Behind me, many leagues down a long and forlorn road lay the ruins of a city. Years have passed since a raucous mob burst through gates once thought impenetrable and pulled down walls once thought insurmountable. In the interceding years, rains have washed the fire-blackened soot from the streets. Ravens and swallows have built nests in the partially exposed timbers of burned-out houses. Rabbits have built warrens beneath the stones of the empty square and squirrels scamper along upper ledges, gracefully bounding across the void when they encounter a collapsed facade. No people reside here anymore: they all died in a futile attempt to defend the doomed polis as torches set it ablaze, fled in terror at the destruction, or else departed in its wake to seek greener pastures elsewhere. With that description, it would certainly be easy to look upon this scene in sadness and remorse, but not so for me. Were I to travel back along that rutted road to the place I left long ago, I would not see the remains of a place once happy and vibrant, but one that was full of oppression, confusion, and heartache. I would feel neither regret nor loss, but something akin to a soaring contentment, perhaps not unlike to the sort of feeling a freeman might experience were he able to look from a place of safety upon the decrepit estate of his deposed former master. This city is not a real place, as you may have guessed by now. It is instead a metaphor for something that once existed within and held great power over me but does no longer. That thing would be my faith. Continue reading
There’s an image to which I can’t help but return. It’s one I’ve written about at least twice in the past year and it continues to be something I often contemplate. It’s an image of ruins, and I’m standing in the midst of them. Even so, to say that the ruins represent my life would be a gross exaggeration and wholly inaccurate. My life is demonstrably not in ruins. Quite the contrary, in fact: I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, and that’s not an exaggeration. In the time that has passed since I came to this country, I’ve built a life for myself according to specifications and desires all my own and, in some ways, it feels like I’ve finally started living. The picture of ruins that often comes to mind represents life before February 25, 2013, the day when my plane first set down in the Republic of Korea, one year ago this week. When I got on the plane in Dallas, I didn’t leave behind a life I ever hope to resume and that sentiment only strengthens with time.
I had my first crush when I was eight years old. And, by “first crush,” I mean my “first gay crush.” I suppose one could say that there had been others. I still remember the first day of pre-Kindergarten when I marched right up to the prettiest little girl in class and gave her a huge kiss, right on the lips. I’d most likely seen a movie recently–probably one of those romantic films from the 50s and 60s my mother liked to watch where kissing scenes stood in for bedroom scenes–and had felt it would be cool (in the way that four-year-olds do) to emulate what I’d seen. It is, therefore, entirely accurate for me to say I kissed a girl and I did, in a sense, like it. The teacher had seen the impending-PDA coming seconds before it happened and, though she hastily yelled for us to stop, she was too late–llips had locked. I had a rebellious streak even when I was four and took great pleasure in her scolding me afterward but having no ability to change what had happened: I’d won, and nana nana boo boo.
Before I get to the point, I spent greater than half my life up to this point more or less hiding and simultaneously wrestling with a very major component of what makes me who I am. It’s neither the single biggest nor the foremost component, true, but to pretend it’s not firmly in the top ten at least would, in my view, be to continue being dishonest, both to myself and to the people I love. With that in mind, my frequent discussion of the topic of late is hopefully a bit more understandable. Also, compared to the challenges one faces after the fact, coming out is the easy part. Anyone can publish an online letter or use social media to announce their previously hidden sexuality, but the real question for those who do is, “Are you prepared to handle what comes next?” It’s important to answer that question honestly, otherwise a man might very quickly find himself in a situation he’s not quite ready to tackle.
There aren’t very many clean breaks in life. At least that’s been my experience so far. More often than not, change comes slowly, incrementally even. Maybe that’s just in our nature as human beings, or just mere inertia, or maybe I over-think things. Yeah, that’s probably about right. In any case, what makes change challenging is when it progresses within while the world without remains remarkably–sometimes discouragingly–the same. Maybe we expect the meta-worlds we inhabit and the world at-large to grow along with us. In a great many ways, I sympathize with parents whose kids leave home for college. Not only are the late teens and early twenties when we really start to define who we are, but when we’re inserted into a world as dynamic and conducive to change as higher education, it can awaken within us parts of ourselves we never knew existed. In fact, it often does.