In the Shadows (Letter from Reader)

Dear Ruth,

So, hi, my name is [Jane]. Although for reasons that will become clear in this letter please could you not publish my name if you do anything with this piece. Thank you and sorry. I think I just apologized to myself. I am so ashamed to say how I wish I could say yes publish my name everywhere. Let everyone hear it. But I’m not there yet and that leads me on to why I am writing this letter.

I have a lot of admiration for you. I have been reading your blogs for many years. When I still lived at home and deleted the history on my computer in case they figured out what a “fish out of water” meant. So much of what you have written was echoed in my life.

Yet in the same breath we live such different lives now. I’m 26. I live in a small town in the UK. And I am still burrowed in the closet. Your posts meant so much to me those years ago. You were my outlet and my link to a life and community I longed to be part of but was, and am, shutting myself away from.

I have known that I was gay on some level from about 14. Before this I didn’t even know it was an option otherwise I might have known sooner. This seems late to me. But it’s definitely late now. I’m 26. In your recent blog you described your new love. I know it’s uncouth to say, and I don’t mean this in the way that it’s going to come out, but I am so jealous. That is all I have ever wanted and you described it so perfectly. Like you no longer exist alone but are part of something bigger. Everything is brighter. I have had this only once with a girl, let’s call her Tilly. My very best friend is what we told others and ourselves. Actually we had such a deep connection and it was beautiful and painful.

It changed everything in me, everything about me. I’ve had relationships after this with men. But no feeling ever compared to simply holding her hand.

Sounds ridiculous but it’s true. We don’t speak now, haven’t in a very long time. She was in my life for such a short period of time but look at the impact on me. That should have told me the truth about myself a long time ago.

I am currently on holiday in Milan staying with my sister. As I sit on her balcony looking at the mountains I realize how beautiful life is and how much I want to see as much of it as possible. But something’s stopping me. I don’t want to experience the world alone. That might be the saddest thing I’ve ever written. But it’s my truth. I can do it, I have been doing it. I have a great life, I’m a teacher in the UK. I have bought my own house, a tiny cottage with beams from my dreams. I have my dream car. The most fabulous best friend a girl could ask for. Excellent colleagues (most of them anyway, you can’t have everything! haha) and have recently secured a massive promotion meaning that I am now Senior Management in my school. On the face of it I am successful. My parents are proud of my successes.

But I have failed at the most basic part: being who I am.

I am my job. And within my job I am who I think I should be. This of course means that I have not found a partner. What’s that famous saying ‘you have to love yourself before you can expect others to’. Well here’s the proof.

This holiday has given me a lot of time to think. If I am going to live authentically I am not sure that I have much time left. I am getting older. I know I’m not ancient but I am getting older. Your 20s are meant to be the highlight of your life, yet I am in the shadows. Safe in the dark, afraid of the rainbows. Funny how life works isn’t it.  Part of me knows that what I am doing to myself and what I have been doing to myself for so many years now is not fair. Who is it benefiting? No one. Perhaps my father? But would he really be happy knowing how unhappy I am? I honestly don’t know the answer to that one. Is this the lesser of two evils?

The biggest question I suppose is when is the right time to tell everyone as I think, to be honest, that I have missed it. No one knows. Everyone has assumed I am straight which is 100% my fault as I too have gone along with this. I have not stopped them. I didn’t know how to. I didn’t know if to. Now I see I should have for their perception of me is fixed yet so is who I have known I am for a very very long time. And as much as I have tried to ignore it, it has not gone away. It has built.

It is all I ever think about. Well that, and pizza and chocolate haha. It consumes me. It’s me. Yet it’s hidden. And I am living a life I don’t want or understand, and can’t change.

There are some people in my life that I feel will be totally accepting of me. My sister, my best friend of 10 years. But I don’t think it’s fair for me to tell them and expect them to keep it to themselves as I know others won’t be so welcoming. My mother accepts gay people openly but my father is not so forgiving. He and I are very close. He is the person I call when my kitchen is flooded or when I want to go out to dinner & celebrate a success or drink away a bad day at work. Is it selfish to not tell to preserve our relationship? Or even to take away from my relationship with everyone else as I’m not being myself merely to keep intact this father daughter one. It feels like a double-edged sword again to me. I’ve come to see more and more as I’ve gotten older that life is a balance. I think mine is off kilter.

My father is openly not okay or comfortable with gay people or lives. He has never alluded to violence but it’s the subtle comments that hurt the most when for example I have approached the subject about other people to test the water. It was not well received. My mother and father are still together but should have split up 15 years ago. My mother and I clash, she does not care about either my sister or I so doesn’t actually factor into my decision at all other than she lives with my father. My godmother on the other hand is the person most important in my life. She is the only other person to know everything about me. Everything  but this. She basically brought me up and through all of the terrible teenage disasters she loved me like a daughter. But, I’ve pulled away recently  for she showed me a side to her I would never have predicted. In one moment in our hours long phone calls she changed our relationship forever. She said it made her feel sick when she saw her two gay coworkers kiss. I was on my bed. I remember getting hot. Mumbling.

How do you respond to that when you have so much respect for that person for your whole life but absolutely detest what she has said and feel the absolute opposite.

I wish she could know how much that comment has affected the trajectory of the rest of my life. Back to the risk factor now. How brave am I? Should I tell her in the hope of changing a viewpoint for the better but in doing so risk losing my support, my wonderful godmother?

Goodness I have written so much. This is what happens when you don’t tell anyone, I suppose. When the opportunity comes, it overflows. Really I just would to talk, to discuss the things I care about but no one understands or is interested in. To gain another opinion on what I should do, although in some respects I already know that I have to come out.

I am running out of time to enjoy my life. I am stealing my own time. Perhaps I just need to know someone will be there in the aftermath.

I know no other lesbians. My town is small. I added Tinder recently, bravely ticking ‘only women’ but instantly regretted it when 1 of the 5 local lesbians was a friend of a friend who I am now terrified will out me. I will never be part of this community or have local minded friends if I don’t come out. But of course, like all other LGBT people–how do I do that? What do you wish you had known or done differently when you were going through this? Do you have an opinion? I am open to them all at this point.

Really, I suppose, I’m looking for a conversation. A conversation with a real person. A real person who doesn’t know me but probably knows me better than anyone in my life. Someone who has been through the things that I am afraid to approach.

I am so happy to hear about your new love, how’s it going? While I’m still at this point I may as still live vicariously through others haha. Thank you for what you do and for the opportunity to submit my feelings this way. Sorry for the essay.

Lots of love, Jane

xxx

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