My birthday falls about 45 days before New Year’s Eve, and as such I tend to spend the last month-point-five thinking about resolutions. Birthdays for me have always been a time to consider where my life is at, where I want it to go, and how to get there. New Year’s Eve seems to have the same effect on people, so it’s only natural that I tend to lump them together. Mix in my love of lists (nothing better than marking through the last item), and you’ll understand why I put so much effort into resolutions. My track record isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough to keep me in practice each year. This year I’ve put a little more time and effort into thinking about things. In fact, I’m just now deciding on a plan for 2004, 37 days into it. Part of developing resolutions is considering where I’ve been in the last year, and 2003 had a lot to consider.
I went back to college in January for the first time in nearly 5 years. My partner Garrett and I bought a house in the spring. My grandmother died in July. I found out an old flame Chris was dead (and had been for a year) late in July. I found out what some members of my family really think of me in the fall. And I was reminded what brotherhood and friendship mean, and why they’re important. These events all formed the backdrop of a very personal search: who am i, what do i want, and what should i do with my life?
Early on in life I learned that love is conditional. If you act the right way, say the right things, people will love you. And who doesn’t want to be loved? I learned the hard way in school that if you were silent, didn’t make waves, and kept to youself, the “popular” kids would leave you alone. The corollary is that alone is better than victimized. I know that my experience was not unique, but it formed the basis for many of my actions. I learned early and often that the key to survival is becoming someone others will love. So in 2003 when I realized that I hated who I’d become, hated my life, and hated my surroundings, I also realized that the situation was one of my own making.
I was unhappy because I wasn’t able to be honest with people. Instead of saying, “don’t call gay people faggots; it makes me feel degraded,” I’d say “ha, ha, faggot!” Instead of saying, “look, you’re a nice person, let’s just be friends,” I’d say “I love you too.” How does the song go? “I always say I love you when I mean turn out the light.” So honesty, with myself and with others, became something I started thinking more and more about. And I thought I was making progress, doing better, figuring things out.
But then towards the end of the year, something happened. We were celebrating Christmas at my grandparents. I was actually enjoying myself. Garrett and I sat next to each other on the sofa, playing games, waiting for supper. I had my arm along the back of the sofa, behind him. I felt that warm feeling radiate from my chest that serves as a physical reminder of how happy you can really be. It’s supper time, and I go to wash my hands. On the way out of the bathroom, my dad pulls me aside.
“I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t put your arm around Garrett; it makes Grandma and Grandpa uncomfortable.”
I was taken completely off guard. My dad has been my biggest ally lately, and I thought my family really accepted me and Garrett (even if they didn’t approve; I’m smart enough to know there’s a difference). All I could say was, “sure, OK.” Sure, OK? Hardly. I’ve been kicking myself for that response ever since. Why didn’t I say, “I’d really love to talk to Grandma and Grandpa about this since I don’t want to offend them, but do want to feel comfortable in their home.” Why didn’t I say, “I didn’t really have my arm around him; they should come to me directly.” Or why didn’t I at least say, “hell no, fuck off.” Because sometimes I just want them to like me. I have my doubts about whether it was really my grandparents who had a problem with things, but that’s another story. What’s important here is that my instinct, the first thing I thought of, was appeasment: don’t make them upset, agree to what they say, sell yourself out for a little more of that warm feeling.
I think I can be forgiven for wanting more of that warm feeling, but I don’t want to ask myself for forgiveness as often this year. So what is my Resolution for 2004, my 28th year? No more half measures, no more half truths. I want to say it again, like a mantra: No more half measures, No more half truths.
In 2004, I don’t want to tell others or myself half-truths in order to make people like me. I don’t want to “go along to get along” only to find myself doing things in half-meaures because my heart’s not in it. I don’t want to walk away from a conversation wondering why I embellished, or out right lied, just because I thought it was what they wanted to hear. I don’t want to sell out my own wishes and dreams just to make others happy, or because it’s “easy.” I do want to be more honest: with myself and with others. I do want to be honest even when I know it will hurt. Finally, I refuse to sell out even a little just to be loved. Because that’s not love. It’s not love when it’s conditional, and it’s not love for myself if I have to sell-out for it.
No more half-measures; no more half-truths.