Day Thirteen: Serially Found

On day four, you wrote a post about losing something. Today’s Prompt: write about finding something.

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I’m not making this post the second in a series, as suggested in today’s Twist. When I wrote about loss, it was a very personal tribute to a beloved uncle. I won’t cheapen that by linking it to a story about finding some trivial possession or discovering some dry fact or some personal betrayal. So today’s post stands on its own.
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I’ve lost and found a whole lot of things in my 46 years, both physical and intangible. Most of the lost objects are only misplaced and turn up on their own sooner or later. But some things–friends, family, love, commitment, interest, passion, all the essential and intangible things–take a lot of work to discover, recover, or find in the first instance.

That’s true of my discovery of my true identity. I think, really, that I knew myself very well when I was a little kid. But somewhere along the way, I lost sight of that essential truth amid a sea of external pressure and expectations. Through years, decades, of trying to be something and everything that everyone else wanted me to be, I accumulated a thick layer of social and emotional camouflage that hid me even from myself.

Finding my way back to myself was the work of years full of honest, even brutal, self examination and dedicated self improvement. Overcoming fear was the biggest hurdle. I was afraid of everything, to some degree. Fear of disappointing my family and friends, fear of rejection, fear of violence, fear of homelessness and poverty as a result of all the above, were my biggest concerns.

Ironically, it was an even more pressing and weighty fear that helped me get past the first level of inertia. I feared that I would live out the entirety of my existence without ever actually knowing myself. Ignorance of my own nature, of my own potential, and of my own capacity to love and be loved, seemed to me a fate much worse than my fear of losing home and career as a consequence of owning my true identity.

So, quite a few years ago now, I began a slow, sometimes painful, often secret journey of self discovery. I started with the simple, private admission that I was not living as my true self, that there was more of me than I acknowledged to the world at large. I was not certain the exact nature and dimension of my discontent. But I knew there was something not right and that only I had the power to make it right.

Many experiments in appearance, mannerisms, philosophies and lifestyle choices (no, not homosexuality; gay is not a choice, lifestyle or otherwise) ensued. Self improvement initiatives of every stripe were tried in fits and starts, most of which failed. But the deeply personal exercise of these activities was satisfying, even when some of them fell flat.

I committed to being better than I was before. On a micro scale, day by day, I worked on one aspect of my personality or spirit or (on the rare occasion) my body. I didn’t schedule the work. Rather, I took up each task as it occurred to me. One day I’d notice a weakness in my confidence and I’d concentrate for days on limiting hesitation and unnecessary apologies. Another time I found myself equivocating and hiding things in my answers to people who mattered to me, so I redoubled my dedication to truthfulness and transparency.

These betterment efforts all related to the overall objective of discovering my truth. These self improvement projects helped me strip away the layers of camouflage hiding my true self. With personal growth and emotional maturity came the courage to confront a lot of insecurities. Taking back my power from the fog of other people’s expectations and disappointments, I freed myself to name my own identity and live with authenticity in that identity.

Gender and sexuality are a big part of that truth, yes. But they aren’t everything. I found new dimensions of freedom, confidence, and comfort in my own skin that I hadn’t dreamed existed. When I stopped chasing the pat on the head and empty platitudes of everyone else and started valuing my own notions of right and good and real as they relate to my self and my life, whole new vistas of possibilities were revealed.

I think the most valuable thing I’ve found in my search for myself is a means to accept myself so that I can let others accept me too.

Of course, the journey and the search never end. That’s a very good thing. But at least I have discovered myself, chosen the path of authenticity, and am now living rather than merely existing.

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