Hello, readers! Today, I officially welcome you to week 7 of my blog. Once again, I thank you for both following on this journey and supporting me with your reading eyes, immense love, and undying support. It truly does mean the world to me and words in weekly posts can’t express the true amount of gratitude that I have in my heart.
For those of you who don’t know, National Coming Out Day is this coming Thursday, October 11th. This day is obviously one that holds a very special place in my heart.
This week, my post is a open letter full of vulnerability, emotions, and thank yous that I’ve wanted to write for quite some time. While the thoughts in this letter will be a bit lengthy, I hope that you will continue to read on until the end.
To Whom It May Concern:
My name is JP Welliver and I’m 31 years old. I’m a openly gay single man living in the town of Lancaster where I work full time as an Account Manager at The Webstaurantstore, part time as a Customer Service Auditor for The Loomis Company, and music director of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Penryn, PA. And while I keep myself busy with these careers, I also find time to participate in theater productions at the Ephrata Performing Arts Center, personal train twice a week, run, and also watch The Golden Girls. However, amongst the crazy schedule, the miles run, the weights lifted, and the large amounts of caffeine consumed, there is one thing that is always in the back of my mind constantly even with being in the 21st century. And that is my sexuality. Even in 2018, there are still moments where I feel judged and stared at.
I came out 13 years ago during junior year of high school and while it has been a wild ride in the time since that moment of clarity for me, there are many emotions that I still feel on the daily, which include several thank yous that I’ve held in for so long that I want to share today.
First off, I want to thank my parents. Thank you for having the courage to sit down and talk with me about my sexuality even though it was an uncomfortable territory for you at first. Thank you for the patience, understanding, and compassion that you have showed me every step of the way and continue to do each day. Without your guidance, I would not be the man that I am today. I would be lost in this world of negativity, hate, and pain if it wasn’t for the constant love that you have used from your souls to raise me on the principle of kindness for everyone regardless of religion, social status, ethnicity, political affiliation, or sexuality. I hope I continue to make you proud as I grow through the years ahead on the paths that await.
Secondly, I want to thank my brother. While you might not have been the most loving sibling to me during our time growing up, I truly wouldn’t want to have it any other way. Even though we may still have fighting battles of words and wit every now and then, you are someone that I look up to and truly admire. You are extremely hard working and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching you mature into a loving husband to Mindy. You may have the brain of smarts, but I have the brain of good fashion sense. Ha!
Thirdly, I want to thank all of my Singing Lions from my time at Penn State. I’ve said this before, but if I was not a part of your group…your family, I would have left. Thank you for offering an environment where everyone could be themselves without judgment. I truly value the friendships that I have created with you and those friendships are responsible for getting me through some of the toughest moments of my 4 year college life at University Park.
Next on my list are my coworkers (at both the full time and part time locations) whom I get the pleasure of being around on the daily. Thank you for supporting me even through my moments of mistakes and failures. All of you bring so much to the table and have helped me grow emotionally and professionally. I only hope that we continue to push each other in our future growth paths together in making the lives of those we help day in and day out a bit better.
I want to take a moment to thank all the incredible friends who have supported me throughout my life in different capacities. It doesn’t matter if our paths have crossed for a hot second (literally) in the past, have crossed paths in the present, or will cross paths in the future…each of those moments (or future moments yet to happen) is incredibly special in the evolution of Mr. Sunshine as a human being.
I want to thank Missy, Elyse, and Marissa who had the ability to put up with me for many years during our living arrangements…and what fun we had together! And while we might not see each other as often as I would like (mostly because I’m so busy), I’m incredibly glad and grateful our paths crossed in this lifetime and that we stay in contact. I also love that we can look back on all the memories we created and laugh hysterically until it hurts. I love that we can use other to vent, offer advice, guidance, or talk about boys. You are definitely three special ladies to me personally even if I don’t always acknowledge it.
I want to thank Abby. She is always so kind and generous to me even in moments when I’m drained and exhausted. I love that we have been able to grow closer over the past couple of years and I know our friendship will grow more and more with each passing year. Thank you for always offering me advice and kind words at the times when I need to hear them most. Truly a beautiful soul.
I want to thank the Ephrata Performing Arts Center and all those I’ve met and had the pleasure of working with over the years. It is so special to me that I have access to a theater so close to home where the feeling of those around you is family. It is a safe place where I can be myself and find joy in the smiles I see on the faces of audience members when under the lights to perform. So many wonderful memories and moments have been created in that space and I know there are more to come. I can’t wait.
I want to thank Hank Angus and those from the Hope Express family that believed in me and helped me to uncover the definition of “being worthy” and keeping my passion with finding a cure for pediatric cancer alive. The kindness and generosity of everyone involved with this organization is immeasurable and I only pray that I can continue to strive and make a difference each day with sharing love and hope with everyone around me and igniting a fire within them to make positive change.
I want to think the late Pat Kautter who was a true pioneer in the theater world. I was thankful to work with her on a few different shows in multiple capacities at the Ephrata Performing Arts Center. She was always the “theater mom” who encouraged me not to give up, be true to my identity, and give each moment 110%…even if it meant smiling as I tried to fake tap dance!
A special thank you to my Grandma Neidermyer who left us back in 2006. More than a decade later, it still feels like yesterday when I was huddled around the bed witnessing your last breaths on this earth with all of the family crying tears of pain. I wasn’t ready for you to leave. Your gentle smile is one that is imprinted in my mind and your presence is one I feel from above, especially in moments when I’m struggling. Each day, I wake up and look at the very last picture we got together at the 2005 high school holiday concert that sits on my dresser. It was such a surprise to see you after the show and the smiles on both of our faces in this image are true joy. A moment I will never forget as long as I live.
I want to thank my personal trainer, Zach Musser. He has helped me stay motivated to better my body and mind physically and mentally. I’ve been seeing him for almost 2 years and I can’t begin to thank him enough for the lifestyle changes that he has helped me create for myself. Even if I give him attitude and sass during our early morning workouts, he never fails to push me harder with his undying encouragement and motivation, especially on those days whens I just want to quit.
I want to thank my roommate, Karey. We don’t see each other incredibly often because of our opposite and busy schedules, but knowing I have her in the house with me is such a comfort. In addition, she can always get me to laugh until I cry with the best jokes of wit that I’ve ever witnessed especially in times of complete distress where I have broken down into a hot mess in front of her. She is a gem.
I personally want to thank all the jocks and straight boys who got a kick out of making fun of me during the years of my childhood. Because of you, I learned to grow thick skin and realize that I shouldn’t give TWO HOOTS about what others think about me or my sexuality. And even though there are moments (mind you in today’s society…the 21ST CENTURY), that I still get stared at or name called, I often find it a bit more tolerable for me to move on and ignore it because of the harsh words that you threw at me growing up.
I want to thank all the guys in my life that have decided that it is better to not tell me the truth up front. Damn it. Just be honest. Don’t tell me that “you are not gay” to only have me find out that you actually are and have a boyfriend. Also, don’t just stop responding if I reach out to you. Like, damn it. Just say “I’m not interested” and be HONEST. Ugh. These are the moments that happen in my life where I find it so hard to trust guys, which continues (and probably always will be) a struggle for me. And while dating is not a priority for me at the present time, these moments are what make it so hard for me to get over the tarnished view of gay men that has been painted in my mind.
I want to thank the guy in CA (I will not mention a name) who reached out to me earlier this year to ask for money. Thank you for pulling at my heart strings with your master craft of a story to get me on board. And before I go any further–I’ve never met this guy in person, but we have a lot of mutual friends on social media and had also been exchanging messages on and off through Facebook Messenger as well. And while you might find it crazy and absurd that I did in fact loan this guy money (and I will not specify the amount), I am a firm believer in helping others because I was brought up on the principle of showing kindness to everyone. I still hold hope in my heart that this person did good with the money, but at the moment, it is really hard for me not to believe that they took advantage of the huge heart that I wear on my sleeve.
I want to thank my bestie, DMH. I know that I’ve said it many times before, but I’m so thankful that you were brought into my life a mere 4 years ago through what is one of the worst phone apps to this day. Our friendship has only gotten stronger since that time. You are one individual that I trust completely, which is hard for me to do these days because of the past I have experienced. Thank you for being a constant in my life amongst a world of change. Thank you for adding extra letters in your texts, never getting mad if I’m having reactive moments of emotion over aspects of my life, allowing me to word vomit in car travels to scary movies, not judging me for wanting to sing Josh Groban’s “Evermore” at the top of my lungs, knowing that sometimes all I need is a night of rummy playing to recharge, and for always being able to bring a smile to my face no matter what the situation. These are priceless things that I cherish greatly (more than you can ever imagine). For these many moments, I will never be able to repay you. I can only hope (well I don’t hope because I know for a fact) that our friendship will only continue to grow stronger as we grow older. . I’m very, very, VERY lucky to know you and have you by my side as a bestie. In today’s society, I think it is extremely important and necessary, especially in the gay community, to have a best friend that involves a platonic relationship. I think it is vital for both personal well being and emotional growth. We share something special and I hope that everyone in the world is jealous of it…because you know what…they should be–what we share as besties is not something many people have in this world. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the memories thus far and for the memories that I know are yet to come. I hope you realize how much of a special individual you are to me and how vital of a role you play in Mr. Sunshine’s daily grind.
Finally, I want to thank everyone in life that has been able to look past the walls of judgment our society has built up to realize that I, along with my fellow LGBT brothers and sisters, are human beings full of love to give. We are no different than you. Just because we love someone of the same sex doesn’t mean that we should be called inappropriate names, stared at constantly, or judged because we want to be happy. Quite frankly, I’ve been called the word ‘faggot’ enough in my life.
As we come closer to National Coming Out Day, I want anyone in the world who is struggling with their sexuality to know that it will be OK. I know that it can be scary territory to navigate, but I assure you that you are NEVER ALONE. There will always be people around to wrap warmth and support around you in the moments of extreme darkness when you want to give up.
Open your minds. Open your hearts. Embrace the true colors of those around you. Our world needs to focus on bringing about change through facets of love and kindness. Be the light. Be the change.
Sprinkle sunshine always,