It’s weird thinking about how much I currently feel apart of culture here in Jersey City. I just sat down with the CEO of Hudson Pride to do a podcast. I just emailed the co-chair for JC Pride. I work four times of week at the new local gay bar. I spent the majority of time with my queer friends. It seems now like a lifetime ago when I didn’t feel like I was part of anything.
Growing up gay where I did, St. Olaf for those who listen to Michael or South Dakota which is the actual place, did not lend itself to be apart of culture. At the very start, the cultural identity of people there are different. It’s this homogenized version of the Scandinavian countries mingled with mainstream culture. I don’t remember any German or Irish dishes outside of my mother throwing together a goulash to feed us. The idea of a place that I could find my home was fantastical. It’s hard to believe there are other people like me and that made it hard to accept myself.
When I came here eight years ago, I expected things to be different. I expected friends to come out of the wood work. I’d have a good job and a boyfriend in no time. Everything would work out and I could be gayer than ever. And that’s close to what happened. I met a guy that i dated for a few months. I got a job that I stayed with for over five years. I never had close gay friends, nor did I have many at all. It wasn’t until I felt like the world would literally fall down around me that I made a step forward in the right direction.
It’s hard to describe that loneliness. I have always had great people around me, but there was this disconnect. I wasn’t okay with myself in the world, my position at work, and my outlook for the future was just negative. So in that lonely place I used sex and alcohol to escape. But they perpetuated that lonely depression and although I kept continuing, I kept feeling more at odds with my destiny.
It got to the point where it felt like I was surrounded by this darkness constantly. A shadow sat on my shoulder. I used to describe it as never stopping from work. I was there 45-60 hours a week and constantly available via telephone. But, it sort of feels like this build up of negative thoughts that I had been putting out in the world for years. It just had to continue to grow. It kept me from giving up my addictions. It kept me from establishing close and consistent friendship. It kept me from reaching out and grabbing my future. It was me stopping me with anger, doubt, fear, and that kept me lonely.
It was not easy to break out and away from that pain, nor would some say I took the safest route. I quit my job. I changed my careers. I established new friendships. Then i gave up drinking and with that I left behind the unsafe aspects that went with it. My new friends created a safe space for me to flourish and the loneliness retreated. My ego filled with anger, doubt, and fear receded. And now, I’m moving forward better than ever.
I don’t want to forget the loneliness, just like I can’t forget where I come from. Both things show me how far I’ve come. And the greatness of things now will only get better, and I can’t wait.