They were cheering at us. The screams were deafening at times. They waved rainbow flags in the HOT sun. I'm talking about this year's Chicago Pride Parade....and I was in it!
The city department I work for was marching in this year's gay pride parade and I signed up to take part this past weekend. Me! ME!
I didn't want fear to keep me from getting out there and quite honestly who knows if I'll even be alive next year so I wanted to try while I had the chance. Not many can say they were actually IN the parade. So to have such special access was too tempting to pass up.
Before the event kicked off that day, I walked through Boystown to get a feel for what I was getting myself into. It was unusual being outside the barricades watching people reserve their spots when later on I'd be on the inside instead.
The parade route was over 1 1/2 hours of walking and when it finally began at noon I was in total survival mode.
You have to understand that I have major issues with crowds and I loathe sunny weather. Well there were people EVERYWHERE and the sun was out! But I did it anyway (with help from my sunblock spf 100).
It was so hard for me being around so many people but as my department walked through the procession I made it a point to wave and smile and make eye contact with everyone I could.
Thankfully out of the 25 of us, five were really outgoing and got the crowd revved up as we went by so it made it easier to engage the spectators when they so openly engaged us.
My anxiety levels were through the roof but overall this unique experience was more exciting than depressing.
I was quite disappointed I didn't meet anyone though. Everybody was either already paired up or part of a group. If I can't even meet ONE person at an event with hundreds of thousands of gays what chance do I have in my everyday, boring life? I fear I may be doomed to be alone and unloved forever.
But I understand. I would pass myself up too. Many times over. And it's difficult when you don't have any friends outside of work and have to do these types of things solo.
After my coworkers reached the end of the parade and slowly dispersed, I just wanted to go home, rest up, and cry a bit. It had been such a long day. Sensory overload for sure.
Would I have liked for things to turn out differently? Sure. Could I have been more outgoing with the crowd? Yes.
But I keep telling myself that I did really good this past Sunday. I stepped out of my comfort zone big-time and made it through intact. And maybe that's a good place to start.