It's hard to say where the beginning really is with all of this, but I could use some direction. To summarize the past couple years, I made the mistake of not finishing my education, and went straight into a tech support job. It paid well, and I lived well for a couple of years, but the job fell through in a way in which I can't go back. I sought out a different direction and moved in with someone I'd fallen in love with, but that fell through rather painfully and abruptly as well. I ended up with no money, a single local friend, no job prospects, on the opposite end of the country from my family and support system, utterly heartbroken. This was a little under a decade ago, and I'm still picking up the pieces.
I've managed to financially survive almost entirely on the love of my parents, and the pity of my friends. I'd held a few jobs for a few months, and moved in with my best friend from high school who is in the Navy. Unfortunately, after doing so, I was unable to find a job for a little over two years. Understandably, this has killed whatever confidence and self-respect I'd had, which I've always had a problem with. I have since found some seasonal employment, and work as a waiter at the moment, but I can barely make ends meet, and my mountain of debt continues to grow as I can't put anything into it. It's felt like I've been little more than a leech for the past decade.
Another constant stress is the fact that I'm Christian, I'm bi, and the person I'd fallen in love with and moved in with was another man. Unfortunately everywhere I seem to turn I am condemned for my "choice". Condemned for being bi by my fellow Christians, condemned for my Christianity by my fellow furries and much of the lgbt community. It pains me to see people waving signs of hatred toward each other and realizing I'm a member of both groups.
When things fell apart with the man I'd loved, I sought guidance from the Christian preachers and counselors around me, and the response was almost always "This is God punishing you for being romantically involved with another man." with the occasional "I don't think that's what God wants in your life." I've nearly stopped going to church by now, and never bring up my sexuality anymore with anyone connected to the church, though I try to live by the tenets of compassion, generosity, and forgiveness that I've been taught. The main problem with this is that my roommate is a homophobe, so I do my best to keep him from recognizing my sexuality. I know he'd try to accept it, but I don't think he has it in him to do so. I'm constantly terrified that he'll find out, and be so uncomfortable with it that he'll tell me we can't be roommates anymore. I have no other real options for where to live right now. To top it all off, my father passed away recently, and my mother is preparing to move into a retirement home. The pain of losing him still brings me to tears from time to time, and I'm horrified to realize that it essentially means I can't even move back in with my mother as she can barely support herself right now. I'm stuck here, and I have to make it work.
If there is a silver lining in all of this, it's that the seasonal work I'd done was with Sea World, and it's awakened a passion within me for training dolphins. I'm just a scuba certification away from being qualified to be one, though I'm far from the ideal applicant. Still, being at the side of the pool, seeing my dolphin 'friends' pick me out of a crowd, come up to greet me and play with me, and sharing that experience with the people around me, has become my greatest source of sanity and comfort I've known. I know that I have a long and difficult road to becoming a trainer, and that the chances are slim that I'll be able to pull it off at all, but I know that every trainer there faced the same odds, the same problems (and sometimes worse) that I face, and didn't back down. That inspires me to continue down that path.
I guess to summarize again, I have a mountain of debt, no education, limited real world skills, am terrified that my sexuality will become public, and lack any confidence in my own ability to make any of it work. I'm not sure what I can contribute to this world, if I even can at all. I could just use some tools to help me muddle through all of this and try to make some sense of it, and some encouragement that following this dream of mine is worthwhile. I'd love the support of people who've gone through something similar to what I've been through, and I'm sure there are hundreds of similar stories among the fandom and lgbt community. Some connection with a religious group that doesn't condemn my sexuality would also be wonderful. I've started some volunteer work with a wildlife rehabilitation group, which not only will help me feel like I'm contributing to this world, but also hopefully help me make some connections in the animal care and training circles. Mostly I need hope, and someone who can tell me "You have it in you to do this, keep going." I'm tired of hearing the opposite echoing through my head all the damn time.
Thank you for your time,
* * *
I am sorry for your difficulties, but you, unlike many furries who write to me, have a beautiful possibility in your life.
Twilight—for the love of all that is good and right in the universe, Papabear encourages you to do EVERYTHING you can to finish your training so that you can work at Sea World as a dolphin trainer. What a wonderful thing that would be!!! I must confess, I’m a little jealous of you :-) You have an amazing opportunity here!
What you need to do now is focus on one thing at a time. When a person feels overwhelmed by a laundry list of troubles (money, love, family, job, school, friends etc. etc.) you become paralyzed. It is too much to handle all at once, so what people tend to do is freeze and do nothing, like a small animal trapped in a corner surrounded by predators.
You may find, though, that if you start fixing one part of your life, other parts will follow. Let us say that everything goes well at Sea World. You get your SCUBA certification and you get hired as a full-time dolphin trainer. As you work on this (and I would devote myself heart and soul to a job like that, if I were you, and I think you’d agree), then, eventually, you will find your money worries starting to ease. You would gain self-respect and confidence because you are doing such a positive thing in your life.
Once you start feeling better about yourself, you will begin to realize that people like those so-called Christians don’t know what the f--- they are talking about. They are just haters. Haters suck, especially those that don the holier-than-thou robes of the self-righteous. Ignore them. You have value, you have worth.
Same goes for those who try to make you feel bad or discriminate against you for your sexuality. If they can’t deal with who you are, too bad for them. They are missing out on the opportunity to know a good person in their lives. As Papabear always says, distance yourself for the haters and negative people in your life, and find people in your life who will love and support you. This is an ongoing process and takes time, but there are plenty of people out there who would be happy to know a cool dolphin trainer who happens to be bi. I know I would.
As for your sorrow losing your father, well, Papabear is sorry for that. We have all lost loved ones in our lives, and there is nothing much that can be said. You will have your time of mourning, but, again, you need to continue with your life and find new joys in the future. The pain will ease somewhat, but your life can remain rich having known the love of your father.
* * *
I want to thank you for you kind words. I will admit to feeling uneasy as I read them, as I often do when I get compliments. Even now, facing this again, I find myself sitting slightly numb in front of the computer, wanting to switch windows or not type at all. But I know that you meant them from the heart, and so I will honor that by allowing them to sink in. It is indeed such a wonderful possibility before me, and in the light of that, the other parts don't quite seem so bad. This does not mean, of course, that I should be frivolous with my money or that it's the most appropriate time to 'come out'; my time on the other side of the country has taught me to be careful with my plans. It does mean, though, that I have something to look forward to. I'm not just trying to make myself feel better with escapist dreams of training dolphins, it is a goal that I will not give up on. It is a worthy goal.
I will focus on one thing at a time, yes. Scuba certification, and fill my time working on being a better swimmer. So, yeah, y'know, two things, but still... ;3 I actually had my first true volunteer shift working with animals yesterday, and got to feed some fledgling swallows, mockingbirds, and finches by hand. I caught myself feeling down earlier in the week, thinking that it was a silly dream that I wouldn't follow through with, until I started listing what I've done, and the path I'm on. I've never volunteered before, now I'm volunteering with animals. I'm taking a break from my weekly outings to save up for the certification. I'm studying the psychology and lingo of training in my spare time. Every action is a step closer. And, if you would like, I would be happy to share the milestones with you. You've certainly helped so far.
I will also admit that I find it hard to condemn people, even the ones who condemn me. I can't just dismiss them or ignore them; in fact, I feel bad for them. They're people who are making a mistake, and as hard-headed as they may be in stubbornly clinging to that mistake, there is the potential for them to see the errors of their ways, and for them to heal the pain that they cause. Maybe I just have a soft heart, or watched too many Hallmark Christmas specials, but when part of me thinks "These people cannot truly be saved, they don't even want to be," another part of me is saying "No, you're the one giving up on them. You can't do that. There are people who never give up on you." Ironically, I think its my own Christian upbringing that instills that in me, the desire to forgive the same Christians that condemn me for my sexuality. Maybe you can offer a bit of insight on this, as I seem to be a bit stuck at that part. I won't dismiss them, but I feel like I can't change it either, so I feel stuck just taking their anger, and I know that can't be healthy. It feels like there's some simple step here that I'm missing, some basic principle I can't quite reach because I'm stuck feeling sorry for myself, and I'd really like to reach that next step. I'm just not sure what it is.
In closing, I may splurge a bit, either once I've attained my certification or just before, and pick up something from Sea World. A small figurine, snow globe, or perhaps a necklace pendant. Something I can look at and say "I've found my bravery, my strength, and my resolve." Thank you, Papabear, for helping me to find it.
* * *
I'm so glad to help. Again, don't worry about everything at once, but focus as much as possible on your work with dolphins. Also, talk to your bosses there and ask them for guidance. Tell them what your goals are and ask them how you can best achieve them.
As for the negative people in your life, Papabear may have been too dramatic. You don't necessarily have to cut them out of your life, and you don't have to stop loving them or having sympathy for them. What I was trying to say is that they are doing you psychological and spiritual harm, and your first priority at this time in your life needs to be protecting yourself and your sanity so that you can be a healthier person. Only then can you have the strength to then turn around and help others. It is like those safety drills they do on airplanes before a flight when they tell you that if the oxygen masks drop you FIRST put on your mask before assisting others. Same deal.
I wish you luck and love,
Twilight, on the church front there are many options for non-straight folk these days. Many mainline denominations are welcoming. The Metropolitan Community Church is a Christian church that was founded for LGB folk. Even though I'm not Christian I've gone from time to time just to be in a gay spiritual place.
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