This is part three of my project, the Ingredients of Fear, where I peel back the onion and reveal everything that’s been beating me down and holding me back inside. Click here to learn more about The Ingredients of Fear.
It was January 29th, and the year was 1999. I was sixteen at the time, and there was a giant “Publish” button staring at me. My heart was jumping out of my chest, so I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, clicked the button, and exhale. Within a minute my website went live, along with my first online journal entry.
“…I was very mad throughout the day until I went to a supermarket, and saw 2 really (really) good looking men, European accent, WOW! My mood changed sooo fast!!” it read.
Poorly written and embarrasingly hormonal, but just like that, I finally came out to myself — I’m gay.
Years later I found myself feeling the same way, this time with the Ingredients of Fear. The idea of opening up to talking about my darkest fears is a powerful one, but the actual process of doing so is also incredibly scary and probably really dumb. So there I was, with the giant “Publish” button back and staring right in front of me, daring me to click on it…
It’s been half a year between coming up with the idea for the Ingredients of Fear and actually publishing something on my blog. It wasn’t that these features weren’t ready, because a few of them were just sitting in my draft folder, all ready to go.
But when push comes to shove, I’d freeze at the moment to hit publish. Part of it was definitely because I was afraid to fail, but it was also because one click of that button and I’d be out publically on who I really am inside, exposing to the world all my insecurities and irrational fears.
And because this project is a multi-part series, it means I’d have to come out with my fears again and again, week after week. Sure it’s not about my sexuality anymore, but the thought process and the fear behind it is all the same: Is this project even worth it? What if people make fun of me for it? What if they think this project is all bullshit, nothing but a self-absorbed scheme?
I’m fearful of launching a project about letting go of my fears. How ironic is that?
On one end, I can choose not to do it, easily. I can shut up and keep pushing my fears downward to put up a front. I can fake it until I make it. People often do and they seem perfectly fine, at least on the surface.
But I already know what it’s like to live a lie. I spent the first seventeen years doing just that. I already tried to do what my parents expected of me and what society limits me to be, and all that really got me was this duct tape over me, silencing me from the rest of the world.
Coming out isn’t restricted to the LGBTQ community. Those living with cancer, those who are single and have a child, those who are religious, those who are HIV+, those who otherwise has a secret. All coming out is is a secret that needs to be told, and the solution often begins with a difficult conversation.
At the same time, these difficult conversations then lead to realization and eventually action. My story didn’t end after my website went live — in fact it opened up a world to me where I fell in love with writing, and where I was able to meet a lot of friends around the world that are still very close to me today.
I recently stumbled across the backup files for my original website. I had forgotten that it featured a guestbook, something so ubiquitous in the early days of the Internet, long before the existence of reader comments or even blogs. Apparently at the height of my fears when I had finally admitted to being gay but before I had the guts to tell another soul, a writer named Dan Woog came across my site and had left me this message: You’re not really closeted — not if you put up a website! In fact, for a 16-year-old you’re remarkably together.
Even in the depth of darkness, there had been a light guiding me through Life all along.
In other words, coming out is actually a good thing, even if it’s a little bit scary at first. To this day I still find myself standing at a crossroad every time I start a new job or have to meet new people. Should I extend this part of myself to them, or do I close the door completely? And if I do that, I’m basically marking the line on the sand — do not cross, you don’t get to know me, period.
Through the years of keeping an online journal, I learn that only without secrets can there be nothing more to hide. The publish button isn’t an ad-hoc step to move forward, it’s a reminder to live an authentic life.