It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I made the decision to share my life publicly with the world. It has certainly been a busy year, but I would be remiss if I didn’t take the time to reflect on just how much my life has changed in the past 12 months.

Since last October 7, I have gone to work every day and worried about nothing except…work. I have shared things with my friends and my co-workers that 13 months ago I would have kept completely to myself. In the past year, I have felt the freedom of what it’s like to make jokes with the people in my life about my ‘type;’ I have brought dates around friends and family; and I have felt peace in social situations in which I was previously calculated and uptight.

Today, some of my favorite moments are when friends ask me a question about my personal life. Whether the question is simple or complex, I find immense pleasure in my ability to answer truthfully and without shame. Those moments are what I’ve been waiting for my entire adult life – to not hesitate or tense up, to not have to lie on the fly.

There really is no substitute for authenticity. It is both cathartic and addictive, and something I savor and continually crave. Yet, I’d be lying if I said my life is completely different, and that’s the beautiful dichotomy in this process. I’ve been able to go back to the person I always was before my sexuality became my foremost struggle.

I love basketball again – as much as I did when I was 10 – and the challenges of the game and business are the focuses of my attention, instead of how my personal life will affect those challenges. I appreciate the time I spend with my family so much more. The laughing and joking nature of the time we spend together rules my attention, as does being able to play around with my nephews and watch them grow.

Today, those are the things I focus on. I no longer have to find ways to ease the anxiety of waiting for my family to ask me questions about me, nor do I mind answering them. I have been able to reconnect with so many friends that I had separated from my life, and I have gotten such incredible love and support from them in the process.

I can’t begin to describe how enriching those moments have been for me. My college teammates and friends, my high school friends from my hometown, and so many other people have shown me so much love and support and have acted as though nothing has changed.

When I decided that I wanted to come out publicly, I was certain that there were going to be plenty of risks involved. For me, though, what outweighed the risk was the hope that in sharing myself, I could make an impact. I wanted to reach somebody, if only just one person out there, who was struggling.

In reflecting over the the last 12 months, I cannot begin to say how life-changing the response was. People from all walks of life – gay and straight, old and young, men and women – have reached out to show support and share their stories. That was one of the most important parts of the decision for me.

I felt and still feel that there is a great responsibility in having the platform I’ve been given, to give back to community. Being able to make connections and continue to grow those relationships is something I take great pride in.

I encourage anyone out there who is struggling to reach out to me. I want to always be a resource to anyone out there in need – to be the person I needed when I was younger. I feel so very lucky to be able to do so now.

I so strongly regret how long it took me to get to October 7 of last year. For so many years I let fear control every aspect of me. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make this year of my life all the more special, because of my rejuvenated spirit and rekindling of the things I used to cherish so much.

I owe so much to so many people in this process. All of the people in the community I had a chance to meet, my players, my co-workers, my friends and family. None of it would have happened without each and every one of them, and it is so important to me that they know that. People I have known my whole life, and others I have met only briefly, have all had a unique yet lasting influence on this process for me, and for that, I am extremely grateful.

Certainly so much of my life is different, but over the past year so much of it has been the same. That’s all I’ve ever wanted – to be me, and to not be identified by my sexuality, but by the character and personality that the people around me had always loved. The struggle certainly helped shape who I am today, and I’m so very lucky that the person who came out of this is someone the kids I coach, the people I work with, my friends & family, and most important of all myself, is proud of.

You can find Chris Burns on Facebook, and on Twitter @_ChrisBurns_.

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