Growing up gay and feeling like I had to hide who I was, I always thought that my life would come together when I grew up and could get to a place where I could be myself.
But now I’m 28 and still feel like I’m just going through the motions, not really living or inhabiting my life. Nothing I do is really fulfilling.
My job is just a job and I feel like an anonymous cog in a wheel doing work that is pretty meaningless.
And my social life is, in my view, pitiful. My friends and I get together on weekend nights and go out dressed to look hot and find someone sexy to go home with. Either that or we’re sitting around gossiping.
It all feels meaningless. Ditto for all the time I waste on apps.
Sometimes I wish I had a boyfriend. But my friends’ relationships suck. Everyone is cheating on each other. And when I’ve dated guys it always gets kind of boring after a while (plus the cheating thing).
With regard to my family, when I visit my parents in Ohio a few times a year it always seems like the same old, same old. I feel like they don’t really want to hear the details of my gay life. The whole family thing feels superficial.
A lot of the time I feel like I am just wasting time and there isn’t anything exciting to look forward to.Even when I travel, my friends and I are just going to a circuit party or something where it’s the same thing all over again.
I’d like to be a “glass half full” person, but I’ve always been a “glass half empty” person because that is how my life has played out. Everything has seemed pretty pointless and unfulfilling.
Is it possible to change the way you look at life in any significant way? Could I find a way to actually like my life when it’s been meh for as long as I can remember?
Of course we are capable of changing the way we experience and live life.
Your bottom-line problem isn’t that you are pessimistic. The real problem is that you haven’t yet challenged yourself to take hold of the steering wheel. No wonder you’re living an unfulfilled life.
You are not in some uniquely bad or hopeless position. What you’re is stuck at an important point in your development: You have not figured out how to be an autonomous adult, in charge of your own life.
It makes sense that you are stuck here, given your life story so far as a gay man. When we grow up having to hide whom we are and pretend to be someone we’re not, there’s little room or encouragement to develop an authentic self.
You don’t have to be a gay adolescent to be stuck in this way. Pretty much everyone grows up being told by parents, teachers and society who to be and how to act. And when we’re young, fear of rejection makes us vulnerable to peer pressure. We usually want to fit in, rather than stand out. Standing out can be dangerous.
So now you’ve wound up in a job you dislike, spending time with friends you don’t seem to respect and pursuing things that give you little or no satisfaction, evidently not putting in the effort to keep your romantic relationships strong or interesting and not challenging yourself to let your parents know you.
While your having come out demonstrates that you are able to challenge expectations of who you “should” be, you’re pretty wobbly in this area, going along with what your friends do even when these behaviors don’t suit you. You are far from alone in this: many gay men do the same, maybe because we don’t want to keep feeling excluded like we did before coming out.
Given that you are miserable in your current existence, it’s time to figure out how you really want to live your life. Doing so will mean taking chances in all sorts of ways: looking for meaningful work, exploring new friendships, putting effort into personal connections.
None of us can know in advance how things will go in our lives. Nothing is certain except that life is unpredictable. Nonetheless we can either take life as it comes, or aim to create as much meaning and satisfaction as we can.
Forget about anyone else telling you how to proceed. That is how you got where you are today. Your task now is to activate the part of your self that decides how you want to live, and then work to make your choices into reality.
A heads-up: If you start writing your own script, you may face disapproval for at least some of the choices you make. So in learning to construct a life that gives you meaning and fulfillment, you will also learn to manage your anxiety about disappointing others.
Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with gay individuals and couples in D.C. He can be found online at michaelradkowsky.com. All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to Michael@michaelradkowsky.com.