m using my unintentional freedom to identify and further my career goals, improve my mental health, and expand my social network. Even though I still find myself without a job, I believe the answer to all three inquiries is yes.
After taking a rather circuitous route to becoming an accountant, I never identified the role I saw the degree playing in my career path. I assumed that at some point I would become a CPA, but beyond that, I had no plan. My intentions were always focused on the near future, on matters such as where I would live and how I would pay the bills. For some months after losing my job, my nearsightedness continued. I was content to travel, put off studying for the CPA exam, and tinker with WordPress.
Before the vitriol-filled comments begin, let me say that I do not believe that one group’s religious views are a sufficient basis for denying other Americans their civil rights afforded by the U.S. Constitution.
In a San Francisco federal court today (see NPR, The Washington Post), a challenge to the constitutionality of California’s ban on same-sex marriage will be heard by Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker, in a that case focuses on the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The United States Constitution provides the framework from which our civil liberties are derived, yet in the case of same-sex marriage, these rights are ignored and result in the violation of one group’s rights. Opponents argue that marriage is an institution of the church, and thus must be protected, but this argument is at odds with present-day legal realities and simultaneously conflicts with the First Amendment. At an even more basic level, denying one group a right afforded another violates the Fourteenth Amendment.
While camping over a holiday weekend last year, a family friend noticed I was wearing an NPR t-shirt I received as an intern at the network back in 2005.
He declared, “NPR, they’re pretty liberal.”
Before I could react, my father retorted, “So is my son.”
Needless to say, my family and I don’t always agree on certain issues. But, to be clear, I don’t consider myself a liberal either. Rather, when pressed, I identify as moderate.
Rarely do I establish New Year’s resolutions because in the past, the holiday held little significance for me. But, considering the innumerable changes I endured over the course of 2009, now seems like an appropriate time to establish a few resolutions to give some guidance to 2010.
So far, I’ve come up with three rather lofty goals:
- Study for the CPA exam – I’ve been procrastinating for six months already, so we’ll see how this one goes.
- Find a job – New Hampshire’s unemployment rate is nearly 2% better than Connecticut, so that’s a plus. Besides, I have little interest in moving back to Connecticut. Hopefully there’s something in NH or Massachusetts for me.
- Try podcasting – I’ve been told I have a good voice for radio (though with the cold I’m suffering through now, you couldn’t tell), so it’s worth a shot. It might help make my longwinded rants a bit more bearable.
Check back in throughout 2010 as I report on my progress.
As New Year’s Eve draws closer and retrospectives of this tumultuous year and decade pervade, I couldn’t help but add my voice to the fray. For me, the past ten years can officially be considered the “decade that changed everything.”
The decade began with the Y2K panic, with doomsday theorists predicting that computers would fail when rolling over to the double-zero year. I vividly recall a Y2K party held at my church, complete with bonfire and prayer, organized to distract from the potential nightmare that some predicted but thankfully went unrealized. A few days later, I received final approval in the process to become an Eagle Scout, and my ceremony was held a few months thereafter at the same church where I had gathered with family and friends on the eve of what was described as a potential technological disaster. My Eagle ceremony proved momentous not just for me but for a family member, whose gift to me launched a career that sustains her to this day.
The following year brought the worst terrorist attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor, an event that permanently scarred the country and led to a war that continues to this day. In the same way that my father will forever remember where he was and what he was doing when President Kennedy was assassinated, the memory of sitting in Mrs. Fletcher’s math class as an assistant headmaster announced that a plane had struck the World Trade Center will stay with me forever. 2001 also plunged the country into the first of two recessions the United States endured during this decade, though it turned out to be one of diminutive proportions compared to the current crisis the world economy endures. Standing as the final insult to an already pox-marked year was the December collapse of Enron Corporation, a disaster that would have then-unimaginable consequences for my professional career. As this momentous yet forgettable year ended, it led to a year of extraordinary change in my life.