1. Depending on your age, go back 10, 15, 20, or even more years.
2. Tell us how many years back you have traveled and why.
3. Pretend you have met yourself during that era, and tell us where you are.
4. You only have one "date" with this former self.
5. Answer these questions.
Background Information: Numerous online friends have commented about how "together" or "serene" I seem to be throughout my coming out as a gay man, the breakdown of my marriage and the tearing-apart of my family.
I would not want anyone to think that this has been easy!!! I can put all this into perspective only because I have survived a far more devastating crisis in my life. By comparison, my present drama is 'tiny taters.' I was very hesitant about posting about my experience as a young cancer patient as it is so highly personal. The life lessons I learned were profound and have affected every aspect of my life since then.
Okay, as we start, what year is it and how old are you?
I was 20 years old, 25 years ago in 1986. I had just been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. Throughout the next year, the cancer metastasized and was described as a "massive involvement." I would end up having numerous recurrences, radical surgeries, about four months of horrible treatments and every diagnostic test known to mankind. At the major, big-city cancer centre where I was being treated, my doctors told me that they had never had a patient with my type of advanced cancer who actually survived in the long term. (ie: they considered me to be terminally ill)
1. Would your younger self recognize you when you first meet?
Maybe not. Now, I'm over 25 pounds heavier* and with a face that's a lot more worn-out. Prior to my cancer, I was a fresh-faced blonde twink.... just a boy, really. *You've seen pics of me at present; just imagine how skinny I was!
2. Would your younger self be surprised to discover what you are doing job wise?
Yes! I was painfully shy at the time and could hardly conduct a one-on-one conversation. I would never have imagined that I would be speaking in front of large groups of people daily and loving it.
3. What piece of fashion advice would you give your younger self?
Stop wearing your old clothes from grade 10 and 11 and get some 'big boy' clothes! Try to find some clothes that fit; you have a fantastic, lean body so you should make the most of it.
4. What do you think your younger self is most going to want to know?
- That I would live to see my 21st birthday. It seemed an utter impossibility, then.
- That I would celebrate every birthday as a precious gift and that I would regard being allowed to grow older as a blessing.
- That I would graduate from university, have a successful career, get married, have and raise children and live to be middle-aged.
- That twenty years later, I would regard my cancer experience as the best thing that ever happened to me. I was extremely lucky to be so gravely ill at 21. Unlike an older person, my character was still malleable enough to be profoundly improved without me becoming embittered. Unlike a child, I was mature enough to fully appreciate the life-changing nature of the experience. (a therapist explained this to me) Unlike an older cancer patient, I would be able to benefit from this life-changing attitude for many decades to come.
- That surviving a life-threatening illness would be the largest factor in shaping the my character and my attitudes towards how I live my life. It taught me that except your health and the health of your family, there is NOTHING that is worth getting stressed-out about; everything else will work itself out.
- That after twenty-five years, I still think about my cancer experience every single day but in a positive way.
5. How would you answer your younger self's question?
What is the question? My answer to everything is usually "Yes!" I would tell him that life is wonderful and to seize every opportunity; say "yes" to every adventure and reasonable invitation which comes your way.
6. What would probably be the best thing to tell your younger self?
- I would tell him that he is an extremely handsome young guy with a perfect body. I didn't figure this out until decades later... at which point, sadly, I was not nearly so handsome.
- I would not tell him, "You are gay!!". I would ensure that he understood that there was a spectrum of sexuality from 100% straight and 100% gay and wherever you were on that spectrum, it was all okay.
- I would tell my younger self that his journey was meant to include getting married to a gorgeous, voluptuous woman (think Jayne Mansfield), being passionately in love with her (including physically) for many years, conceiving and then giving birth to and raising wonderful children. I am now on a quite a different and exciting journey but nothing will ever top the adventure of those early years.
- I would tell him that one's sexuality and attitudes towards it evolve constantly throughout your life and that is okay, too.
- I would tell him that in less than 15 years, Canada would grant full marriage rights to same-sex couples and full protections in every aspect of life.
7. What is something that you probably wouldn't tell your younger self?
I probably wouldn't tell him about all the pain and distress I caused my wife by coming out as gay in middle age and splitting apart my family. The dread of anticipating my present family crisis would have been terrible for a young person to have to live with.
8. What do you think will most surprise your younger self about you?
- That I am still alive in middle age. Despite the usual middle-aged health complaints and aches / pains, it would be a surprise to find out than I'm generally very fit and healthy.
- That I am very happy right at this moment, despite the major life crisis my family is going through.
- That I can be extremely sexy and an outrageous flirt, given the right audience.
9. What do you think will least surprise your younger self?
That my core values are exactly the same. I am the same calm, thoughtful, well-planned and highly responsible person who looks after his family and can always be counted on to do the right thing.
10. At this point in your life, would your younger self like to run into "you" from the future?
Yes!! I know I'd serve as an excellent role model for my younger self. I am a very good person to talk to as I'm an excellent listener and offer thoughtful, intelligent observations. I also can be very funny and, at times, outrageous.