Good morning, Starshine, the earth says hello! This is the fourth stage of my series, “7 Stages of Coming Out” — stories of my grappling with sexuality and communicating it with others, although this one isn’t exactly the same type of “coming out” as the others. You can read the three previous stages over hurr and hurr.
4. Coming Out of the Country
This is . . . Farringdon. The next station is . . . Barbican. This is a Metropolitan line train to . . . Aldgate.
Please mind the gap between the train and the platform.
MIND. THE GAP! MIND. THE GAP!
Coming out of the underground station made me feel like a kid visiting Disneyland for the very first time. Strolling through cobbled streets with my cute blue hardshell suitcase, backpack, and fluffy neck pillow, I was in an utter state of fascination.
Passing through red brick buildings, Victorian houses, double-decker buses, and little alleyways that felt like the world of Harry Potter, I saw everything as brand new. I couldn’t draw any similarities with the city from where I’d just flown.
I was in London. And I wasn’t just visiting; I was going to live here!
It was an unfamiliar city on the other side of the world, and not one soul knew who I was and what I was about. And I did not care. For the first time in my life I felt free, unrestricted to do anything and be anything I wanted to be.
What will I do? Where will I go? Where will God take me? Who’s God again? Who . . . am I even? Will I still be a Christian? Will I get a British boyfriend, get married, live in a Downton Abbey-esque manor house with our two lil corgays and live happily ever after?
It was my final year of university — a year after I’d come out to myself and the same year I came out to my mom and dad. I was on #TheCrossroadsOfDestiny ending a huge chapter of my life and entering into the #RealWorld and at the same time just starting to navigate my identity and sexuality.
Looking at my new embarkment, I just wanted to run away. I felt like I was already carrying so much baggage in my life that I had no more capacity to move forward. I just wanted to run away and drop all of it.
Depression seemed to be the norm of my everyday life, since I could remember. Shame and condemnation were my two best friends, rooting deeper and deeper into my whole being.
I mean, who am I even? Who am I beyond the shame of this gayness I see standing in front of the mirror? Who am I beyond this irking gayness I hear when I listen to my own voice? Who am I beyond the guilt of this gayness I feel seeing all these cute boys walking around the campus?
What is life? What is life beyond this condemnation that I feel about my sexuality? What is life beyond this sadness and loneliness — all for giving up a happily-ever-after future with a loving husband, just to give a glimmer of appeasement to a God who detests my whole abominable being in the first place?
Who is God? Who is that God who has supposedly created my inmost being yet abhors me at the same time? The one who is supposed to be praised for He has wonderfully created me?
Where is Jesus? That loving Jesus who is there for the weary? The one on whom I’m supposed to cast my heavy burdens?
Is there anything else in the world beside this feeling and this environment?
Pause, because that was dramatic AF hunny.
Okay, we’re back.
I had to come out, and not just out of the closet. I needed to leave the house, the city, or better yet — the country!
I NEED. TO RUN. AWAY.
I’d always wanted to travel and explore the world. For countless nights I’d scrolled through my Tumblr feed, looking through pictures of places in Europe, wishing I could be there someday. I binge-watched YouTube videos of those new British vloggers, trying to live out someone else’s life through a screen.
I’d lie atop the roof of our house, staring at the sky, watching aeroplanes pass by, dreaming one day I’d be in one of those planes too, and half-wishing I’d just fall off the roof. That would be a good escape, too.
When I shared my dreams of traveling with the people around me, I was met with pessimism and practicality. They were right; coming from a third-world country, it would be tremendously difficult for me to travel around the world.
Starting salaries aren’t even enough for daily living, let alone plane tickets and holiday adventures. Plus, I’d require a visa to visit most countries, needing to go through a rigorous application process, providing bank records with savings I wouldn’t be able to accrue for years.
So, I guess the dream would just need to stay on my screen.
One day, whilst walking down a university hall, I saw a poster:
Do an internship in Switzerland and earn 2,500 Francs per month!
“Eureka!” my lil gay boy mind said. “I’m going to do this internship in Switzerland and yodel around Europe whilst earning money. This is going to be my escape ticket!”
Suddenly, those dreams of traveling were now a possibility! Sadly, I didn’t even get a call back from that Switzerland internship. I was again met with scepticism from the people around me, saying that I was basically competing with applicants from the rest of the world.
It would be hard, and the chances of achieving my dream were very, very slim. My barely passing grades and lack of experience wouldn’t cut it.
Three months into another application process, I was able to prove those people wrong. I got a call back from a company in Amsterdam. I took an exam and passed. I went through the first interview and the second interview.
The next thing I knew, I was offered the job.
The dream was turning into reality! I envisioned myself cruising the canals and having a cute lil apartment by the water. I started planning my trips to other European cities and did research on the top things to see and the most exciting things to do.
Unfortunately, my visa process didn’t pull through, and the offer was rescinded. I was met with more gloom from the people around me (take note of my purposeful deviation from the word “friends”), saying that it would be hard for me to get a visa anywhere with a third-world passport.
Still, I was determined to accomplish my dream.
A couple months later, I got another job offer, this time in Germany. I was again filled with faith and excitement as I started my visa process. This was going to be it! I started learning German and even began moving preparations, buying a cute blue suitcase. I had faith that it was going to happen.
Well, that blue suitcase did not see the light of day for a while; once again, my visa process did not pull through.
Pause, because sad is lyfe.
A year had passed since I’d started applying for these internships — one of the driest seasons in my life.
I started applying for full-time corporate jobs, thinking I needed to start moving on with my life to accept reality for what it was. In all my interviews I unintentionally started talking about my dreams of traveling. I’m sure that didn’t help.
I also started doing little side-jobs to keep myself busy, making websites for friends and small businesses. In one of these projects, I met a person who’d done the same international internship program I was interested in. She talked about all the places she’d been and all the things she’d experienced.
From that single minute of small talk, I said I was going to try one last time. I agonisingly gave it my last stretch and just clicked on everything I could apply for.
One month later, I was in London ready to start my internship!
Since I stepped out of that underground station, the depression, suicidal thoughts, and negative self-image all went away, one by one. I literally went from being hopeless, helpless, and pointless to bright-eyed and full of excitement and anticipation.
As I’m telling this story now and reflecting, sitting at a coffee shop minutes away from that same underground station where I first came out, I’m actually just now asking myself what really occurred during that period.
How did it all happen?
London wasn’t actually the cause; as cheesy as it sounds, it was God.
London isn’t this perfect dreamland. I’d say it’s actually one of the saddest and loneliest places in the world, and I would be running away again to a different place if it weren’t for God.
Looking back, God’s presence has actually been here with me since day one. From finding the right flat or making me miss the bus on my first day to work because an important document had fallen from my bag, to slightly pushing me to join a church, even though all I’d wanted was to rebel.
Looking further back, he was also there with me during that agonising year of failures and rejections — contrary to the belief of the Daniel living that year out. He was there in the waiting, giving me the strength to push further, one step at a time, taking courage amidst the setbacks and failures.
Going beyond all that, God was also there with me every time I hung out on that rooftop. Not letting me fall, quietly whispering through those aeroplane trails that he already had a flight path for me. That he was going to take me through seasons upon seasons of restoration — that it had already begun, even.
The solution didn’t have to be London or Europe. My obsession for escape was actually a hidden desire for answers towards hope, for Jesus.
I needed to get to know who God actually is beyond the bad decisions of my parents and the frailties of the Christian culture I grew up in.
It was about owning and venturing into my own relationship with Jesus without any distractions.
Even though I’ve moved to the other side of the world, the biggest change that’s made an impact has been my perception. My perception of how God is working and continually working and answering all those questions I asked and, in turn, my perception of myself.
Publishing this post, it’s now the beginning of a new decade. I wanted to tell that whole backstory because I just want to encourage someone today.
If you’ve read this blog to the end and feel like you’re in the same place — feeling trapped, having all those questions in your mind, not knowing anything but sadness and depression, feeling like you have no more capacity to move forward —
I just want to give you a loving reminder.
He is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. And just like his message to the Israelite exiles, he reveals himself to those who seek him, bringing people out of captivity.
Psalm 34:8-18 —
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Jeremiah 29:13-14 —
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”
This is how I learned two very basic and fundamental truths. That even when you really can’t see or feel it in the moment . . .
God is good, and you are loved!
Have you ever felt the desire or need to leave? Did God provide a way out, or are you still searching for that way currently?