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First Person is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.

Illustration by Rachel Wada

“I think I’m gay.” The words came barreling out like a runaway train careening toward an unfinished bridge ahead, warning lights flashing, signs pleading to stop or turn back.

But there was no turning back.

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I sat across from my husband of almost 30 years, over filet mignon and twice-baked potatoes, on a long-awaited date night and watched the shock and fear register in his eyes.

That was the day my life changed forever.

Before, my family life was peaceful and comfortable. My children were well-adjusted. They were each moving toward their own futures, assured in the confidence and safety of the past. We shared family meals. My husband and I presented a united front and were equal partners in parenting and life.

To everyone looking in, our life seemed perfect.

And in so many ways it was. Except for this deep-seated, gnawing sense of unhappiness that permeated my entire being, destroying any lasting attempts at joy.

I had nothing to be unhappy about. I had a wonderful family, a husband who adored me, children who respected me, friends who cherished our time together. I had the freedom to explore interests and hobbies. There was no jealousy or distrust. It was a good life.

Why then was I crippled with loneliness? Why was I continuously searching for something to fill this aching void? I lacked for nothing. Clearly, there was something wrong with me.

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I sought help from doctors and therapists. I tried medication and mindfulness. I struggled and subdued the loneliness, only to watch it creep back in.

You know that expression, we can’t possibly know what we’re searching for until we find it? Well, that’s what happened to me. I had spent a lifetime plagued by depression and inadequacy, of never feeling worthy of happiness.

Until a girl kissed me.

Then I knew.

I knew what I’d been missing. I understood what I’d been longing for. I recognized why I could never be happy in the life I’d created because it wasn’t the life meant for me. It was a life made for someone raised to believe a heterosexual life is what life was supposed to be.

Growing up in the 1970s and 80s, I accepted the expectations of my parents. Homosexuality was never mentioned. I dreamed of a big wedding with the man of my dreams by my side, a two-and-a-half-storey home full of children, living happily ever after. I may have dreamed of a career, but that house, hubby and brood of children were part of the package. I didn’t know I could choose something different. I didn’t know a different life could exist.

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I got married, had children and settled into the life my parents and my society expected of me. And I made the most of it. I created a beautiful life. I believed in that life. There was nothing wrong with that life.

The life wasn’t the problem, I was broken. There was something wrong with me. I was the one who needed to be fixed.

Until a girl kissed me.

Then I knew.

I didn’t need to be fixed. I wasn’t broken.

I just needed to make some changes – changes that aligned with a new truth I was discovering about myself. Changes that would forever alter my life, and the lives of the people I loved the most.

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I came out to my husband. Then together, with him at my side, I came out to my children. They were supportive of my revelation but the devastating realization that their family would be torn apart ripped their hearts out.

It doesn’t matter how old your children are, when they discover their parents are on a crash course to divorce it shakes them to their core. Our boys are 27, 22 and 17. They were each equally devastated and slid into a world of insecurity and anxiety, unsure what might happen next or where they could turn. My peaceful home turned into a war zone.

My husband and I trod carefully through the minefield and we did it with humility, respect and love for one another. This wasn’t either his or my fault, but the implications were clear. We couldn’t stay together. We were heartbroken. Both of us grieved the end of almost three decades of love and friendship. It was heartbreaking and we struggled. But no matter how much it hurt, we treated each other with dignity and respect. And always with love.

That process, while difficult, showed our children that while our family would never be the same, we were still a family. Their father and I still loved each other and there would always be a friendship. We would look out for one another. We would have each other’s backs. In the turmoil of separation, this simple but powerful fact helped manoeuvre our kids through the most difficult transition of their lives.

We all recognize we can’t change the reality – and the reality is, Mom is gay. Both Mom and Dad deserve something more. Our family has reached a place of acceptance.

It’s been a year and a half since that fateful night of revelation.

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We’ve sold our home and are in the process of moving on to new adventures. Our family is shaken, but we are still hanging on. My marriage might be over, but my relationship with my ex is still built on a solid foundation of love and respect.

It hasn’t been easy. But honouring your truth never is – it is, however, essential. The loneliness has started to fade. In its place is contentment, knowing that I’m finally where I’m meant to be. No matter what comes next, I know we’re all going to be okay.

I’m 48 years old. And I finally know I’m gay.

Marissa Campbell lives in Scugog, Ont.

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