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Monday, March 29, 2010

Up in the Air

The Wanderings and Delusions of a Gay Mormon Missionary

A perfect combination of anxiety and aspiration fill an airport. Only so many places inspire such a range of emotions and pull together people from so many different walks of life.

Living in Utah my entire life (and having traveled only to half of the bordering states), I wasn’t sure what to expect. Moments earlier, I said the last goodbyes to my parents. They seemed less concerned than I’d expected to see their middle son jetting off to some other continent.

I would soon become the first to leave the country and the first to speak another tongue—only the earliest of many.

The goodbyes were somewhat different from what I’d expected. We stood there for a few moments looking at each other. It had all run though our minds multiple times. Father was supposed to offer his patriarchal words of wisdom. Mother was supposed to be in tears by the time he concluded with a resounding “We love you and we’re so proud of you.” My brothers were supposed to say “We miss you.” and “We look up to you.” I was supposed courageously make my way to the plane and confidently disappear into the crowded terminal.

mom hug

We were never the cookie-cutter family. Mother and father had gone through this before a decade earlier, and my brothers were visibly ready for lunch at some nice restaurant on the way home from the airport. That said, it was tender in it’s own right.

“Are you ready?” my father asked.

“I’ve had 19 years to prepare, Dad. I’m ready.”

“Okay then. Have you got your ticket? Your passport? Instructions?”

“They’re all right here in the pouch, Mom.”

“Alright,” she said, “give everybody a hug and we’ll let you go.”

They lined up for their hugs.

“It’s not as hard as you think,” Allen assured me.

“You’ll have fun,” Darin, then 14, told me.

“We’ll miss ya,” Father said as doubt started to enter my heart as to whether this was really happening.

It was.

Mother’s direct “We love you” proved to be the seal on the envelope of reality.

“I love you, too”—words I’ve only uttered two other times in my life. Then, I shuffled my way off with a comic amount of luggage over my shoulders. Making my way through the labyrinthine security lines, I paused and thought just how crazy this all was.

labyrinth

Those goodbyes would last me two years. How could I compare that to half of high school or the time I’d spent my friendship with Bronson and Arthur. I thought of it in terms of loss rather than gain: I could have a nephew that talks by the time I get back. Everything will be so different.

It was done now. There was no turning back. What sense was there in wasting a ticket to Brazil. Intuitively, I knew I was strong enough for what lay ahead of me, but doubt always played in my thought. The best thing for me to do at that time was make my way to the gate and sit down.

Approaching the gate, I realized there was already another missionary there. Perhaps a future companion? Someone I’d spend my days reminiscing with years later? Maybe he’s going somewhere else?

Without hesitation, I introduced myself. He’s got to be feeling the same thing, I thought. “Hi there. I’m Elder GMB.”

“Hi, I’m Nate,” he said. He didn’t seem nearly as afraid as I did. It was as if he wasn’t feeling the pressure at all. He was along for the ride. I puzzled over that Did he seriously just say Nate? as I examined his nametag labeled “Elder Rockefeller.” I neurotically wondered, Is that even allowed?

4 comments:

Phunk Factor said...

Travelling internationally for the first time and that too alone can be abit overwhelming!! :)

naturgesetz said...

I guess it's one of the advantages and disadvantages of being the second or younger brother, that It's not the first time for your parents when you do something your older brother has done. So it's not so exciting/traumatic/stressful for your parents as the first time. But for you it is the first time. So inevitably it's a bigger deal for you than for them.

green and purple said...

Um, forgive me if this is inappropriate to ask, but what struck me most about this post was your comment that you said "I love you, too" for only the second time in your life. Did you family not show their love or just not verbalize it? If that's too personal please delete this.

A Gay Mormon Boy said...

@ Phunk Factor: It was pretty stressful, but I had good company. I'll write about that for Monday.

@naturgesetz: That's exactly right. Everything seems a bit more normal. A bigger part of tradition and culture following in my brother's footsteps.

@green and purple: This is a really interesting question. The truth is my family's never really been vocal about that or particularly affectionate. I don't remember my parents ever kissing (they're still married and all) and saying things like "I love you" always came off as something incredibly personal/sacred at that point in my life.

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