Better late than never

Better late than never
Name: Sam Bays
Pronouns: He/Him
Instagram: Sbaysokc

Honestly, I’m not quite sure how to even start this or what exactly I should say. I doubt too much that I write here is even out of the ordinary, but that doesn’t make any easier for me to share.

I grew up in a small Texas town, outside Dallas. Like many small towns, you were expected to look a certain way, act a certain way, think a certain way, and feel a certain way. Being different was bad, plain and simple.

I was the oddball that wore Dr Martens, a black leather biker jacket, had my ears pierced (both, which was uncommon for guys in the 80’s) and listened to dance music. Despite that I managed to fit in for the most part and be popular enough. I was on the student council and dated one girl for over a year in high school.

Fitting in for the most part didn’t end all the speculation, so there was still the occasional name calling and bullying. I tried to not let it bother me, but in hindsight, I was internalizing it and holding in that pain and those feelings. I’m a guy and it was small town Texas, that’s what you do, right?

Outside of the one girl I mentioned, I only occasionally dated in high school. It just never seemed to be a big priority for me and I was always uncomfortable approaching girls (did I mention I’m also an introvert), which carried over into college. While a freshman in college I was introduced to a friend’s coworker, who would eventually become my wife of close to 15 years (divorced now for 10 years) and mother to my two children.

I’ll skip ahead a bit and summarize that after college I got into various sales positions in heavily male dominated industries, specifically the last 15 years in professional sports. While sports has certainly gotten more inclusive and accepting over the years, what is said publicly for purpose of bringing in revenue isn’t exactly always lived up to behind the scenes.

While trying to always fit into a certain mold of what I always thought life was supposed to be and who I was supposed to be, I was suppressing and denying the anxieties and depression I was living with (and not cooping with well mind you).

At a point in my life where I had very few friends and had gained a lot of weight, I found my love of running. I was finally meeting new people and making new friends, something I had not done much of in my adult life. I lost the weight and was becoming more comfortable with myself, but I still didn’t feel right or necessarily happy. I tread water in that stage for a long time until I finally told myself I needed to seek help.

I had recently changed jobs and moved to a new state. The pressure and anxiety I was feeling from all the newness was too much. I felt I was on the edge of a complete meltdown so I started seeing a therapist and taking medication for my anxiety and depression.

While I’m absolutely not there yet and have a long way to go in my mental health, I feel so much more clarity and at ease with myself than I did prior. With that clarity also comes further self understanding of who I am. Those feelings of trying to fit in, be who I was supposed to be, love who I was supposed to love were part of (or one of the causes of) my anxiety and depression. I was trying to be who everyone wanted me to be and deep down I was too scared to be anything but.

In addressing my issues, I’ve come to understand what I always sort of knew but was too afraid to even admit to myself. I do not fit into that mold I felt everyone wanted me to. While I am not by definition a gay man, I am not by definition a straight man either. Whether it’s Bi, Pan, Ace, or whatever, I don’t think the label matters or that just one fits all the time. At least I don’t anymore. I am me and that’s all that really matters.

Despite that, even as I write this, I still feel somewhat hypocritical since I am not fully open with everyone about everything. I still fear potential ridicule in my profession. I still experience anxiety in that someone reading this will judge me for not coming to my realization much earlier in life. A couple of years ago these fears and anxieties would have been paralyzing for me. No way in hell would I have written any of this even a year ago. I’m getting there though. I continue to grow. My story is still being written and I am for once excited to read the next chapter.