Growing up, it seemed as though I was Mr. Courageous and Fun Loving. I was outgoing and loud at times and quiet and reserved at others. I was always comfortable, yet always refused to break the barriers of that comfort zone. I always had many friends and was surrounded by such an amazing family that I thought life was perfect; what could I possibly complain about? I was perfectly happy in my little bubble and settled myself down for a life of anything that I thought was achievable. I had no idea of my potential in executing what was really possible. What was underneath all that was a young man who was totally scared of being exposed. I loved the attention when people saw me for the act I was putting on, but as soon as I came close to revealing my true vulnerability, I crawled right back in to my hidden cave.
From when I was a little boy, I knew I was gay. I may not have been able to directly pinpoint it as a child, but I knew that there was something inside me that didn’t feel “normal.” So, to keep my façade credible, I chose to ignore it. I went to an all boys school, surrounded by such big, testosterone-driven personalities that I felt like I had to fit a mould. I would bully whomever it was cool to bully, just so people would notice me as someone who was confident and able to speak down to others. I had girlfriends, and lots of them. It was cool to dump girls and have a laugh with mates about it, and so I did exactly that. I called other boys ‘faggots’ and constantly made gay jokes. Ironically, at this point, I absolutely knew I was gay. I am still amazed at the power I had within myself to ignore it and convince myself that it wasn’t true – I liked girls and I would grow old with my own family – not with another man.
In my final year of school, this denial drove me to a point of utter madness. I was so trapped in a dark cell, and was so angry that I felt alone. Nothing about me was truly self-expressed. At the age of 16, I made a girl pregnant. As soon as this happened, I threw my arms in the air and gave up. I shoved the responsibility onto my parents as though it was their situation to deal with. In my mind, I was not equipped to deal with such an intense situation properly, so, true to my form, I ignored it. A small part of me was happy, because people would then know that I wasn’t gay. It was like the stamp on the envelope of lies that I lived. My mother and father took on the responsibility of dealing with the situation. They took the girl under their wing, supported her, supported me, and put all their personal morals aside just so that I remained happy. The pregnancy was terminated, and the truth of what happened did not impact me until years later. As I grew older and more mature, I was able to break a barrier and “came out” to my family and friends. Their attitudes towards me remained the same. I was still loved unconditionally. There was absolutely nothing to be scared of, yet I was still scared.
My attitude towards life was that it’s too hard. It’s dramatic and stressful. There’s too much pressure. To counter this, I became an independent person, who believed that to take on anyone else’s contribution was a sign of weakness. I had to be strong to get through all the insecurities that consumed me; my appearance, my ability, and who I was in my community. I was so resigned to a life complete with drama. Dramatic people create, attract and live for drama. Negative people create a world of unhappiness and cynicism. That is the exact road I was heading down. Being in that space, absolutely nothing was ever going to fully satisfy me.
When I completed the Landmark Forum, I was finally able to acknowledge my beautiful mother and amazing father for taking me on, supporting me and welcoming me into a world of love where being whoever I want to be is perfectly fine. The Landmark Forum opened my eyes up to the person whom I could be, and what actions I could take to make anything I want in my life possible. My best friends who requested me to do the Forum actually saved my life, and for this I am forever grateful.
I now smile everyday. My heart beats for my family. My love spreads throughout my beautiful friends. I see the beauty in this world. I see what is possible. I am surrounded by people who inspire me. My family and friends are the reason that I will stop at nothing to live a life that I absolutely love. I allow people to contribute to my life wherever possible. I am so happy and excited about where my life is taking me, and what is most important to me is that I am responsible for every single thing in my life. Wherever anything goes wrong or right, I have the power to alter my situation. That, to me, is the beauty of true self-confidence. Peter Cunningham (Brisbane, QLD)