Friday, September 23, 2011

Sharing with Elevencats, Third and Final Part

This is continued from Parts One and Two in the series.  To view Part One, please click here.  To view Part Two, please click here.  
Elevencats:  I can’t live on autopilot.  I have witnessed some great moments...four times.  One time this guy looked at me during the whole bus ride.  The other time, I was out shopping and I saw a guy smiling at me.  Oh, the third time, a guy smiled at me as we passed each other.  And on the fourth time, my current dream guy gave me the dirtiest look.  He hasn’t looked at me once, he has always avoided my eyes.  I’m an idiot.  None of them thought I’m cute.  I just made it up in my head.  But it made me bubbly inside.  These moments made me smile.  
Rick:  You’re wrong, my good young man.  It sounds to me like all of the men who looked at you--at least from the way you described the scenarios--found you attractive, perhaps for different reasons, but I’d say they were definitely interested.  So stop putting yourself down.  Stop thinking you’re not cute.  Stop thinking no one could ever be interested in you that way.

Someone once said to me--because I used to put myself down constantly--that if I find you attractive, but you insist you’re not and can’t imagine why anyone would think you are, then not only do you insult yourself but also you insult me, calling into question my judgement and taste.  When men look at you, and continue to look at you, make no mistake--they’re flirting.  Receive the compliment in the spirit it's given.  Don’t insult them by thinking you’re not attractive enough for them to pay attention to you.         
And, you’re right, you can’t live on autopilot.  But many people just like you do until they’re comfortable enough with their sexual orientation to start playing an active role in their lives.  Yes, you can go to school, yes, you can go to work, yes, you can interact with family and friends, but, until you can face up to what you are, an important part of your life will be on autopilot.  Just take those first few steps toward the life you really want, whatever they might be.  Slow but steady wins the race.              
E.:  I’d like to live life as any straight person or an extremely courageous out gay person.  Lately, I have repeated to myself that I can’t ever be happy.  I have felt really bad, I have felt like I have no possibilities open to me because I’m too afraid of making a step into the unknown.  
R.:  Elevencats, you are getting to the exact point I got to in late 1985, when, at the age of 26, I could no longer go on the way I was.  My career was off and running, I lived in my own apartment, I had every reason to be happy about where I was in my life--and I was about as empty and miserable as one could be.  Because, although I knew I was gay, I thought I couldn’t do anything about it.  I didn’t want to date girls, because I wasn’t straight, and I couldn’t allow myself to be with other men, because someone might discover I was gay.  My personal life was a mess, and I wanted so much more for myself.  Most of all, I wanted love.  I wanted someone to love me, and I wanted to love someone.  (At this point, I had no concept of how important loving myself was.)        
Only you can decide when the time is right for you to come out and start living your life for the very first time.  Because that’s how it will feel.  What you’re doing now isn’t living.  It’s existing.  It’s doing what you believe everyone wants you to do, what everyone expects of you.  Well, you only live once, and, at some point, you have to take responsibility for it.  Yes, you may lose the love of family and friends.  Yes, you may have to find a different career, if the academic environment you want to work in isn’t open-minded enough to accept you as you are (I can’t believe that would happen, since academia is usually one of the most progressive places to be open about yourself, at least in North America).  
Is that too high a price to pay for being the complete gay man you were meant to be?  Only you can decide.  For me, the price I might have paid by not coming out and living authentically would have been far higher.  In fact, I doubt I’d be sitting here today writing this to you had I not come out when I did, because I could no longer take the pressure, live only half a life, or go without experiencing love.             
E.:  I’m sorry.  It isn’t a happy message.  But this picture opened my mind to being afraid of growing old...and other things just unraveled.  I have no one else to talk openly about myself.  It hurts so much at the moment.
R.:  No reason to apologize.  I don’t expect happy messages all the time.  I understand a good many of my readers are people just like you, and they have a lot going on in their lives and in their minds.  I’m just grateful I can be here for you, because I know what it’s like not to have anyone to share your feelings and thoughts with.  Always remember, I’m here for you, and I’m willing to help in whatever ways I can.  
That goes for all my readers.
Then I received this follow-up comment from Elevencats a day or so later:  
E.:  I am angry because my brain doesn’t work as effectively as I’d like it to.  I’m afraid I haven’t got enough time to compensate it with learning more.
R.:  You know, as I see it, you are putting yourself under so much pressure to meet unrealistic expectations, you’re making circumstances ten times worse than they really are.  So take the pressure off.  Relax a bit.  Stop being so uptight.  Stop trying so hard.  You’d perform so much better if you did.  
Here’s a great example:  Sometimes, when I sit down to write, I put myself under such pressure to be brilliant, to write perfectly formed thoughts at the outset, to use the very best word in all cases, that I can’t write worth shit.  That happened when I wrote the post “A Letter to Lisa.”  What should have taken me a day or so to write took four or five days.  By the end of that experience, I was so frustrated with myself and so exhausted, I just about gave up.  
Today when I sat down, I put myself under no pressure to write at all.  Rather, I decided to talk, man to man, about whatever was in my heart, whatever I thought you needed to hear, what I believed you’d find most helpful.  And, as a result, the words came pouring forth.  By the clock, I see I’ve been at this for almost six hours, and I’ve really had a good time.     
E.:  I’m angry at myself, because I haven’t got enough courage to live as an out gay man.
R.:  You may not have the courage now, but I’m confident you will--when you’re ready.  And only you can decide when that is.  
I didn’t have the courage at your age either.  But, by the time I was in my mid-twenties, I’d had it.  I couldn’t deal with any of the bullshit any longer.  I finally said to myself, “Fuck it!  I’m gay.  I have to live my life.  People can hate me or love me, I don’t care.  All I know is, life can’t go on as it has been because I'll go mad.  I deserve better than this.  I’ve already wasted too much time worrying about what other people will think of me if they learn I’m gay.  Who the fuck cares what they think?  What matters most is what I think of myself.  I know I’m a good, decent person, and that has nothing to do with being gay or straight.  I cannot live with myself if I don’t have the guts to be who and what I really am.  This is my time now.  There’s no going back.”  In other words, I put myself first for a change.  I stopped thinking about how my being gay would affect other people.  I knew for a fact how it would affect me if I didn’t finally come out and get my life underway.             
E.:  I am angry because I want to speak with people, but I am too shy and awkward in these situations and can get only “yes” and “no” out of my mouth (even though I have no problem speaking in front of an auditorium with 200 people in it).  I feel like I am too boring, and my thoughts are not interesting enough.
R.:  In addition to what I wrote earlier in Part Two about confidence, I would ask the question, what’s different about being one-on-one with someone you don’t know, and speaking in front of a large number of strangers?  Why do you have confidence in one situation but not in the other?  
Again, stop with the put downs.  Your writing is full of them.  Whenever you’re about to put yourself down, reverse your thought.  Instead of writing, thinking, or saying, “I’m boring,” change your script to “I’m exciting.”  Instead of writing, thinking, or saying, “My thoughts are not interesting enough,” change your script to “My thoughts are brilliant, and I know other people will appreciate me sharing them.”    
All the put downs hold you back, Elevencats.  I hope you realize that.  They prevent you from being the fully realized young man you were meant to be--and I’m not even talking about you being gay.  
E.:  At the moment, I have a good possibility to learn, but I am afraid that I will make mistakes on the way.  Most of my lecturers are people who I (hopefully) will work with in the future.   So it’s crucial for me to be very good.  And if someone finds out that I am gay...  It means I need to be the very best.  It’s inevitable, the situation in Estonia.  When you drink, sleep around, are gay, fat (or something else), you need to be the very best in your field.  Because being good outweighs your negative circumstances.  
R.:  Two points here.  Of course you’ll make mistakes.  That’s life.  Get over it.  Everyone makes mistakes.  When I started out working at the bank in 1980, I made lots and lots and lots of mistakes.  Many of them cost the bank money--some, a lot of money.  Oh, well, that’s the way it goes when you’re learning, when you’re trying to get good at what you do.  Show me someone who doesn’t make mistakes, and I’ll show you God.  
The thing about mistakes is, learn from them.  Try not to make them a second time.  If you make them a second time, try not to make them a third time.  You’ll get it.  You’re not stupid.  I know that, and you know that.  Take the pressure off, and be the best you can be every single day.  That’s all you can do.  
The other point about mistakes is, you can’t learn without making them.  If you always learn without making mistakes, what if something goes wrong?  Will you know how to fix it having never made a mistake, having never delved into why you made the mistake in the first place?  Probably not.  Think of mistakes as opportunities to learn at a deeper level, because that’s what they are.       
E.:  I’m afraid that maybe I will not have a job when my scientific career doesn’t work out.  My dream is to be independent.  
R.:  Again, stop with the pressure.  Stop trying to be perfect.  Stop trying to over-perform.  Just do the best you can.  That’s all anyone can ever expect from you.  And that‘s all you can ever expect from yourself.  
And stop trying to tell the future.  One day at a time, young man.  One day at a time.  That’s all we have.  Put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.  
If your scientific career doesn’t work out, something else will.  You don’t see that now, but you will.  There’s an old saying, When one door closes, another opens.  And so it does.  
I could not have even imagined what would happen during my twenty-eight-year career with the bank.  I could never have plotted the path I would take, the locations I’d work in, anticipated every step.  All I did was the very best I could do at each and every stage, and I let the rest take care of itself.  And it did.  It always did.  And it always will.  
You don’t know the future, you only know today.  In fact, you only know this very moment.  This moment is all we have.  Make the best of it.  That’s all you can do.  No one can expect anything more than that.         
E.:  I’m afraid of calling myself a gay man.  Yes, I like men more than women, but I am afraid of calling myself a homosexual.  It has mostly a negative feel to it.  Why can’t I just be a person who loves another human being?  I don’t like to be the fag, the homo, the flamer, etc.  I am a man who dreams of becoming a family with another man.
R.:  Honestly, Elevencats, you can call yourself whatever you want to.  I didn’t like the terms “homosexual” and “gay” for the longest time.  I liked the terms fag, homo, flamer, fairy, and fem even less.  Only through my writing here was I able to make peace with homosexual and gay.  Now, I see them less as labels and more as efficient ways to differentiate between people who love people of the opposite sex and people who love people of the same sex.  It’s all in how you look at them.  Yes, the terms are negative, or at least they have negative connotations.  But, in the end, they’re just words.  Do with them as you like.  
In my mind, I am a man who loves another human being--as the case may be, another man.  That’s me.  That’s my reality.  It’s who I am.  I believe it’s not who you love, but that you love at all.  That’s what is most important.  Don’t hold yourself back from loving , as the expression goes, truly, madly, deeply, just because the person you love is another man.  Never hold love back.  Love bold and love big.  When the time comes--and you’ll know when that is--give it everything you have.  Until then, gather as much experience as you can loving the most important person in your life--you.  Nobody is more important than you.  You are only as good to other people as you are to yourself.  You are only as capable of loving another person as you are yourself.    
From what I’ve experienced of you through our exchanges over the past nine months, you are extraordinary.  You are sensitive, sweet, respectful, thoughtful, considerate, honorable, smart, clever--the list goes on and on.  Do you really believe you’re anything less just because you’re gay?  Not even close.  Your homosexuality is but a small part of you.  A very small part.  You have so much going for you.  Even though we're half a world apart, the brilliance of your light shines here where I am.  You just have some things to sort out, which you will surely do in good time.  Be patient.  You’ll get there.  You’re so young.  You have so much ahead of you.  Including love.  It will all be yours.  Just be ready for when it happens.  In the meantime, be the very best you can be for yourself.  Then you’ll be everything you can be for that special someone.              


  1. Wow! You are like the big gay brother I never had! I thank you for that! Because it's a lot to process, I'll get back to you soon with a longer comment. Thank you again!

  2. I LOVE being considered the big gay brother you never had. What a compliment. Thanks for that description. I appreciate it.

    Yes, I knew as I wrote this series it would be a lot to take in (it was a lot to write too, more than I expected--as it turns out, a major project--although I'm glad I had the opportunity to work on it). But, as I wrote in the extended post, you gave me much to work with. And I know what you were courageous enough to share is the same a lot of young gay people think about. I sure did.

    I can't tell whether or not this is true, but it appears nobody, including you, has viewed Part Two yet. I'm not sure this is because of the warning about the sexual content. There's only one paragraph that some might feel uncomfortable with, but I suggest you take a look at it. Hopefully, the whole section about gay sex will give you a different and more realistic perspective.

    You're very welcome. I'm glad I could be here for you. Anytime, Elevencats. And I look forward to your comment.