Sometimes you’ve got to let everything go—purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything… whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you’ll find that when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.

—Tina Turner

For most of my life, I tried to be the person other people wanted me to be. I tried to live up to other’s expectations, especially my parents. I tried to be more myself when I lived in Mississippi when I was in graduate school, but I was never fully able to be me. The main reason I struggled was because I did not love myself. I knew I was gay, but even back then, I didn’t fully accept it. I knew I’d never marry a woman because it would not be fair for me or her, and it would only make other people happy. It would never make me truly happy, and I’d have continued to hate myself. As Lucille Ball said, “Love yourself first and everything else falls into line.” It took moving to Vermont before I could really begin to love myself. For the past eighteen months, I have not seen my family. I have spoken to them over the phone, and even over the phone they can make my blood boil, but being away from them for the past year and half has helped me heal in ways I never thought was possible.

Carol Burnett once said, “Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.” Her words are so very true. Others can try to mold me and make me into what they want me to be, but only I can change to my life. While I haven’t gotten rid of my family (I will still go home this Christmas), I have done my best to get rid of their negativity. I haven’t completely purged myself of caring what they think, but I’m on my way there. The unhappiness in my life was bringing me down, but as I have lived a freer and fuller life 1,200 miles from Alabama, I have begun to let my “true self come out.” It’s still a journey, a journey that I’m not sure will ever end in this life, but it is a journey we all take to find our true self. We just have to keep trudging along on that path and listen to that internal GPS that guides us to our destination.

Yes, sometimes we will miss a turn (such as an opportunity) or we make a wrong turn (a bad decision), but that internal GPS can recalculate our route. We all can hear that familiar voice in our head saying “recalculating route” when we didn’t follow the directions correctly. Sometimes, we can only carry on and let our internal GPS continue recalculating until we finally reach our destination. Many times we are traveling through life with people telling us what to do. If we are unfamiliar with the a situation, we allow others, much like a GPS, to guide us. But does the GPS always provide us the best route? Maybe, maybe not. Do people always provide us the best advice? Maybe, maybe not. I think that no matter what, one must listen to their own GPS and allow others to offer suggestions but ultimately, we must decide our own path and journey.

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

One response to “Recalculating

  • bryandspellman

    Such a good analogy, Joe (and I love the accompanying photo). It made me think of the Navigation system in my Saab 9-4x, whose sound I eventually turned off. I referred to it as Nancy the Nag, and the way she said “Recalculating” sounded to my ear as if she was really put out with me for taking the wrong turn. Sometimes that’s the voice I hear in my head when I think that maybe I’ve taken a wrong turn, but you’re right, we can also find another way forward. Thanks for this post. (And FWIW, the Saab had two systems, Nancy the Nag which operated through the center screen on the dash, and Dick, the Driver’s Information Center in the middle of the instrument cluster. I liked Dick a lot more than Nancy–wonder why?)

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