I needed to get out of Ireland
Chris, 29 - Toronto, Canada
Featured on RTE 1's Liveline on Thrusday 6th February 2014
So I've been sitting here for the last 2 hours wondering how I'll start this off. I keep asking myself what is scaring me? Is it the potential whispers? Will I be treated differently? Accepted? Rejected? Where do I begin - from the beginning I suppose. Growing up isn’t easy but when you know, at a very young age that you’re ‘different’, different from society's norm - it's especially difficult. Although I never stood out, I knew I didn’t fit in either. It wasn’t until I was a young teen that I understood why. Ever since, I’ve always had this guard over me. I went from a happy go lucky child to a teen/adult who became cagey.
It was hard, I was surrounded by the oppression that was my life. There were many mixed emotions over the next couple of years. I cried, got angry with God, I got angry with myself. I constantly asked myself ‘Why me?’, ‘Was I a bad person?’. I prayed this punishment would have mercy on me. I screamed so loud asking for an explanation but no one could hear me. I continued to live in the shadows, I’d sit all alone in a faceless crowd, afraid in case I said the wrong thing, moved the wrong way so questions wouldn't be asked. I remember when I was in 4th year, one of my teachers commented that every time she saw me, she cheered up or smiled because I was always happy and constantly smiling, no matter what was going on - little did she know, it was a pasted smile that left, once I was alone.
This defines my life up to now - I hid. I hid behind a smile, I hid behind a lie. This all might sound a bit dramatic, but just remember the expression ‘walk a mile in my shoes’, before you criticize. This is not an easy thing to do. It wasn’t always doom and gloom, life went on, I was able to put it at the back of my mind at times. I turned my focus to other things, friends, school, college, work, volunteering etc but it was still hard, constant reminders, ridicule of others in the same situation and of course, the close minded Irish mentality that still exists ensured I’d only step out of the shadows for a little bit. I needed to get out of Ireland, the recession was the perfect excuse. So I packed my bags and moved to Canada in 2012.
While I adjusted, almost immediately to Canadian life, I was still hollow, I still carried the guilt and shame with me. I had run away from my family, my friends and more importantly, myself. Fast forward to last Summer. Something happened to me this Summer that would change my approach and outlook on the future. One Summer evening, at 8:03pm, I met somebody. An amazing person who understood me. We spent weekend upon weekend with each other. I began to ask myself what this feeling was inside? I asked myself why my stomach danced when they smiled or what made me light up as I watched their eyes dance as I made them laugh. There was no negotiating with this feeling - It felt right and contrary to what I felt inside for years, It felt natural.
This person became the shelter that rescued me from the storm. This person showed me that I do not need to hold my head bent in shame as there is nothing to be ashamed about. I can’t put into words how grateful I am to this person for helping me be me. For the first time in a very long time, I was Chris. I was happy. I smiled when I was alone. Even though I finally stopped hiding from myself. I was still lying to everyone else. I guess you could say they became victims of the situation I had created for myself. I had a double life that was eating away at me - mentally I wasn't strong enough to mix the two so I stayed away from friends and ignored calls and texts from family. I preferred this new life as I was happy. That wasn't enough, I needed to consolidate them. I started the process.
I flew half way across Canada to visit a close friend and decided to just do it! I unburdened my heart to them. As happy as I was to finally talk to someone about it, I found little relief, mainly because I knew this person was extremely open minded. I needed to challenge myself and punch that shark - so with supportive shoulders to lean on, I called my mother a week or so later. At first I couldn’t talk, my throat closed up. I was unable to say the words but I sobbed uncontrollably as they left my mouth. I grieved for them as they were locked inside this cage for so many years but now they were free.
I will never forget my mother's reply as she sighed with relief. ‘That's it? I thought you were going to tell me you were sick’ and with those few simple words, the weight I had carried with me for so long, lifted. I knew it was ok. I was free. That night, I slept throughout the night, something I had not done in a very long time. I don’t know what the future holds or what will happen now that this is step is taken, I keep asking myself who will be stand by me? Who will bail on me during big steps in my life? Who will reject or ridicule me? What I am sure about is that I don’t need these people in my life. I’ve hated myself for long enough so I don't need it from anyone else. Enough is enough. It's time to rebuild. Am I scared? Like you wouldn’t believe but that's alright. I no longer have big secrets that will erode who I am. No more hiding. My mother summed it perfectly for me. ‘Nothings changed. You are still Chris Godfrey, You are the kindest, most genuine, emphatic, generous, loving son, brother, cousin, nephew and friend I know. What is there to be ashamed about? The only thing you are guilty of is falling in love.’ She was right! At the end of the day, It all came down to love. It turns out that this person who I fell in love with, who helped me discover me, just happens to be a man.