I’m really bad at talking about my feelings. I hide from all the verbal recognition of my inner psyche ranging from dinner cuisine preferences to details of who I made out with while dressed in an alien costume at a fraternity mixer. One time, I went to therapy (because what self-respecting millennial doesn’t go to therapy?) but found it too invasive and immediately quit, declaring I was cured of all my hereditary anxiety. But despite being as stoic as a Viking, about two years ago, I found it increasingly hard to ignore a part of myself that was creeping up from the deep pit in which I’d had it buried.
I wasn’t so much afraid of saying it, but I was mortally terrified that I’d have to make some sort of grand gesture when I came out. That I’d have to provide some sort of proof (heads up, they don’t give you a membership card) and play out a dramatic coming-to-terms-with-reality with each person I told.
What’s more, I was scared that people would think I was a different person, as if the one they had always known was a figment. I wanted telling people to be the emotional equivalent of telling them I was trying out flares this season, but that bell bottoms or not, I was still me.
I have since come out of the walk-in closet I’d been inhabiting. I couldn’t have done it without the many late night nuanced talks, the unexpected email from a mentor saying she’d be there if I ever needed her, the dinners where no one batted an eye when I dropped into casual conversation that I was interested in girls, the New Year’s Eve when no one shattered a champagne flute when I announced “Guys, I changed my Tinder settings to ‘girls.'”
But before all of that, before I had the bravery to not care about what anyone else wanted from me and the confidence to just let it all out, I read something that flipped a switch for me. I never expected to read Jenna Lyons’ 2013 profile in the New York Times and find the words that made me feel understood. But there they were:
“It’s just as surprising to me as it probably is to everyone else. It certainly is strange to wake up, at 44, and look at the person next to you and think: ‘Oh! This wasn’t what I expected.’ But I don’t think love works that way, and I am O.K. with that.”
Somewhere between her acceptance of not needing to understand how love works and being okay with the direction your life will take gave me the inner calm and security that I had not been able to conjure up on my own. Jenna made me realize that life just is – you have to let it take you where it wants to go.
My 11th grade creative writing teacher told us that one day, we’d read something that would perfectly align with the thoughts in our own heads, and when we found it, we’d know we weren’t crazy — that we made sense. On a random Sunday in the midst of an otherwise normal January, I finally found the person who understood exactly what was going on between the coils of my brain.
I suppose I didn’t really need to worry about suddenly “not being myself” because I don’t think I had even really been myself before. I was convinced it was a phase, and even if it wasn’t, life would be easier if I ignored my instincts. Maybe I never liked to talk about my feelings because deep down, I knew that I was always kind of making them up; hiding who I actually was behind who I thought I should be.
I was petrified to break down the façade I had so deliberately crafted, but I can’t imagine anything more terrifying than one day looking back and not recognizing the life I lived.
I know I have yet to write out the words “I’m gay” until just now. Truthfully, it still scares me to confront reality so directly. But I’ve also never been more sure of who I am and never more happy to be that person.
A lot of people think that the fashion industry is full of vapid narcissists. I’ve found quite the contrary. It’s been the thing to truly grab me by the shoulders and shake me into consciousness. It doesn’t ask you to fit into a mold, it asks you to construct your own and join the party.
Photographed by Adam Katz Sinding for W Mag