A few days ago I purchased Alicia Keys’ lastest album, “The Element of Freedom.” While this is not an album review the introductory poem (above) is what compelled me to write this post. I replayed the intro several times before continuing with the rest of the CD. It struck an emotional chord because I felt like she wrote it for me (lol).
Although I don’t literally believe that there is this giant man in the sky that has a plan and purpose for our lives I still believe that the universe itself is alive. I believe in the concept of energy and how we (and all living things) are apart of it. We all have purpose, uniqueness, and something wonderful to contribute. Some of us know right out of the gate who we are and what we’re supposed to be.
Others of us have no earthly clue and then, on any given day of our lives, discover that purpose and allow it to unfold…
Myself, I am what people have always refered to as “A Late Bloomer.” Everything came late for me. Before going further I’d like to be totally honest and reveal a few personal things. I’m 27 years old and I’ve never been outside the state of Texas (unless you count New Orleans and Disney land; however, my mother said I was still in her womb. So technically those don’t count). I’ve never lived in another city. I didn’t go to any proms or dances when I was a teenager. I have no tales of debaucherous sexual trysts to regale anyone with (seeing as I’ve only had sex, up until recently, in the context of relationships. Compared to some people I’m practically still a virgin). I’ve never had, up until recently, close friends or acquaintances (because I was so petrified that people would not think I was good enough). I’ve never been alone a day in my life (when I didn’t live at home I had a college roommate), ever. Lastly, I’ve never truly been in love (more in love with the idea of it. I think you can only truly be in love when the other person loves you back).
The list could go on but those are just off the top of my head. If I were a color I’d definitely be green. My existence, up until fairly recently, has been incredibly sheltered. Some of it was the doing of my parental units whereas others were of my creation. It has only been recently that I’ve begun the adventure of finding out who Toddy is and what HE wants out of life.
One of my favorite movies in the world is “Their Eyes Were Watching God” (based on the novel of the same name by Zora Neale Hurston). Although the movie stars Halle Berry (Ya’ll know how much I loooove Halle, heh) this was (in my opinion) one of her most beautiful and sincere roles, ever (next to Introducing Dorothy Dandridge and Queen. Let’s put it this way in certain roles I love Halle. In others she stinks like rotting mackerel)…
In the film Halle Berry portrays a young woman by the name of Janie. Janie, as a young black woman in the 1920′s, really has nothing to look forward to other than being a man’s wife. So in order to keep Janie from being some random bloke’s ”good time girl” her grandmother (played by Ruby Dee) marries her off to an old geezer (at the age of 17). However, later in the marraige, Janie leaves the geezer and runs away with a man named Jody who promises her a life of prestige and comfort. Together Janie and Jody help transform Eatonville, Florida into a thriving African-American community. Jody is eventually made mayor of the fledgling town and Janie unwittingly inherits the unofficial title of the “Mayor’s Wife.” Instead of being her free-spirited self Janie, in order to appease her husband AND the towns people (who all believe that she must behave in a certain manner), denies herself her identity and happiness. Janie binds up her beautiful hair and stifles her youthful spirit and vitality. Over the course of twenty years she is relegated to the role of “The Mayor’s Wife.” During this time Janie is merely existing, staying in her lane and living up to the perceptions and expectations that everyone else had of her. Suddenly, after twenty years Jody is struck ill and dies. After the funeral Janie stands in the mirror and removes her head wrap, allowing her flowing locks to fall to her waist. Much like her hair Janie’s truest self was released. She later meets a handsome young suitor, Teacake, (played by the BEAUTIFUL Michael Ealy), falls truly, madly, and deeply in love (for the first time), and lives her life for herself for the very first time…
I saw so much of myself in the Janie character that it made me cry (happy tears though). I know what it is like to feel like a fraudulent person. It is painful when your entire existence is predicated on the idea of being “perfect” in the sight of others. However, when you are alone with yourself and thoughts you stop to wonder, “Who am I?” Yet, you eventually become so lost in the role and so passive in your own life that you become invisible to everyone…Then you forget entirely about who YOU are. Sometimes it takes something prolific to discover the element of freedom. For Janie it was the death of her husband. For me it was the death of my uncle…
Everyone knows my coming out story but long before that I was extremely closeted to myself. Even though I’d dealt with a man prior to coming out (officially) I’d gotten to a place in my life where my self-esteem was so low that I had just relegated my existence to going to church and staying in the comforts of my own bedroom (e.g. the familiar). I was far too afraid to truly be myself so staying in my lane was the only option. Everyone expected that of me. Eventually I just accepted it for myself. I was in pain but remained in the comfort of my little bud…
Yet, my uncle’s death was the catalyst that transformed my life. Granted, it wasn’t him dying per say it was what happened in the moments before the funeral. My cousin O (my uncle’s son whom I had not seen in ages) attended the funeral. My cousin O is a gay too. He lives in Vancouver and I’ve not seen him in ages. Well, he and his partner D attended the proceedings together. O recognized me right away and introduced me to his significant other. Anyway, I cannot describe what happened to me other than to say it was like a light had shone through the darkness that enshrouded my life. When I saw them together it was like an epiphany. I remember thinking, “Oh my god that is ME!” I hung around the both of them for the rest of the day, like a little fly swarming cow dung. All of my life I had been taught that being gay or lesbian would lead to ruin. All I’d ever heard was the negative. Yet, here were these two handsome, well dressed, eloquent, and wonderful human beings happily together. That is what I KNEW I wanted for myself. For the first time I saw how my life could be. I didn’t have to be a recluse or some gay tragedy.
After the funeral I was very happy, for the first time in ages. It took me several days but one day I forced myself to say it out loud. “I am gay.” I smiled and breathed a sigh of relief. The war with myself was over and a hole did not open up and devour me. I was still Toddy.
When that happened it did not stop there. Suddenly, I wanted to go back to college and start a new life. I wanted so much more than the confines of my previously lonely existence. In the ensuing years there was a lot of pain and hardship but the journey towards true freedom is never without obstacles. The people around me were used to seeing me (or NOT seeing me at all) in a certain way. Yet, by choosing to be authentic and self actualized they are the ones who’ve had to adjust to me (no longer the vice versa).
Being a late bloomer is not solely about being gay, however. That was just my journey. Your’s maybe different. You maybe a person–like myself–who didn’t have everything mapped out from point A to Z. Sometimes, you do have to live your life as a spectator before you can truly appreciate the uniqueness that is you. The sun will not rise before it’s ready. A bird will not fly until it’s ready. And a rose will not bloom until the spring. However, once they do reach their potential they are just as beautiful as all of the other birds and flowers. Maybe, at the age of 70, you would like to take up ballroom dancing…why shouldn’t you (if you’re physically able)? Why shouldn’t you have sex for the first time if you’re a 50 year old virgin? Why be embarassed of flying on a plane, for the first time, at the age of 40?
Susan Boyle, at the age of 48, just released her first album (which became the number one debut album of all time) after living as a virtual recluse for most of her life (proving that you don’t have to be twenty-one and hot to sell a CD). So much acclaim is given to child prodigies who do everything early; however, no one gives any credit to the genius–who after being married for 50 years–becomes a world renowned painter at the age of 90.
For so long I felt so very inadequate because I haven’t had a “full” and “worldly” life by the age of 25. However, that doesn’t matter to me now. What matters to me is that I’m doing it now. Moreover, I’m doing it for myself and not for anyone else. When I set out to finish my college degrees it was for more than just acquiring a good job. My education was symbolic. It was me empowering myself for myself. That is why my graduation this year was so important. It officially closes a huge chapter in my life. Now, I am ready to write a new one. I won’t sit up here and lie and say that I’m not scared in some capacity. I am. I’m getting ready to leave behind everything (good, bad, and UGLY) that I’ve ever known. For the first time I’m allowing the world to see Toddy for who he really is and not just an illusion I tried to create in order to engender love and worthiness.
I know what I want now. I want every good thing in life that I deserve. Most important of all I am ready to truly embrace the concept of self actualization. I have the right to truly inhabit my being in complete and utter totality. I’ve decided that, in my heart and mind, I’ll never cease to be childlike. I will continue to learn something new and find beauty in every individual or situation that I come into contact with. This journey was my element of freedom.
Now, I feel like a flower in bloom. Watch me grow world. =0)
This is for all of my fellow rose buds out there. Keep on blossoming.