How long did it take you to be able to say publicly "I am a Buddhist"?
If I think back, I have been exposed to Buddhism in some way for around 17 years. I have taken an active interest in it for around 14 years. I have times when I come closer to Buddhism, and times when I step away - those times when I come closer relate more to my attendance at my local monastery, the basic practice tends to remain whatever. But, being honest, I find it hard to say to people (friends, relatives, stranger) that I am a Buddhist, to make a positive assertion of what I believe and follow.
I think in some ways, it is easy (almost) to make a throw away statement about something. I find myself wondering at times why I did not take a more active interest in Buddhism in my student years, when "anything goes" as looking back, it would have been an easier transition than now (but perhaps that is what student life is about, "trying on" concepts and ideas?). But what drives the uncertainty I now have about saying something in which, internally, I have little doubts? I think we in the West have some cultural issues to overcome. Personally, I had to forge a very lonely path toward Buddhism - the life I was brought up in could not have been more Christian, Western, conventional. I came to Buddhism at a time when I felt a spiritual gulf from rejecting all of that - interestingly, I did so on an intellectual level, as I no longer could accept the teachings, or realities I was being told - Buddhism resonated for me. It filled a hole in my spiritual life, and I was drawn deeper into it through that route. But even now, it is seen so much as "the other", that I feel a degree of hesitance of talking about this to people outside of a receptive community like this.
Do others on this forum tell their parents, relatives, friends that they are Buddhist? And if so, did there come a point when you felt comfortable saying that when you had not done previously? What triggered the change for you? I want to feel more certain about the path I have chosen, but at times I feel very isolated, simply because I am not able to make the sort of public pronouncement that would "get things out in the open".