“Why is your apartment so tiny?” my friend's tweenage daughter asked when she and her mom came to visit me at my new place in Toronto. I had just moved back to the city, in part, so that I could be closer to people I love. I now wondered if it was too late to turn around and go back to Montreal. It was. “My mom’s way ahead of you. She already owns two houses,” she continued. Oh yeah? Has your mom ever been on “The Today Show” you little shit?

“Lordy, lordy, look who’s forty.” Not me. Today, I’m forty-one. “Forty-one, forty-one, anybody want to lend me their gun?” doesn’t quite have the same ring, but it makes me laugh, and that’s all I care about anymore. I’ve finally reached a point where I don’t feel the need to explain myself to anyone: not to you, not to my friend's daughter (whom I love very much and whose comments genuinely made me giggle), not even to myself.

I'm 41, and I've spent 40 of my years wondering where the fuck I belonged. Wondering where I fit in. Not knowing if I’m a photographer, an artist, an actor, a writer, a director, a filmmaker, a “YouTuber”, an influencer, a comedian, a podcaster, or just an entitled brat to whom things came easily until they didn’t. I’ve spent so much of my life not knowing how to stay in one lane. Quitting. Getting bored. Giving up. Diving into the next thing with all my heart and then getting frustrated when I didn’t experience immediate success. Knowing that I have talent but being told that I need to focus, to reign it in.

And I did. I tried so often to reign it in. But It's like that episode of “The Simple Life” when Paris and Nicole worked at the sausage factory. They tried to inject the loose meat into the casing, and it worked for about .02 seconds before the casing busted open and meat sprayed everywhere. Everyone at the factory was annoyed, but Paris and Nicole just couldn’t stop laughing. Similarly, I kept busting my casing in life and making these messes and people kept going “HUH?” and I just thought the messes I made were funny and I couldn’t explain them. Then I’d head down a path of trying to reign it in again and trying to define myself more clearly because I hated not being understood. I wanted to be known deeply, and I couldn’t figure out why what I was doing was not resonating. My desire to belong and my desire to be myself were at odds with each other, and it was maddening.

RuPaul’s adage of “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else,” is very true, very well-intentioned, but a horrible thing to hear when you hate yourself. It adds to your feeling of failure, of hopelessness. How can you love yourself when you don’t? It feels impossible. Why couldn’t I be like one of RuPaul's All Stars? They've got it all figured out. “Why don't you love yourself, huh? HUH? WHY DON'T YOU LOVE YOURSELF YOU FUCKING LOSER?? WHO EVEN ARE YOU???” These were questions I couldn’t answer.

Until, one day in the spring of 2022, I went for a walk along a river in Quebec with a friend. “You’re so weird,” he said. “What? I’m weird?” I asked. “Yes, you’re fucking weird, man.” That was shocking to me. The things I made and the way I behaved didn't seem weird to me. But…was I weird? Maybe I just couldn't see what other people could. I felt like the guy in “Quantum Leap”, waking up and looking at myself in the mirror for the first time in a new body and saying “I’m weird?”

I called another friend. “Am I weird?” I asked her. “You’re the weirdest person I know. You’re a freak,” she said. Fuck yes! It was all coming together. I was weird! I’d figured it out! At last, I had a description of myself. It was very general, but general felt right. I needed a label within which I could stretch, that wouldn’t burst when I sprayed too hard, and “weird” worked. A peace washed over me.

But that peace ended about two weeks later when I met up with an ex. I really wanted to impress him with my newfound self-actualization at our first meeting since our breakup. “I finally figured it out: I’m weird,” I announced over drinks. I held for applause, but it didn't come. He was dubious. “What? Who told you that?” he asked.

The question wasn’t curious. It was dismissive, and rightly so. He was absolutely correct. “Weird” is relative, and I couldn’t define myself that way to everyone. And with that single, sharp realization my casing burst again and I exploded inside. A meaty mess in my guts. If I couldn't define myself, how could anyone know me and love me? I was like that guy in “Quantum Leap”; I was inhabiting a body called “weird” that didn't belong to me. On realizing that, I was once again ejected into space, desperately searching for that one perfect body to leap into that I could finally stay in forever.

That night, after my “weird” bubble had been burst, I began a bender that lasted 10 days. Then, with a lot of support and therapy, I quit drinking. I really hate sharing that. I thought I’d like sharing it, but I don’t. It’s personal and it’s too much to get into and it’s none of your business, but it’s true and it’s germane to what I’m trying to get across here, so, there it is. You've pried it out of me.

The clarity and confidence I feel now is absolutely related to finally dealing with 10 years of emotions I had buried in alcohol. I will no doubt pay for my heavy drinking with some form of horrible esophageal or gut cancer. But for now, my organs are functioning (yes, all of them, wink wink), and my brain is not my number one enemy. I can go for a walk without headphones. Sometimes I just sit and think with no music or television or noise to distract me from the horrible anxious cunt that used to live in my head and torture me relentlessly with the question of who I was. After quitting drinking, I didn’t have the time or energy to figure out who I was, because I simply (but not easily) had to relearn how to live.

For example, I can’t tell you how terrifying the thought of being naked in front of someone without having some sort of substance in me was. The meanie in my head (that I had been trying to drown in booze) had been telling me I was fat and ugly for so long that I couldn’t understand why anybody would want to see me naked if one (or both) of us wasn’t blasted. I really wanted to stay safe and clothed at home, but I had to relearn how to do this, how to be intimate and vulnerable as just myself, unadulterated.

“I’m so anxious” I admitted to the handsome Montreal florist when I got to his place. He showed me the flowers in his garden and gave me water while I tried to stop shaking. Before this experience, I thought my anxiety was a dumpable offense, that if I wasn't able to mask my anxiety I would be unattractive and unfuckable. But he was patient and kind didn’t mind waiting for my nerves to calm down. He didn't recoil at my sweaty hands like I had assumed he (or anyone) would. He really liked my legs. I guess he had to like them because I kept my shirt on the whole time - while I wasn’t trying to hide who I was, I still needed to hide my body.

I couldn’t wait for it to be over. I was in my head. It felt nice, but I just wanted to get through it. And I did. We did. I was relieved and proud of myself. I had completed the challenge. I had been my anxious, imperfect, self-conscious, flop-sweaty self, and cum still came out of both of us. Afterward, he texted me that he wanted to take me on an actual date. This was shocking and affirming and scary. I was liked even though I had been...just me. So, naturally, I blocked him immediately.

Since then, I’ve been continuing to work on leaning into all of who I am instead of covering up the contradictions and inconsistencies and insecurities and billions of flaws that make up my person. I’m no longer trying to find the body in which I can live forever; I’m already in that body. I try not to judge the ways in which my creativity flows or doesn’t flow. I’m not able to read your minds and anticipate your responses, so I don’t. If I want to pull my car over and make a video of myself singing like Toad from Mario to a Rihanna song, I do it. Is it helping or hurting my career? I finally don’t care. Is it consistent with everything else I’ve done? I don’t know. It was fun and it didn't hurt anyone. I mean, it's a bit cringey, but that's me. I see that and I'm okay with it.

It’s so easy to tell yourself to “Just do what makes you laugh! Be yourself!” It is insanely hard to actually do it, to push through the anxiety of putting your SELF online without being able to have a box of wine afterward. But it’s somewhat comforting to know that every feeling I’m having, good or bad, is mine. There’s nothing artificial to attribute the feelings to, no more being confused about whether my anxiety or joy is coming from a hangover or a high – I know where it’s coming from now, and whether it hurts or makes my heart sing, it’s just coming from me.

In a recording of “I Shall Be Released” by Nina Simone, we hear the band stop playing the song at the beginning of the track. “Y'all pushing. You pushing. You pushing. Just relax, relax. You're pushing it. It'll go up by itself. Don't put nothing in it unless you feel it,” says Nina before the band starts up again. Sometimes I simply don’t “feel it” for long stretches, and that's part of who I am.

In the past, I would wonder what was wrong with me, why I couldn’t pump out work or content or anything consistently in order to “grow an audience” or “maintain a following” like everyone else seemed to be able to do. I simply can’t always push it, and I don’t owe my energy or my efforts to any “bitches who aren’t paying my bills” (a RuPaul-ism that is less difficult to get behind).

I’m no longer worried about alienating people with “inconsistent” content or about sharing things that are earnest or sad or different from the “brand” of comedy that at one point got me (and not my friend who owns two houses) on “The Today Show.” Whatever I make is consistent simply because it's coming from me, from my angle, through my lens. If you don’t like the free content I’m providing, here’s your refund: $0.00. To whom should I make out the cheque?

There is one way in which I do push, however, and that’s through anxiety. Anxiety is a lie that feels like the truth. After that first sober hookup, I learned to push through anxiety I had about my body and eventually got to a place where I can post a photograph of myself in nothing but a Speedo on my Instagram.

Now, I’m applying that technique to sharing my work and being honest about what I actually want to create, which is often work about my own life, my own thoughts, and my own experiences.  This creates the anxiety that I’m selfish, self-indulgent, attention-seeking, navel-gazing, and (worst of all) passé; that the LiveJournal-style-early 2010s-Thought Catalog-Lena Dunham-y-exhibitionism-of-the-soul personal essay is just not cool anymore. That’s some holdover cruelty from the meanie that I evicted from my alcohol-soaked brain, but it’s worth noting that I understand how much I talk and think about myself. I can now nod to the fact that the things I make are often centered around me in one way or another, and I try to imbue that reflexiveness into my work.

The final thing I'm learning is patience. The first draft of this piece was written on my 41st birthday in November of 2023. It’s now March 2024. In between then and now I heard this quote from Brokeback Mountain’s Michelle Williams on the "Talk Easy” podcast. She referenced the writing of Rebecca Solnit and said this:

“It reminds me of the importance of making things, because they exist for people to find when they need them, so that when you feel like you have nothing, you have words to hold. I guess it makes me feel like I hope that I've made something in my lifetime that somebody can hold…and then, suddenly, being any kind of artist feels like a really great way to live and spend your time.”

Patience  allowed me to hear this quote and to finally understand what this piece I first drafted four months ago is really about. In waiting, the reason for sharing this with you revealed itself to me: As narcissistic as I feel, as self-absorbed as my writing is, it feels more selfish to keep it inside me, to never share my neuroses and triumphs and losses and gains. This is an attempt to leave a little breadcrumb out there in case someone else is walking this path and needs a morsel to keep going. Or, to put it more crudely, I'm pushing through my anxiety and baring myself to you by taking off my metaphorical t-shirt in hopes that it'll help you cum.

But in all honesty, maybe that's just some mental gymnastics that I've written out to make myself look good when what I really want is some attention. See, I told you I understand how far up my own ass I am.

A few months before I stopped drinking, when the ex who would later burst my “weird” bubble and I were breaking up, I had the meanest thought I've ever had: "How will I ever be able to fool anyone else into loving me?" Isn't that so cruel? I hated myself so much that I believed the people who loved me must have been manipulated and tricked into loving me. I thought that if they knew all of me, the things about myself that I hated and hid from them, that there's no way I could be loved.

But during the breakup, after I had that horrible thought, that same ex said something that changed my world. He told me that I was “so lovable.” I had been told before that I was "loved". People had said "I love you," to me. And I knew that they were telling the truth, that they loved me, but I didn't feel like I deserved that love. Hearing that I was "lovable" was a TSN Turning Point. I didn’t know why it suddenly rang true when he said that. Now, a couple years later, I think I can explain...

In the moment that he told me I was lovable, I had none of the things that I thought I was supposed to have in order to deserve love. My career was non-existent. I had exiled myself to Montreal because I was too ashamed to show my face in Toronto after returning from LA as a “failure.” I couldn’t get my drinking under control on my own. I hated my body, I hated my mind, I hated myself. But despite all those things, and even though we were breaking up, this guy still thought I was lovable. It blew my mind. I could be this much of a disaster and still be loved? I had literally nothing to offer but myself, and it finally started to hit me that that was enough. A seedling was planted that day that I've worked very hard on growing into a big ole rose bush. I finally get that it's not my job to make you understand me. I now know my value. I now know how pretty my tender and fragile and fleeting little flowers are, and I just want to show them to you. Come into my garden. Have a glass of water. Stop shaking. Have some sausage. I made it myself. I’m not sure what's in it, but it’s fucking delicious.

Recently, I saw Julia Fox give a tour of her apartment. She says at the beginning: “Hopefully someone can watch this and say ‘Oh, maybe I’m not doing so bad.’” And, honestly, it worked. I watched it and then felt like I wasn't doing so bad. The quality of her apartment has nothing to do with her value as a person. My value as a person has nothing to do with the size of my delightful apartment. My friend and her daughter love hanging out with me, and I with them. They're glad I'm back home from exile, and so am I.

Writing this diatribe has been an indulgent gift to myself on my birthday. I hope it’s been a gift to you as well, that maybe you have found something in this to hold when you need it.

K, gotta go. Someone with the most beautiful sausage I’ve ever seen is on his way over to bust my casing. TTYL.