“So now what?” my therapist asked me last week when I finished telling him about coming out to my parents. I know what his answer was… as a gay man and a practicing psychologist, he finds it unfathomable that I am still at a grad school where certain professors will waste 15 minutes of class time talking about how God hit them “with everything terrible at once” when they were afflicted with a lesbian witch for a client. I know that I wasn’t the only one in class who had difficulty discerning if he was taking about a lesbian client who also practiced Wicca, or if that was just his phrase of choice for women who like other women.

“Unacceptable!” my therapist rants, “it’s just not even a question in my mind that you shouldn’t be there!” But then he catches himself, remembers that therapists aren’t supposed to be quite as directive as that, and suggests that we should openly acknowledge that he is going to have a hard time staying neutral on the subject.

So when he asks me what comes next, I know what his answer is. I am just not certain what my own is. It seems that everything over the past six months has been building up to telling my parents… from my first tentative admission to A in a Peruvian coffee shop last summer that “I might not be straight,” to building up the courage to face everyone from my pastor to my best friend, everything was headed to this moment. And now I am here, and I am not quite sure what to do next. It feels a bit like taking a huge exam you studied and studied for, and then not quite knowing what to do with all your energy anymore, now that it’s not channeled in that one direction. Except, I actually don’t feel like I have much energy at all lately, so that can’t be the exactly right analogy.. but it’s definitely something like that.

“Are you really alright, honey?” my dad just asked me on the phone, his sweet, unexpected concern moving me to tears. “Yeah,” I said, “I think I am.” “Well keep on being alright, then, okay?” I agreed, and as I did I could not help but thinking of the girls I worked with at an adolescent residential care facility last year. No matter who got sent back to juvenille hall, or who collapsed in tears because their parents missed yet another visit, they would always remind each other to “keep on keeping on.”

And I think that’s what it is time for me to start remembering, because the past few months have been a sprint to purge my life of inauthenticity and muster the courage to tell my friends and family, pastors and professors, that at least in this one area, I, having spent a lifetime meeting other people’s expectations for me, will simply not be able to deliver.

So now the sprint is over, and it seems that having always wanted to run an actual marathon, I have unknowingly signed up for a metaphorical one. Because, as my roommate put it a while back, with plenty of passion and not nearly as much tact: “you’re so young… so young for a lifetime of pain.” And while that’s definitely more than a little dramatic, and not exactly how I would choose to look at it at all, she is right in the respect that I will have challenges to face in ways I could never begin to anticipate. Whether I choose to stay at the seminary, or to transfer a few miles down the street where respect for sexual diversity is explicitly included in their program description, there will always be people I have to explain myself to… there will always be expectations for who I am and who I will love that I will simply not be able to meet.

I think that’s alright, though. I think that, at least for now, I am alright too.