*For longtime readers who were following the "Leaving The Fold" posts about my deconversion, I know I left ya'll hanging back in October. Since then things have "unfolded" enough for me to complete the series (for lack of a better word), which will conclude Friday. If you need to play catch up, read Parts 1, 2, & 3 HERE, HERE, and HERE.
I left a month late. The original plan was for me to play music for the youth choir until the the end of the year. But after a particularly good rehearsal before the second Sunday of December, the pastor's wife/choir director pulled me aside.
"Do you really feel you need to leave?" she asked in vulnerable tone, her face scrunched in confusion. "Yes?" I croaked meekly, the old feelings of guilt and remorse for what I was about to do welling up inside me. I kept hold of my composure, reeling off the reasons I needed to leave in my head as she went on to say things about the choir, my style of playing and how my whole resignation had left her with a bad feeling in her spirit. Then she spoke two sentences that stopped my mental train dead in its tracks.
"These kids love you. I love you." Under any other circumstance her words would have left me feeling warm and fuzzy. Instead they had all the force of a right hook to the gut. The truth was that she, like so many other people from my closeted days who are still in the dark, didn't know me at all. She was loving the exquisitely crafted illusion I presented to her. So when she (and in the past, family/friends/mentors etc.) said those words, which were sincerely heartfelt, it just rang hollow.
Anyone who's ever put on a front knows what I mean: hearing "I love you" seems almost as bad as hearing "I hate you," because not only have you succeeded in deceiving the person, they have grown fond of the deception and will be disappointed, shocked and hurt when faced with the messy humanity that is your true personality. Fortunately this hasn't always proven to be true in my life, but unfortunately, it sometimes has.
But back to the lecture at hand. She asked me if I could give her one more month to mull the decision over, and , perhaps not wanting to crack the illusion, I said yes. The next Sunday brought the by now familiar surge of mixed emotions--the general euphoria of performing bolstered by a sense of elation that the choir was sounding so great; the sadness that stirred in my stomach like a corrosive ulcer; the dread that she would expect an answer come the end of service; and the uncertainty of what my answer would be.
"I said would give you a month. So what have decided to stay or go?" she asked while I sat at the keyboard after benediction. I still can't remember if my response was "No," "I have to go" or some variation. For her part, there was no drama: she took the words in, nodded and hugged me, and said I was welcome to come back in the future.
And just like that, nearly a decade of hard work, frustration (at least on my part--getting kids to sing out ain't easy), fun and music-making was over. It was all....so anti-climatic. After the pastor had originally announced my departure back in November to audible gasps from the congregation, a musical appreciation and going away dinner in my honor had been in the works. But now, with little fanfare, I walked down the aisle, then exited the double doors. I looked back one last time at the faces who had become so familiar. Faces that were now in the process of becoming my past.
Was it the way things should have gone down? I don't know. But it was the best way. A big going away bash or musical were guaranteed to draw more attention to myself and my decision like a tacky neon sign. It would've been agony. Seclusion, not exposure, was needed so I could gather up the courage to tell the parental units...