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Saturday March 23, 13:26:25

I want you to know me better, so here’s a small look into my life.

My first pair of skate shoes were black, worn-out DCs. I was 12. They were Bryan’s, my new, 14-year-old neighbor’s. He had, I guess, outgrown them. He wanted me to have them so I could be like him – a skateboarder. And I was happy to oblige. And for the next two years, I skated (poorly) and made a series of other decisions out of a pure desire to belong, to feel accepted.

I did that poorly, too.

From being called the “Douche of Spades” when the five or so neighborhood kids decided to start their own skate club (aptly named “The Spades”), to getting into regular fights at school, I was an all-around misfit.

To be honest, that was the case even before I tried to be Bam Margera. I still sort of am, in a more buttoned-up kind of way.

After my parents moved from that rural subdivision in unincorporated North Carolina to its neighboring city,  the focus of the social pressure shifted from skateboarding to rap music. By that time, I had persuaded my mom to replace the DCs with Osirises,  which would later become a great complementary accessory to low-hanging skinny jeans and a baggy, clearance-rack Element sweatshirt.

The marriage didn’t last. My mom’s engine blew on her car. And we moved back to rural America. This time in Illinois.

“Those farmboys will beat you up,” my papa would joke, as he chided me for my urban style. They didn’t. They just made fun of me and called me gay.

So I hung out with the three or four other skaters. We each battled our own pains, silently. That’s probably why we always partied.

Once I quit partying with them, they stopped hanging out with me, too. So, having no close friends to keep me there, I decided to leave regular high school. It took me a long time to pick myself up from all the following I was doing, to craft my own roadmap that would allow me to thwart how misguided I had become.

But that’s behind me now.

Today, seven years later, I’m 25, a soon-to-be young, upcoming professional. I’m more comfortable with myself; I have good, supportive friends; and a solid grounding in my own values. Though I still feel social pressure, it’s not a pressure to change myself in any way like it used to be. It’s more like a longing.

A longing to feel like I can relate. A longing for lengthy, humble, and intimate conversations about things I care about, important cultural issues and global disparity. A longing for support and validation.

I think that after I’m established in life with a stable income it will get easier. Your 20s are supposed to be the best years of your life. While, yes, I cherish my health and my lack of substantial commitments, the deep desire for stability, for certainty, for security, for clear signs of success – well, that’s a pretty big trade-off.

So I say to myself, “I’ll be happy once I make it.” But I know that isn’t true. I can tell from the lessons of others who “make it.” In reality, I’ll be happy once I learn to make my own happiness. Once I learn to be fully content, hopeful, and optimistic regardless of circumstance. Thankfully, on many days I am, but there’s still a great deal of inner work to do.

I’m confident that the disposition in its mature form will come with time and wisdom. A lot will, I believe – more than I can imagine. Until then, I will continue to pray that good people along the way who are a little more fortunate and a lot more experienced than me continue to extend a hand up and offer the benefit of the doubt.

On the come-up, that’s probably the best you can hope for.

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The high of something new can make it seem like you’ve transformed.

You experiment with a new style, and you think to yourself, “This is me now!” (The attached image is from Bob’s Burgers.)

But time passes, and you discover that what seemed like a good music genre a few months ago just doesn’t bring the same listening pleasure it once offered.

You might feel like the right thing to do in these moments is to cling desperately to some idea of who you once were, to keep listening to Bob Dylan because you know folks think he’s the greatest even though you don’t like his voice.

But a healthier approach is to just stop and try something else.

Getting up day after day and doing things that you know no longer make you happy is insane.

If journaling daily is a chore rather than a release, a break will allow you to reset and come back with fresh motivation.

Be happy. Switch things up. Lean into who you are this moment. It’ll be okay.

 

I’ll have a blog post out this weekend because there wasn’t one out yesterday. 

It’s easy to find something in anyone that you don’t like or that you disagree with.

A part of growing mature is learning to accept people despite your differences.

Just because someone is Catholic, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend time with them if you’re gay, so long as they are kind to you.

And so it goes for how cultured someone is, their political beliefs, and their diet.

Peace and utopia, in reality, doesn’t look like some kind of uniform place where everyone looks alike and believes the same things; no – it’s a world where we learn to amicably respect differences and celebrate diversity.

 

A romantic relationship, at it’s best, feels like the comfort and bliss of youth. A night in bed watching movies together seems like the times when you were young, hanging out with your best friend – because that person is your best friend.

That best friend dotingly cares for you while you’re sick, believes in you, pushes you to be better, makes you laugh, and soothes your sadness.

While this experience is rare (mostly because it takes so much work to build), there’s nothing quite as satisfying once you have it.

Even if the moment is only that, a moment, it’s worth the effort.

Three things could be said to constitute a well-lived life: impactful work, meaningful friendships, and fulfilling romantic companionship.

In the end, you might feel a sense of pride in your legacy or joy in your friendship, but there’s no replacement for unconditional love.

So cherish your friends, celebrate and seek accomplishments, and fight for love once you find it.

 

You can’t be and do all things.

So do what’s important, and consider what’s left a hobby.

Despite what the rise of the side hustle might suggest, hobbies are okay.

They allow (and are sometimes necessary for) you to live a full life, grow in self-knowledge, and satisfy your creative urges.

Complementarily, if you don’t get to everything you’d like to every day, that doesn’t mean you’re failing.

It’s more probable that you’re ambitious with your time.

Take it one day at a time.

Remember: Progress is slow. It’s often two steps forward, one step back.

Be gentle with yourself, and appreciate the results you’ve already obtained.

Developing a healthy lifestyle is not about living perfectly. While some rare eccentrics can wake up every day, follow the same routine, and eat exactly 1,900 calories a day, chances are you can’t do that.

It’s more likely that if you try to live a “perfect” life, you’ll be miserable and end up failing or going off the deep end.

One time I bought two large triple chocolate Sundays from Oberweis because I had been following such a strict routine. Don’t let that happen to you. It’s not fun. Very nauseating.

A much more realistic and sustainable approach is to treat yourself occasionally. On Fridays, eat some fries. Or some days, just do nothing.

Help yourself be a better you in the long-term: practice moderation.

As we grow up and grow out from our family roots, we settle into our own world. There, surrounded by our first stuff, it can be easy to become selfish.

Independence allows us to be insular, to isolate ourselves from what’s uncomfortable or contradictory.

In relationships, the isolation might make us act in a way that is purely transactional. We like our worlds to be fair, balanced, and convenient. So we help folks who help us, and we say we’re busy if we think someone isn’t generous enough with their time for us.

But that’s not a good way to live your life.

Being a good person is sometimes about doing kind things for others – showing up for them, helping them move, picking up a call – even when they haven’t equally reciprocated, especially when it comes to family.

This is a part of leading by example.

If everyone kept a “piggy bank” of helpfulness, the world would be cynical and devoid of an important kind of love, a love of selflessness for those we care about despite their flaws. An unconditional love.

Do the right thing. Be generous, and show others how to act beyond themselves.