I was uncharacteristically nervous when I approached the restaurant to meet my friends for lunch.
They were my oldest pals, so it felt strange to be anxious – but I had a good reason for feeling this way.
Though I was 50 years old and had known them since college, I’d never told them that I was gay.
I grew up in a troubled home. More often than not, my brother and I were left to fend for ourselves, and I felt that my needs didn’t matter.
I learned to have low expectations and developed secret worlds in my mind to escape reality. Became skilled at taking care of myself.
Even as a young child, I knew I was different. I was never the little girl searching for her prince; I was instead the girl secretly longing to find her queen.
But I grew up in an era when being gay wasn’t accepted, so I repressed my longings and did my best to blend in.
When I entered university, I turned to partying to escape my emotional pain – but that only made me feel emptier. I felt uncomfortable disclosing my secret longing to be with a woman and couldn’t fathom a world where I would be free to pursue that kind of relationship.
When I met my three best friends during my second year of university, we bonded over dorm activities and shared humor. They were involved with a large evangelical group on campus, and eventually, I felt drawn to experience God as they did. And for a while, I felt a genuine connection and love.
But because I felt so ashamed about my same-sex attraction, I never told anyone about it. I became a devoted evangelical, and for the next 30 years, I did my best to deny my desires.
I poured myself into my faith, hoping God would remove my same-sex attraction. I married, had three children, and attempted to live as a straight woman.
But the longer I lived in a fractured state, the more difficult it became.
I lost weight and spiraled into a deep depression in my late forties. I’d felt disengaged in my marriage for years but never had the courage to leave.
So when I found myself in the fetal position on the floor of my closet, experiencing suicidal ideation, at age 47, I knew something had to change.
Anytime we shape our lives into the image another deems acceptable, we are on shaky ground that can give way without a moment’s notice.
For most of my life, I worked to be whomever someone close to me needed me to be. I strove to be a good daughter for my mother and the perfect wife and mother for my husband and kids until I realised I was not living the life I wanted to live.
I ultimately realised my closet was meant for clothes and shoes, not my true identity. And no matter how big or elaborate you build your closet, it won’t be suitable for living in.
When I was ready to step into the light of authenticity, without regard to the consequences, I knew the first step was seeing a therapist – and the second was telling my oldest friends.
During my time in therapy, I saw that I’d wasted hours ruminating on my past, hoping to discover a key to unlock a better version of it when, instead, I needed to pick up my pen and write a better future.
My therapist helped me find peace with what felt like wasted decades of my life. I had to let go of my sadness for what I may have missed and realise that my past doesn’t dictate my future.
Sitting down with my friends in the restaurant that day, I quickly understood that their love for me went deeper than my long-held secret.
Not only did they listen with the empathy of trained therapists, but they also expressed excitement for me to experience the love I’d been longing for. They sheepishly told me they suspected I might be gay and said they were happy I realised who I was and what I wanted.
These friends knew me so well but they also loved me enough to give me the space I needed to decide I was ready to talk about it.
They continued to be supportive and compassionate throughout my divorce and coming out to my kids and extended family.
While a divorce is never easy, my children would tell you they’re grateful to see me healthy and happy.
Shortly after I came out, I started dating a woman I worked with and fell hopelessly in love with her. I am elated to have found the love I never thought possible and relieved to be out of the closet.
In every way, my life has blossomed since deciding to disclose my sexual orientation. My emotional health has drastically improved, and I’ve since stopped taking my antidepressant medication.
My friends and I are still going strong, and we look forward to celebrating 46 years of friendship this fall.
I can’t imagine my life without them.
Age is Just a Number
Welcome to Age is Just a Number, a Metro.co.uk series aiming to show that, when it comes to living your life, achieving your dreams, and being who you want to be, the date on your birth certificate means nothing.
Each week, prepare to meet amazing people doing stereotype-defying things, at all stages of life.
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