I’ve been staring at the closet in my bedroom for the last ten minutes, sitting at the computer waiting for some writing inspiration to strike. Opening the closet door does not help; I just see clothes in there, some hung neatly, others waiting for one of those “cleaning” moments I have when I’m trying to avoid work.
As a child the closet door was secured nightly when I went into my bed, ensuring that whatever monsters that lived there could not get out (I’ve since learned after watching Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. that my door-securing was pointless). As I grew into adulthood, I learned that the actual monsters in the closet were of my own making. I also kept this closet locked down tight.
The idea of monsters being in the closet let me place my “secrets” and fears into the closet—a place where I can and could hide things from others as well as from myself. After all, who would want the monster of being attracted to men, wanting to explore their bodies, kiss them and be held by them, just as I saw happening in countless opposite sex scenes in movies, television, and real life? No, these thoughts needed to be stored in a place where this monster could not come out.
Other fears were placed in the closet along with sexuality. Fears I would be perceived as inadequate in a job, a failure in school, perhaps not a real friend to those I knew, or a poor lover. Yet a closet can only hold so much without overflowing, especially one that, like the monsters in my childhood, seeks to exist in the dark.
Over the years, as I shed light onto my closet fears, I find they disappear. Coming out as a gay man, I had lost some family and friends. Yet in the process I not only gained new friends, I discovered a part of me that is strong and confident. Having the ability to be free and open with many has given me a new type of closet, one that I store hopes and ideas in. A closet that prefers to be open instead of locked away.
I am still dealing with my fears closet, unwrapping one at a time. My most recent fear, which I removed and am working through, was quitting a job which I felt was strangling me. Currently I am looking for a new job, yet the letting go has been, as in other confrontations with my fears closet, the greatest gift I give to myself. I find myself more and more using the words from Frank Herbert’s novel Dune:
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
With that in mind, goodbye closet of fear, and hello to my open closet of hope.
Louis Loeffler has a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics and a master’s degree in instructional technology. He has taught physics, mathematics, and computer science and has been a technology coordinator for school districts and an assistant professor of instructional technology. His greatest source of joy is his two grown children.