If you’re not a fan of “How I Met Your Mother”, you need to be. (Mondays on CBS…check your local listings). One of my favorite episodes is the one where Ted recounts the details of the random events that led up to meeting his wife. The future Ted starts off the episode by saying:
“Never forget that on any day, you can step out the front door and your whole life can change forever. You see, the universe has a plan… and that plan is always in motion… It’s a scary thought but it’s also kind of wonderful… All these little parts of the machine constantly working, making sure that you end up exactly where you’re supposed to be, exactly when you’re supposed to be there; the right place at the right time.”
The day I came out was just like that. I didn’t know it was going to be the day. At the time, seemingly small details played a very important role. The events of that day were set into motion maybe even before the day I was born. I have never been one to place too much stock into Fate, so bear with me as I work through the seemingly Divine Ordination of steps that led to my coming out. It’s impossible to know just what caused all the events to line up so perfectly. From my perspective they all seemed so scheduled and directed as if it couldn’t have happened any other way. In reality, it may have just been random; the heat of the spring was warm enough to break the ice of a 26 yearlong freeze. Either destiny or random chance, or a little of both, the point is, I did it. I finally told someone, “I am gay”.
But this is not that story. This is the story before the story: the prologue.
The college pastor at College Church told us on our Senior Trip to Chicago, that “time has a way of freezing relationships.” I was the only one who went out of state for college. Every break my time was maxed out between chilling with my family and making an appearance with groups of friends I hadn’t seen in a while. It was true what he told us in Chicago, hanging out with my high school friends in Kansas City was like picking right where we left off. Complete with still memorized marching band drill routines from Junior Year. But there we were in Brookside neighborhood of Kansas City, playing games and even louder music and waiting for the New Year to arrive. It would be my first time to start a year outside of Kansas, a mile inside the Missouri border, but still Missouri. Maybe that’s all I needed was a little push, a little nudge, some new spice added, just a little something different to put my life down a different path.
From suburban prep Olathe to hipster filled Brookside, Kansas City there are hidden gems that let me discover something new each time. At a bar on 63rd and Main St old friends of mine introduced me to some new friends. The clock crept closer and closer to the magic moment were we kiss someone to keep us from having another year of loneliness. There were quite a bunch of us there, so the idea of writing everyone’s name on a piece of paper, whomever we drew, we would kiss. My social anxiety meter was rising to critical mass. I knew whom I wanted to kiss, but my closeted-ness kept me from verbalizing it.
It was puppy love at first sight. He had just moved back to Kansas City from Ireland. We hit it off as soon as we met, dark hazel eyes, a mop of brown hair, and the best looking smile. I asked him all sorts of questions about the challenges of moving internationally as Oklahoma was beginning to feel like a tar pit I’d never escape from. Needless to say, I was hoping I would get his name. Dani walked around our corner of the bar with a stack full of folded papers. “No whammies, no whammies, no whammies, STOP!” I said as I picked my kiss. As I pealed back the fold, all it took was for me to see one letter to know that I didn’t get him, “J”. I had chosen the waitress.
There was now only an hour of 2011 left. As the New Year countdown approached I did more talking, more listening, and more gazing into his eyes; tick-tock, tick-tock. “This is the type of guy I want to marry,” I thought. Good looking, traveled, learned, cultured, loves God, and a great personality. Tick-tock, tick-tock, now the angst meter was beginning to rise, as I played out my closeted future alone as spinsters in a small Oklahoma town owning several cats. I didn’t want to be a spinster in Oklahoma; I wanted to be a hipster in Toronto! 10 minutes left. 5 minutes left. 3 minutes left. 1 minute left. Tick-tock, tick-tock. I had to start to make my away from him to find who I was supposed to kiss. 30 seconds left. 20 seconds left. 10 seconds left,. I found her. I showed her that I had her name as we waited. “I hope she doesn’t want more than a peck,” I nervously thought. Tick-tock, tick-tock, 5 seconds left. 3 seconds left. 2 seconds left.
1 second left of 2011.
2012 had to be different. Things had to change. I couldn’t take another year of being in the closet!
“Happy New Year!”
I looked her in the eyes and planted a peck nicely on her lips. I started the year straight, but just because I started it straight didn’t mean I had to finish it that way. My first boyfriend, the one I secretly dated while at SNU, said that it helped him to set a date. He said that by creating a “fixed-point” in time he arranged everything leading up to it. For him, by the time he turned 21 he would be out. Sour-ja-born he did it! I know I needed to do this, because if I didn’t pick a date, I would keep letting the events of life get in the way, and I would stay in my closet forever. And I would over analyze every moment and rationalize them as, “not the right time.” One second into 2012, I picked my date, and created a New Year’s Resolution to help stick to that. My fixed point in time was set at 11:59:59pm 12-31-12, and my resolution was to come-out prior to that point in time.
I spent the rest of the night talking to him. I hated meeting someone incredible only to leave for Oklahoma in 9 days. We stole one of Dani’s frozen pizzas and cooked it, my first meal of 2012. The party began to wind down, I knew a goodbye was imminent, tick-tock, tick-tock.
Shortly after 2:00am it happened. Our goodbye.
He worked the room saying goodbye to everyone else left at the party leaving me in the kitchen with two slices of pizza left. I was the Scarecrow to his Dorothy he saved his last goodbye for me. I extended my hand for a shake, but he beat me too it, extending both his hands and hugged me. “Aren’t you going to stay and finish the pizza? I wish I was in KC longer, we could hangout some more and you could tell me more about Ireland.” I said still in our bro-hug. Patting me on the back and now looking me square in the eyes, arms no longer hugging but on my shoulders. “Some other time, some other place.” Before breaking the embrace he kissed my cheek, and said goodbye. He may have just been talking about the pizza…
My heart sang. Mixed with stupidity for falling for a straight guy, and the kind of teenage angst you get from watching an episode of The O.C., I left the party thirty minutes after he did. To date, I haven’t seen him again. But that night had a lasting impact. The next day I couldn’t shake the experience. I had picked a time and date to come out! And I wasn’t crushing on a straight guy, the fog of a life of spinsterhood was lifting. I had spent the whole evening with the qualities I wanted in a husband not a wife. It was a monumental paradigm shift. I proved to myself that I could move to a new city and meet really great people. I can do it! I can move from Oklahoma, make friends and start my new life.
But most importantly I set into motion a different path for my life. Long over due, but much needed. Maybe all I needed was that little nudge to start the year doing something different. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.