Birthdays, even ones that aren't particularly monumental, always instigate personal reflection. And just so you know, I'm writing this column on my 27th birthday.
What I've come to realize through my birthday introspection, is that for the better part of my life, I had been consumed with my sexuality - plagued by it. I felt alone. Isolated. I wasn't sure of my various identities, both sexual and otherwise. I wasn't sure what I wanted out of a partner or even which gender I wanted to date.
The first time I had sex with a woman was a decade ago, and the first time I had sex with a man was five years ago. Back then, I didn't think it was possible to be the man I am today: openly attracted to all genders. Now, at the ripe, young(ish) age of 27, I'm not only open about my attractions, but also have dedicated my life to discussing the various complexities of sexually fluid identities. In fact, bi.org notified me today on Twitter (follow me at Zacharyzane) that I've written nearly 80 articles for them alone!
This is not where I thought I'd be 10 years ago, or even three years ago. Three years ago I was still working as a smoking cessation researcher and counselor at Massachusetts General Hospital. I had finished taking the GREs, and was planning to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology in the fall.
I always liked studying and working in psychological research. I find the human brain fascinating, and think that humans are without a doubt the weirdest creatures on the planet.
But part of the reason I liked psychology as much as I did, was because it offered me a very concrete life path. The unknown scared me, but with a degree in psychology, the next 40 years of my life were mapped out. I finish undergrad majoring in psych. I work as a research coordinator at a lab for two years following graduation. I get into graduate school, where I study for another six years. Then I do a brief post-doc and enter a lab as a researcher towards the bottom. I work my way up through the ranks, until about 25 years from now, I am the director of my own lab. Then I can really focus on the research that I would like to investigate.
I loved how straightforward my path was.
But there was one thing in particular that allowed me to divert from the career track I had chosen for myself - the thing I had been preparing for with internships and research projects over the past six years. I realized and embraced my bisexuality.
On the surface, the two may not seem to relate, and that's probably why I didn't see the connection before. However, when I embraced my attraction to all genders, two things occurred. For one, I finally had a sense of understanding, certainty, and autonomy over my own identity - something I never felt my entire life. Because of this, the need to have control over other aspects of my life, like my career, no longer felt as salient.
But secondly, and more importantly, when I embraced my sexuality I became more comfortable with ambiguity. After claiming the bi label, I knew that my life wasn't going to be what I thought it was, and it definitely wasn't going to be traditional.
Being bi, I learned to embrace the uncertainty of what may come with my romances. Still today, I can't tell you if I want to marry a man or woman. I can't tell you if I'll want to have a polyamorous relationship where I date and love multiple people of various genders. I really can't tell you anything about how my future relationships will look.
But you know what? I'm okay with that.
And being okay with that has allowed me to accept other uncertain aspects of my life. It gave me the courage to break away from a very clear path and instead, to pursue writing: my true life calling.
It's also a career, as everyone knows, that's supremely volatile. I have been fired from writing gigs for no apparent reason. I've had my pay cut from companies I've written dozens of articles for over the course of months. I've received more rejections from agents, editors, and publishing houses than I care to count.
To be honest, I have no idea where my career is taking me, just like I have no idea where my future romantic relationships will take me. But for the first time ever, I'm actually excited by the prospect of the unknown. I don't feel the crippling anxiety that used to accompany uncertainty.
So today, on my 27th birthday, I now know I would not be able to have the career I have or be the person that I am today if it wasn't for being bi. For that, I'm thankful.