Save your congratulations, folks, the title of this post probably doesn’t mean what you think it means.
A few months ago, I watched an amazing talk by Ash Beckham on coming out of the closet. If you haven’t seen this talk, go watch it right now. Seriously, there is nothing I am going to say in this post that will be as awesome as that talk is (Yes, that’s a link to Upworthy. Deal with it. I like Upworthy and their manipulative, cheery headlines).
She talks about the experience of coming out of the closet, and how for her, that experience was about revealing to people that she was gay. But she goes on to say that it’s not only gay people who experience being in the closet. Everyone has their own personal closet, and they should get the hell out, because a closet is no place for a person to be living.
I felt sort of angry and upset at this assertion, because I most certainly was not in the closet about anything. How dare anyone suggest that I had anything to hide.
*Spoilers* I was definitely in the closet.
As I would imagine is the case with a lot of people in the closet, I was afraid to admit what I was feeling because I was terrified of messing with people’s perception of me, and with my perception of myself. See, for all my endearing self-deprecation (was that an oxymoron?), I am kind of addicted to this image of myself as A Success™. A long time ago, somebody told me that the best revenge on your bullies is to live well. I took that advice and ran with it. So when I found myself graduating with a degree from the University of Edinburgh, Dream Job already landed, I was feeling pretty chuffed. Except there was one tiny snag. Within a couple of months, I was miserable. But I reasoned that as long as nobody knew I was miserable, it would be okay. As long as I could keep pretending that everything was alright, I’d still be A Success™.
Some of you may point out that being utterly miserable is not really living well. To that I say, excellent point, reader! I will now pretend that I didn’t hear it.
After a few months of feeling like my soul was being stomped on by an angry toddler, I begrudgingly accepted that something probably wasn’t right and I should maybe talk to someone about it. So, two nights ago, I did the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my whole entire life. I talked to my dad.
I planned what I was going to say for two days in advance, rehearsing scenarios in my head, imagining him casting me out onto the pavement upon the revelation that I was not the Success™ I had been portraying myself as. Because my dad is apparently the villain in a Thomas Hardy novel and I am an idiot.
Of all the things I’ve ever faced in my life, opening up and saying to someone “I am really struggling, I think I need your help” is by far the scariest. Or it would have been if I actually said that. In reality, I just wailed a bit, but he got the message okay.
And of course, it turns out that my dad couldn’t really give two shits about whether I’m A Success™ or not, beyond whether it makes me happy. We talked for hours, and for maybe the first time ever, I was completely honest with him. I wasn’t trying to be the me I thought he wanted me to be, and by the end of the conversation, I felt about a bazillion pounds lighter. Honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t just talk to him months ago.
Because *GLARINGLY OBVIOUS CONCLUSION KLAXON*, it turns out that the people who really love you will always love you, even if you turn out to be something different than what they were expecting. In being afraid to shatter people’s image of me, I ended up shutting myself away from them and hoping no one would notice.
This approach, to put it bluntly, is utter bollocks.
I’m not saying that talking about how I was feeling fixed it. I still feel like I want to do nothing but crawl under my duvet and watch Legally Blonde on a loop for the rest of my life. But the thing about closets is that they’re really tiny. It’s tough to get comfy in a closet. I might not be happy (yet), but at least I have some space to breathe. And I’m really glad to be out.