Change, they say, is good. I can think of no better or more timely example than the changes that unfolded right before our eyes in Tampa and Hillsborough County, ultimately giving rise to today’s version of Tampa Pride.
In the not-too-distant past, Hillsborough County was seen as backwards and frustrating to most of the LGBTQ community and a large portion of the country. While Tampa has had a long history of LGBTQ-friendly mayors, they were sometimes overshadowed by the hateful rhetoric of county officials who couldn’t bring themselves to respect every individual in their area, especially those with sexual orientations or gender identities that they considered foreign.
With each passing year, I continue to evolve into the “senior gay” that I never imagined I would be. I catch myself saying “I remember when…” way more often than not. But I’ve also accepted that this new habit is a positive. Seeing change and talking about the positive impact of that change ensures that we as individuals and as a community don’t regress.
At the risk of sounding cliche, we have to remain informed in order to avoid history repeating itself. This view works on a community level as well as on a personal one. I guess age really is a funny thing.
Looking back at your experiences often shows that what you thought was your reality was skewed by the lens of youth. The way I see the world today compared to 10 or even 20 years ago is vastly different.
No, I’m not having a midlife crisis, but it is possible that my thoughts lately have been trending toward age and change because March is my birth month. This is also the month that marks my two decades as a Floridian.
Whatever the reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about change on a personal level and how priorities shift over the years.
When I first arrived in Florida I was fresh out of college and beginning a new career in journalism that I knew would lead to the big time, whatever that meant. As time moved on, my perception changed and I saw the importance of impacting the world in a positive way. I was fortunate enough to have a public platform like writing to do that.
Personally I learned what did and didn’t work for me in my personal and professional life. As I did that I grew, hopefully, to understand myself more with each experience, whether it was good or bad.
Today I am in my mid-40s and while I fully believe that life is meant to be enjoyed, I also have come to learn and appreciate what it means to be an adult. It’s a symptom of age, I guess – and as we age, so do others, of course.
Recently my father-in-law passed away. Without going into details I will share that his relationship with my husband and the rest of my extended family was complicated. I had the honor to meet him on a few occasions and while we were never close, we had a mutual respect for one another.
I have experienced death closely before and it’s a different and personal experience for everyone who encounters it. My own mother’s passing in 2015 was difficult, for sure, but it also helped mend some personal familial fences and fueled the archive of the many happy memories of her that I still carry with me. I’m not pained when I think of her. Instead I’m inspired.
Death is one of life’s events that can either bring out the best in us or the worst. I am happy to say that in the case of my husband’s family, I saw the best.
I was not present at the time of his passing. In fact I wasn’t even in the same state. However, through today’s technology I was able to look directly into his eyes as he sat on his deathbed and make a promise I plan to keep. One that directly involved his son, my husband.
Of course, any relationship takes the work of both – or all – parties involved. My husband is by no means in need of anyone’s care or oversight. He’s very independent and will gladly say as much, even if you don’t ask him.
But adulting isn’t easy. For me, having a partner beside you watching out for you while working toward a shared future makes it just a little bit easier, at least.
Change is scary but the longer I’m on this planet the more I realize it is a constant. The scientific theory of evolution takes millions of years to show itself, but micro-evolutions happen every day. They can happen in communities and to each of us personally.
Each of us has our own journey. We have to embrace the changes and challenges we encounter along the way while trying to avoid roadblocks or dead ends.
Sometimes that journey makes an impactful change that can adjust the trajectory of an entire county and city, like with Tampa Pride. The celebration was almost a pipe dream not too long ago, but today it’s a colossal celebration supported by elected officials throughout the county.
Personal change, or growth, is just as important in life. My own personal goal is just not to screw it up.
Steve Blanchard is the former editor of Watermark and currently works in public relations. He lives in Tampa with his husband and their two dogs.