OPINION by STACY KORSGADEN
In the early 90s, I shocked my mother by confiding that I had fallen in love with a woman named Jodi. Mom immediately declared that no one would like me or do business with me, and that I was endangering my entire future.
She was just scared, confused, and feeling protective of her daughter, but sadly neither of us had the tools to properly cope with this sudden, massive shift in my predetermined life.
Ultimately, our journey that had been filled with pain, fear, loneliness, confusion and misunderstanding ended with the healing power of love. In the end, the answer was that simple. It usually is.
Today is the fourth anniversary of my mom’s passing. One of the last things she said to me was “Please tell Jodi I love her.” Jodi was by her side when she passed, along with one of my brothers and my twin sister. I believe her divine spirit ascended to Heaven to be with Jesus. My mother left the world a better place, living her life with love.
While Mom was right about so many things as my teacher and advisor, she was wrong about my career failing because I happened to be gay. If I shared with people that I was gay, it was after they came to know me for the person I am. Some people cared, most couldn’t have cared less.
After 32 years in the insurance industry, I’ve been recognized as a national “Top 150 Agent” in my company and my agency continues to thrive. That’s because to be successful in the service business, it is never about “self.”
My gratitude and affection for my clients has both financial and emotional rewards. Yes, my work is fulfilling, but it’s the relationships I have built over the decades that are always at the core of my success.
Fast forward to last Friday, when I could not help but hear my mother’s initial warning ringing in my ears years ago as I shared the truth about myself.
Last week, a reporter from The Tribune emailed me twice to inform me he had obtained two pictures showing me in Washington, DC at the Rally for Election Integrity and wanted me to comment on my attendance at the event. (I don’t know how the candid photos were obtained, as I never posted them to any social media.)
Regardless, as a private citizen, I didn’t feel my attendance was “news.” The reporter then called my office to follow up, so I decided to give him the interview. After a margin-thin election loss for San Luis Obispo County supervisor last year, the media apparently continues to consider me a public figure – especially if they see me as a potential future candidate.
What happened shortly after that article was made public was deeply surprising to me. I suppose it shouldn’t have been, given the huge divide in politics today, but the fallout from my private decision to attend the rally was still absolutely unexpected. Some clients that I had served – seen their kids grow up, sponsored their sporting events and supported their causes, held their hand after a traumatic claim and celebrated personal moments – were canceling their policies due to the political optics and assumptions of my intent and beliefs. Relationships forged, in some cases for decades, were just gone. Relationships that mattered to me.
There are similarities for this point of time to the supercharged moment I came out to my mother 30 years ago: we do not have the tools to properly care for each other during these emotional times in our society.
Since my coming out, my growth has come from asking myself hard questions and being open to new ideas. Back then, my feelings were chaotic. I knew with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life but at the time, I did not know how that could happen. I found myself alone a lot. Always a social person, I suddenly didn’t trust many people with my feelings, and discovered that I did not fully love myself. And love is always the key.
Many years ago, I tried to run from the life I was expected to live by almost marrying a wonderful man. Again, the answer was love. I loved him enough not to drag him into a lie, which allowed me to start loving myself with honesty and follow my heart.
What does this have to do with our troubled times? What are the answers for our country? Let me bring it to our own mirrors. I believe all of our lives can be about personal growth and that we are spiritual beings in physical bodies. Right now, people are grappling with trying to make sense of the past, present, and future. It is a deeply personal time for most people.
How can we remain true to who we are and what we believe while being true to the relationships we value, even if we disagree? In this time in history, we are struggling with political issues and have lost sight of what brought us together in our deeply personal relationships. More than anything, we seem to have forgotten that respect is a cornerstone of any true relationship and communication.
Let me be categorically clear: the mob violence at the United States Capitol was unconscionable and I condemn it in the strongest terms.
True growth comes from answering hard questions. Today, I ask open-ended questions for our community to ask each other:
· As Americans, we have the right to peacefully assemble and voice our concerns to the government. If, during a peaceful, lawful assembly, there is violence and looting by a faction of radical people, do we then indict every attendee’s voice and motives? Should this be true for Jan. 6? Or even the majority of BLM gatherings last summer?
· If we are government of the People, by the People and for the People, is it not important to make our concerns known? Even if our neighbor feels differently? Even if certain media tells us differently?
· If we rename certain schools and take down some statues, is that trying to erase history or take away our ability to learn from the past?
· If we believe there is reason to question our election system while others tell us the system is fine, why is it not okay to verify the sanctity of the vote?
· If a “moderate” person attends a rally where a controversial president is questioning election integrity, does that automatically negate what attendees believe to be valid concerns?
· Are we at a point in our country and in our relationships where we no longer allow or are willing to consider the longevity of relationships and integrity as a point of respectful conversation, reason, or even understanding?
I am blessed beyond measure to live in the United States and on the Central Coast, in one of the most beautiful counties in California. But wherever we live, freedom has never been easy. We are headed down a difficult road and just getting started. We have misunderstandings, disagreements, and deep concerns that are dividing families and neighbors.
We can let the media divide us, we can lie to each other and give hate breath, or we can take the road less traveled in recent memory: we can communicate with each other and as my mom so wisely taught me, choose love.
So freedom-loving good people, come out, come out, whoever you are!