Remember when you were young and knew that you were going to spend the rest of your life with your high school sweetheart?!
Well, I was no different than all the other high school kids who planned their entire life around one single person, the person I just absolutely knew I would be with for the rest of my life.... Little did I know how completely wrong, and yet so absolutely right I was at the same time.
I met Barbara when I was in 5th grade in Neosho, MO. We were both the kids who were "cool" enough to have friends and a relatively enjoyable experience in middle school (Is that even possible?) anyway.... what really bonded us was that we were like old souls trapped in young bodies. We didn't like to get wild and crazy, we found most of the various dramas of our friends to be pretty dumb, and we just wanted to listen to Fiona Apple and try to come up with plans to get out of Smalltown, USA.
Before we get too far into things, I need to make a couple of disclaimers:
1. I am definitely not a professional writer, and tend to write things as they pop into my head, which presents a couple of challenges for you, dear reader. What's happening inside my head makes absolute sense to me, however, I do realize that I tend to wander from the beaten path from time to time, so please just let me know if anything I write makes no sense. This leads to the even bigger challenge for you:
2. I HAVE NO MEMORIES OF MY OWN LIFE FOR SOME REASON. Having said that, I do have the main plot points stored away, but aside from the lyrics to the songs Teenage Dirtbag and Flag Pole Sitta, and basically any other 90s jam, I really don't remember the finer details of my own story without someone reminding me. Which, thankfully for me, hasn't been a problem so far, because Barb has been my living wikipedia page and really keeps me on track.
Back to the story:
High school was the best/worst, most awesome/lamest time ever.
Barb and I basically navigated the choppy waters of high school joined at the hip with the other members of our BFF group, Liz (left) and Casey (2nd left). The four of us did absolutely everything together including countless hours of music, passing notes, playing The Sims, sleeping over at my house or Liz's, drinking cheap vodka, smirnoff or Boone's farm wine and just generally being overall pretty awesome kids.
Jump ahead to Senior year, and Barb and I start slowly changing from best friends to "more than best friends". We already knew we wanted to go off to the same college and live together, so when we finally decided to be a couple, we basically started things off by living in the same apartment in Springfield. Some might say that deciding to be a couple and moving in together like 2 months later seems insane, but it honestly didn't even cross our minds that we wouldn't live together and it felt like the most natural next step to take. ( I also need to add that Casey also ended up living in the same apartment complex and our balconies were directly across the parking lot from each other, which was literally so primo I can't even explain how much fun we had). The next few years flew by and we ended up buying a house and both graduated with degrees in teaching.
First comes love, then comes.....
Marriage! I proposed to Barb not long after our friend Casey got engaged. We planned for a year, had a truly incredible wedding and reception (people still bring it up to this day how much fun the reception was). There was no other option than for us to get married, not because we had to or felt pressured, but because its like there wasn't even another option that could ever be considered. We were supposed to get married and it was as natural for us as breathing to be a married couple. There were rings and legal documents, but we just kept on living our lives like we had been; experiencing the transition into adulthood together, and I think we did a kick-ass job at it if I do say so.
A baby! We figured we could also be kick-ass parents, so we decided to make a kid together. Sydnee popped onto the scene on February 17, 2011 and we stepped into parenting roles just about as easily as we did marriage. Was it always super cool and easy? ABSOLUTELY NOT, but at the end of the day we had each other's backs and figured things out as we went. To this day, and every day from now until I die, making a child with Barb is the single most proud achievement of my life and has made all the ups and downs of our story worth every laugh and every tear we have shed along the way.
Coming out?? Now this is where the story starts to sound less like a fairy tale, and more like the untold story of millions of men/women that find themselves in a hetero marriage, parents, living seemingly happy lives, but dealing with a growing doubt. That doubt starts small, like something you are aware of your whole life, but a doubt that you just kind of push to the side because it doesn't have a face or a name and it doesn't really make sense because.....
OBVIOUSLY I CAN'T BE GAY.
I love my wife. I have sex with my wife and honestly I really enjoy it. She is beautiful and funny and she is my soul mate. I'm definitely not gay... We have a child together! We have a child together. We have a child together. We have a child together. I have a child. I'm a dad. I'm responsible for another human being on this planet. I want my daughter to be anything she wants to be in her life. I want her to be happy, fulfilled, complete, her own true self. What I don't want is for my beautiful baby girl to grow up with a doubt about herself. I don't want her to have to explain to herself that a core trait of who she is as a human being is wrong in some way, or unnatural or a "sin". Let me just pause here and tell you that having a child REALLY MESSES WITH YOUR HEAD. All of the sudden you are half of a duo that will be the role model, and largest influence on shaping a new life on this planet. That is A HUGE RESPONSIBILITY. It makes you question things, question yourself, your life, your choices. And eventually I just couldn't face myself in the mirror and think that I could be a good dad and role model for my child when I was lying to myself every moment of every day, and even worse; lying to my soul mate and the mother of my child.
Yep.... then comes COMING OUT
So, heres the blessing and curse of being married to the person that knows you better than you know yourself...... THEY KNOW YOU. Not the you that you present to the world, they know the real you, even when you don't want to admit who the real you even is. After months of depression, not being myself, and taking a back seat in my own life, one night Barb just finally asked me. She kept asking me what the hell was wrong, and eventually she asked me if I just wasn't attracted to her anymore.... to which I bravely (cough, cough) said "I don't know" She then calmly said "Are you attracted to women?" to which I replied "I don't think so".
At this point any other person in the entire world that I could have been married to would have started yelling and screaming and possibly throwing things at me. But, I married my best friend. My best fucking friend in this entire universe..... and you know what she said to me as I had tears rolling down my face?? She looked me dead in the eye and simply said "Ok...... Are you okay?" ARE. YOU. OK.? Thats what my wife of nearly 5 years and the mother to my 1 year old daughter said when I came out to her.... "Are YOU ok?" I'm not sure if I have ever even specifically told her this, but that single moment of unconditional love is probably the single reason I have been able to cope with the guilt that I have for putting her through all of this.
I'm gay.... NOW WHAT?!
In an effort to keep this post from being 5 million pages long, and to save some content for future posts, I am going to skip ahead a year and introduce the next big character in the story of my life, Chris. I will say that Barb and I went through some very dark times in the months following my coming out, but at the end of the day we were always there for each other and our love hasn't faded or diminished in any way, it just morphed into its own unique, beautiful creature.
Coming out at 27/28 is not easy... I missed out on all the wild "slutty years" of college and had only been with one person sexually in my entire life. Enter the seedy world of gay hook up apps and the gay club scene. I didn't fit in... I wasn't sure how to act, I didn't want to hook up with random strangers, I wasn't looking to have a new relationship, but I also didn't have a single openly gay friend to turn to for advice. Needless to say I went to a very dark place in my mind and all the partying and drinking couldn't fix it.
ENTER STAGE LEFT: My other great love, Chris. He came into my life like the calm in the eye of the storm in a hurricane. All around me things were spinning: PA school was all consuming and overwhelming, I was raising a child with the person who's world I had just turned upside down, I was flailing and didn't have anything stable to cling to until he came along. He grounded me and kept me safe from the storm. Not only did he save my life, he seamlessly transitioned from fling to boyfriend, to best friend, to life partner in the most natural way. He respects my relationship with Barb and has never felt threatened or left out when she and I go off together and disappear for half a day on some random (usually drunken) adventure. He loves Sydnee like she is his own and would willingly give up his life to save hers. Fate brought me the perfect man when I needed him the most.... when we needed him the most... and his mere presence in my life made me a better man and a better dad. I can't sing his praises enough, but be prepared for lots of sappy posts about how much I love him.
Well.... Here we are
Today we are a proud #altlife family. We may not be your conventional or normal family, but I think we are pretty bad ass. We all raise our daughter together, we hang out all the time, we rarely fight, and Barb and I will undoubtedly spend the rest of our lives together.... maybe not how I envisioned it as a know-it-all high school kid, but its turned out better than I could have ever hoped for and I wouldn't change anything about my journey to this point and I cannot wait to see what our future holds.