Why I Went Back, Why I Stay…For Now

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Since I began this blog, I have always posted a poem every Tuesday. This week will be different. I will post the poem that I had ready for today, tomorrow. I’m doing this because I wanted to address a few things about my post yesterday. I would have answered these things in a comment or two, but there was a lot I wanted to say, more than I wanted to leave in a comment. I want to thank everyone for their comments and for reading what I wrote, but I think a few things were misunderstood.

First, let me make it very clear that I was not attempting to have a pity party. Yes, when I wrote that I was in a very depressive mood, and I was extremely worried about an event that had occurred and been on my mind. I often deal with those issues by either talking them out, or writing about them. This time, I chose to write about being in the closet on my blog. It’s my prerogative to be able to do so. I apologize if it sounded like I was whining. However, I wanted it to be in writing what it was like for me personally to be in the closet. Many times I find that by writing about an aspect of my life, others can identify, and maybe for some it makes them feel better about their own situation to know that their own life is either better than someone else’s, or to realize that they are not alone. This blog is about all things gay, and it is my way of stating how I fit into that world and to put forth my knowledge of the gay world, however limited that might be.

Second, it was said that I was overly hyperbolic when I wrote, “Being in the closet is one of the most humiliating, degrading, and torturous things I can imagine.” First of all, I said “one of the most,” I realize there are many other life circumstances that fall under that category. However, I do believe that being forced to live a closeted life is a demeaning life. People live closeted lives for many different reasons. I have my own reasons, and while there are things I could do to change those circumstances, right now the cost would be too high. Furthermore, before returning to Alabama, I lived an out and proud life. I did not care who knew I was gay, nor did I care what they thought. Those circumstances changed when I moved back.

Also, as it was pointed out, I’m a 37 year-old man who has never been married and loves poetry and literature. My sexuality is an open secret. Gay men who have lived in larger more metropolitan areas may not understand the full dynamics of what that means. People may suspect, they may “know,” but they can ignore it and merely snicker and gossip behind your back as long as they do not have proof. Once they have proof, then they cannot ignore the facts, and they will decide to act and most will act negatively.

You might ask then, “Why the hell did you move back to Alabama?” One word: MONEY. I was a graduate student, and I was at the limits of my finances. I believed at the time that I had three choices. I could continue working a meaningless job and continue to be non-productive with my dissertation; I could find a teaching job that would pay enough for me to finish my research; or I could move home with my parents, finish my dissertation, and save some money.

The first option was not possible because my job did not pay enough for me to continue living over there and get a new apartment that I needed because my lease was up and my home was being rented to a family member of my landlord. I worked extremely hard for the second option; however, after more than forty applications and several interviews, the economy bottomed out, and all but two of the jobs I applied for, cancelled their job searches. In the case of one of those jobs I applied for, they had posted the wrong job description and when I was interviewed it became readily apparent that the job I’d applied for was no longer the job being offered. That left me, with what I believed at the time to be my only choice: move home.

It was supposed to be for one year as I finished my dissertation and looked for a job. Little did I realize that my graduate advisor would take a job elsewhere, and I would be stuck with a graduate advisor that neither believed in my research project nor believed in me. He consistently did everything to hold back any progress on my degree. My own bouts with depression over what I felt was my own failure in addition to living with my parents again, did not help the situation. However, I continued to pursue jobs elsewhere, all while realizing (remembering) why I’d worked so hard to get away from home in the first place. I do not get along with my father, not in the least, and my mother thinks I’m an abomination for being gay and pretends that conversation never existed. I had thought we had each matured to an understanding that we could all live with. I was wrong. After application after application was sent through the local post office, the local postmaster stopped me one day to tell me that the local private school was hiring. Unlike all of the other places I applied for, they were thrilled to have me, so I took the job.

My new job basically paid peanuts and my financial situation worsened considerably, especially after moving out of my parents’ house. For the first time in a year, I had some freedom. Money continues to be what holds me back. I cannot afford to quit my job, and I can barely afford to keep it. I realize now that I made a terrible mistake moving back to Alabama, but it’s too late to change that now. What is left is to attempt to escape again. If you have ever been deeply in debt, barely treading water, and drowning little by little, then you may understand the depths of my despair. It has been suggested that I just leave my job, move elsewhere, and force myself to land on my feet, but when circumstances keep going against me, and it seems like every decision I make is a bad one, there does not seem much hope at the end of the tunnel. I am forced, for now, to keep my job and hope that as I continue to send in application after application to other places, one of those places might hire me. Teaching jobs may be abundant in many places, but if you were to pay attention, the teaching positions in demand are not social studies or English positions. So, I continue putting in applications. I have applied to positions across the country and even some beyond, so geography is not an issue for me. I will go where a job takes me. Until one of those schools or colleges hires me, I feel trapped. And before anyone asks if I have considered non-teaching positions, be assured that I am looking at all avenues for which I am qualified, but teaching is my passion.

Furthermore, I do not blame my current circumstances on anyone but myself. I am merely attempting to explain and not make excuses. However, because I have a precarious situation, not all of which I am willing to outline on this blog, I do feel that my statement of “Being in the closet is one of the most humiliating, degrading, and torturous things I can imagine,” is an accurate statement. Maybe I should have said instead that being poor, drowning in debt, and in the closet after previously being out and open are a few of the most humiliating, degrading, and torturous things I can imagine, and I do live that everyday. To at one time have my freedom and have it yanked out from under me due to a series of unfortunate events, some of which I was all too willing to do to myself, is very disheartening. I made mistakes, and I am addressing those mistakes and making progress. I will be the first to admit my mistakes and believe that we pay for those mistakes. My job is currently my security, and trust me when I say that if I were out, I’d lose my job. It might not be the reason they found for getting rid of me, but they would find a reason.

Finally, let me make it clear, I am not looking for your pity. This is my fault. I will find a way out of my current situation. It will take time, but it will get better. Of that, I have no doubt; God does have a plan for me and it does not include this current torture. It’s just a detour through the briar patches. I may get a few scrapes and scratches, but I’ll make it to the other side. On that day, I will rejoice, but until then, I will trudge through using every resource available to me to overcome the obstacles in my way.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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