By Chris Heide
What happens when you say yes to life? To a single moment that may alter the course of your future? Do you engage in fear or embrace the possibilities in front of you? The last four days have been somewhat revolutionary in my life. Let me paint you a picture.
It’s the 4th of July and I am exhausted from working 70 hours in 8 days. I fully intend to not celebrate; have a quiet evening of watching TV. Surely, my inherent “fear of missing out” would be in full force, but my level of exhaustion made me less likely to care.
That very second, as I walk into the door of my trendy, yet understated Seattle apartment, I receive a text from my friend. He’s asking me to come to a sober BBQ in a town about 20 minutes outside of Seattle. Maybe my level of exhaustion prevented me from concocting an excuse to get out of the invitation, because I instantly said yes.
I tell my friend that I am going to take an hour to rest- I need to lay down, watch an episode of The Flash and eat something. After that, I will come (with the full intention of staying for maybe an hour). As a plop onto the couch, I decide to mindlessly scroll through my phone. Like so many gay men, I decide to check Grindr in my moment of boredom. Through a sea of headless torsos and toxic masculinity, I notice a profile I haven’t seen before. On the guy’s profile is the following headline.
“I don’t drink or do drugs.”
Given that I am 5.5 years sober, this immediately catches my attention. It’s rare for me to find another gay man, who is my age, who also doesn’t drink or do drugs. Given that it’s Seattle, “I don’t drink or do drugs” seems to mean “I still smoke weed-” not the brand of recovery to which I subscribe.
I decide to message him as The Flash plays mindlessly in the background. Typically, Grindr is often an endless loop of dead-end conversations. I sometimes wonder why I even have the app.
“Hey! How’s your 4th going?” I messaged.
The cute boy decides to message me back almost immediately. We strike up a pleasant enough conversation as I begin to get ready for my friend’s BBQ. After about 5 minutes, the boy sends me another message. He tells me that he doesn’t have any 4th of July plans and wants to know if I’d like to do something. Normally, I wouldn’t instantly say yes to this kind of thing. However, given our instant connection of sobriety, I decide to do something different. I ask him to join me at the BBQ. And so begins our adventure.
On the drive over, the boy and I exchange the kind of small talk you’d expect when meeting someone for the first time. Through the course of the 20-minute drive, I learn that my date for the evening has been sober for over a decade, is my age, and is about to start a new adventure by attending law school on the east coast. He is someone who speaks about recovery in the same way I speak about recovery. His sense of adventure is entirely infectious.
The sober BBQ ended up exceeding my expectations; an evening of awe-inspiring fireworks on an idyllic and almost magical compound in this quiet town outside of Seattle. The location of the BBQ was almost unbelievable. The evening was filled with those fireworks, a live band, a yurt, and a breathtaking meditation labyrinth. Not your typical 4th of July party. It was an evening primed to encourage a sense of connection with the people around you.
This is where the story begins. After that night, I spent as much time with that boy as possible. Knowing that our time was limited, I decided to embrace the possibility of the present moment. It was almost pointless to get caught up in any sort of future- tripping. The boy was leaving Seattle on Sunday and I just wanted to spend as much time with him as possible.
All I know is that I was open to connecting with another individual and this opportunity was given to me. By being present, I was fully able to experience an adventure with someone to whom I felt a connected. I didn’t know why the connection felt so unique and pure, but I also realized that it was not my job to question it. It was only my job to lean into it and embrace the possibility of our finite time together.
Over the course of three days, I spent as much time as possible with him. We had adventures around Seattle, got lost in nature and shared stories from our hilariously complicated pasts. Two people, just being present, vulnerable and open.
Suddenly, I was struck with a moment of clarity. I realized that this is something that I had been seeking for a long time- to just connect in a meaningful way. In the wasteland that is the Seattle gay dating pool, I have felt myself become almost jaded and closed off. Instead of trying to assert my control over my dating situation, I decided to embrace possibility and let this narrative write itself.
Now, this is real life and not some kind of movie where everything wraps up magically at the end of the story. But that’s the beauty of this story- there is no ending. Only a possibility of beginning.
During my interactions with him, I realized that I had been cheating myself of fully engaging in the many adventures that life has to offer. Too often have I let fear keep me from saying “yes” to new experiences and moments. By having no expectation, I could allow this narrative to unfold as it was meant to, rather than trying to exert control of the situation. When time becomes limited, the ability to be present is a rare and precious gift. One that must be treasured and embraced.
After that whirlwind weekend I realized that I once again, for the first time in a long time, saw the possibilities of my future as more meaningful than the stagnant stability to which I have been chained. I have a reignited passion for continuing my education. To travel more. To experience more. When we allow ourselves to be open and to connect without fear, the possibilities become endless. Maybe this experience is a turning point in my life. Perhaps it just taught me a lesson I had forgotten. Either way, I am more aware and infinitely open to the possibilities that my future holds.