Making your way through this cruel, confounding, ever-changing world is difficult. Something make you anxious this week, or any week? Lay it on me at [email protected]. I'm here to help you minimize the damage you will necessarily inflict on the world just by being alive.
So what's your problem?
I am newly 30, and feeling lost. I am pretty sure (ugh) I am gay, but have not come out—not for any fear of retribution, but I personally feel it is my business and mine only.
My real insecurity lies somewhere else at the moment. I have had the same best friends since grade school. Turning 30, they are all getting engaged or married or having kids. I am happy for them, truly. I want to be part of their new and exciting lives. But I am slowly circling the drain of being the only single friend left in a sea of couples. I have never really cared all that much, but I feel like now I am fighting a clock to find happiness, and that happiness exists only with a mate. I enjoy my single life and solitude, but I am feeling more and more out of place among the people whom I love the most. I feel like I cannot relate to them the same way anymore.
How can I be single in a world of coupledom without crippling anxiety? Is this normal when you turn 30? It doesn't help that parents are nagging, work is not as fulfilling as it once was, and I am longing for a drastic change in life but have no idea where to begin.
It is completely natural to feel anxious when all of your friends are coupling up, which they seem to be doing right on schedule. But I'd ask you to pause your churning mind for a moment and ask yourself one simple question: Whose schedule are you on? Do you want to be in a relationship because you're ready to explore life with another human being? Or do you want it because you're the only one who doesn't have it? Does your happiness truly depend on having a mate, or is it this year's iPhone?
It seems you were chugging along just fine on your own until recently. Your tension and malaise come from the dissonance between what you have and what you've been trained to think you need. I don't think you need to have a mate. Right now, in fact, I think you need to not have a mate. You've got some things to figure out. More on that later.
Does your happiness truly depend on having a mate, or is it this year's iPhone?
Here is one thing that is absolutely true: Your relationships with your friends are going to change. You are going to lose them to couples' nights, early parenthood, and playdates. They're going to make friends with their kids' friends' parents, and go to trivia nights, and all sorts of other Big Little Lies nonsense. Their relationships with each other will drift as well. You might get closer, but you probably won't. And that's okay.
They will seek out more of their kind, and you need to do the same. You are pretty sure you're gay, and I'm pretty sure you're right, because a) why even bring it up otherwise, and b) your criticism of your own Hamlet-esque indecision is some expert-level self-loathing. So, if we round "pretty sure I'm gay" up to "I'm gay," you're going to have to do what your friends are starting to do.
Andy, my man, you're going to need some other gay people in your life.
I can already hear you. "We won't necessarily have anything else in common." "It's just a small part of me, like my eye color." "My sexuality is nobody's business but mine." Sure! Yes! All of these things can be true, but you still need to get yourself some gay friends. I once said all of these things to myself. I met other gay folks and judged them more harshly than I would any other person. I went to bars and clubs and hated the music, and turned my back on them. God help me, I described myself on more than one occasion as "non-scene." I was an island in a sea of straight friends who were coupling up and settling down. I was measuring my life by someone else's yardstick, I was miserable and anxious, and I had the nerve to wonder why.
What you need right now is what I needed then: a support system that's made up of people who are going through the same things. You need to put some real effort into finding some fellow travelers. And you're in luck: You live in the future. There's no longer a need to stand in a bar and try to pick people up; there's an Internet now. You can find a march, or a craft workshop, or a book club, or any kind of social situation you're comfortable with. You can say you're going on Grindr to make friends and actually mean it. (Avoid Instagram, though. All the prominent gay accounts are guys showing off their abs and shoulders. Enough already, boys.)
I was measuring my life by someone else's yardstick, I was miserable and anxious, and I had the nerve to wonder why.
Other gay people are going to teach you how to live. Your straight friends have a well-worn path to follow. You don't. I'm a generation ahead of you, and the generation ahead of me was largely wiped out due to HIV/AIDS. The generations ahead of them couldn't live their lives freely. There are now, for the first time in history, large numbers of openly gay men reaching middle age. Some are getting married and having kids. Some are acting as active godfathers and uncles to friends' kids. Some are staying single and avoiding children's birthday parties all through their lives. You can do it any way you want.
We are pushing past the heteronormative ideal of settling down and having kids at age 30. You might do just what your straight friends are doing, and you might not. You might date up a storm throughout your life and develop a unique kind of support system that carries you into old age. We are all making it up as we go along, and in many cases it's actually working out pretty well.
It is new territory, and you're not going to find your way through it with a map of the Old World.
You and your old friends will always share a history. You'll also share a future, though it will look different than what you're used to. They will always feel like home to you, just as you will to them. That's good. Don't let go of it. But do loosen your grip. Because the thing about home is that someday you have to leave it.
Send any and all questions (besides math questions) to [email protected].
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.