I’m twenty years old camping with my friend Amy in the mountains outside of Boulder, Colorado. Amy and I have been best friends since we met our freshman year in high school––immediately drawn to one other because of our similar creative take on the world. She was the friend who I could tell anything.
But tonight I’m nervous. There’s something big I need to tell her. Something I’ve wanted to tell her almost since I met her. Something I’m worried will take our relationship in a different direction. Something massive that could change everything for us. I’m fretting about how she’s going to react.
She notices. “Dude, you’re being weird. What’s up?”
I take a drink of my beer and lie, “Nothing.”
After a few more awkward minutes, I realize I can’t delay any longer.
“Amy, there’s something I need to tell you.”
“Okay, cool. You can tell me anything.”
I know she’s right. “Amy, my dad’s gay.”
My dad told me he was gay when I was fourteen, only a few months after I met Amy. This shocked me because I had made no room for homosexuality inside my limited world view. I lived in the conservative, homogenous suburbs in the 1980s, with no awareness of––or interest in––people who were different than me. Diversity meant danger, discomfort, and abnormality. I wasn’t prepared to handle my new reality. I was embarrassed, confused, and ashamed.
In high school I didn’t tell anyone because they just wouldn’t understand. They would judge, make fun of, and ostracize me. I wasn’t about to bring that social ridicule upon myself, so I kept my secret to myself. I could do this because I had geographical safety––I lived in San Diego and my dad lived in San Francisco.
I lived a dual life. To the world, I was your typical semi-popular, athletic, “normal” high school kid. But on the inside I was full of turmoil, insecurity, and fear––totally self-conscious about my secret and constantly worried about the humiliation I would experience when it was discovered.
Finally, after more than five years, I told Amy my truth. And you know what she said?
“Big fucking deal.”
She didn’t think I was weird. She didn’t judge me, make fun of me, or end our friendship. She didn’t lose respect for me. Instead she supported me and made me feel at ease––and told me about all her gay friends and family members.
But Amy did a lot more than just make me feel comfortable. She totally transformed me. She made me realize that for five years I had been telling myself a story that simply wasn’t true. I was suffering because I was unable to see the possibility of a different world.
Because I lacked curiosity and empathy, I was unable to make deep connections with other people. I was so worried about my dad being gay that I had little interest in learning about his journey and developing a closer relationship with him. And because all my energy was focused on hiding my secret from other people, I closed off all kinds of opportunities to grow and learn and discover.
And here’s the thing. What happened to me happens to all of us all the time. We have limited versions of our story in our head that prevent us from growing, connecting with others, and making a larger impact on the world.
This story is preventing you from finding true belonging––and thriving.
You have an authentic story that other people need to hear. You have a unique purpose waiting to be discovered. And my purpose is to help you discover it.
My purpose is to help you understand the full scope of what’s possible, and transform your limiting beliefs into a new perspective so you go out into the world as an innovative, purpose-driven leader.
My purpose is to help you find where, to what, and to whom you belong––so you can turn around and do the same for others. Together, we thrive.
If that sounds good to you, let's talk.
Photo by KerryAnn Clisham