Sometimes, I see a young man who blows me away. In his twenties, he's undeniably beautiful--his face handsome (even straight men would admit it) and his body tight and muscular. Even more than his physical presence, I'm turned on by his attitude. He's confident without being arrogant. He knows he has it going on, and he's not afraid if others know.
As if that isn't enough, he's talented. Maybe he's an actor or a dancer or some other artist. And he's good, very good at what he does. The light shining from him is brilliant, so much so, it's blinding. Every opportunity seems to be his. His future is set. Success is virtually assured. From the outside, he appears to be superhuman, an example of what most of us wish we were. It's enough to make you sick, right?
I'm blown away by a young man like this because he's the antithesis of what I was at his age. Physical appearance aside--although let's acknowledge beautiful people, male or female, get a lot more positive attention than those who aren't nearly so fortunate--perhaps what I admire, and envy, most is his confidence, which all but ensures a better use of his gifts, leading to a brighter future.
I hate looking back and regretting something, because I'm powerless to change it. But if I have any regrets, now that I'm in my fifties, among them would be I wasn't a fully-realized twenty-something-year-old (even though many in their twenties are lost). When I consider our symbolic young man, everything going for him, I realize I'm filled with remorse over how much time I wasted, what could have been but wasn't.
If I had to identify a single thing that held me back most in my twenties, as I emerged from my teens feeling beaten and worthless, it would be how I felt about myself. I know you don't need to be gay to experience the aftermath of low self-esteem, but being gay adds a whole other layer to how negatively you see yourself, and a lot more work is required to get through it and overcome.
I ache for the years I'll never get back, for the twenty-five-year-old I will never be, for the opportunities that may have been mine, had I been more confident, had I felt good enough about myself to take advantage of them. I turned out all right, as did my life, but the one thing all of us have a limited supply of is time, and there's no accounting for squandering it by hating yourself for something you couldn't help being.
If only I felt about myself then as I do now. If only I'd known in my heart, regardless of what everyone had said, that being gay wasn't such a big deal, after all. If only I'd known you could be gay and still love yourself. If only I'd known being gay was possibly the least interesting thing about me, that I had so much else going on, that worthiness has absolutely nothing to do with sexual orientation. If only...