Movement

One of my first lessons with the concept of movement, as peculiar as it may sound, was with a video game. Pokémon Yellow, to be exact. This was the landmark first Pokémon game to make landfall on the Game Boy, and the concept was a simple one: Embark on a quest capturing, training, and battling with creatures called Pokémon, with the ultimate goal of conquering the best trainers in the land and laying claim to the title of champion. The controls were as basic as you could get: A + pad with four compass directions was all that was needed. If there was a wall, your character would pause. Anything else, and your character would move.

Pokémon as a whole has come a tremendously far distance from the pixelated graphics of the early 90s to the bright, cinematic colors of the 21st century. And not unlike the series itself, like the concept of movement, I have also progressed further down the great road of life.

For starters, my movement has manifested itself in a literal sense: I have moved to Chicago! Around this time last year, I began the traditional post-college “what’s next?” thought process, as I hadn’t given it much thought beforehand. I almost immediately arrived at the conclusion that Michigan was not where I wanted to stay. I love my hometown, and Kalamazoo gave me six years of tears of triumphs, but I personally don’t feel like this is where I’m truly meant to be. My professional growth opportunities are not extensive, to say the least, and my personal relationships in the arena of love and dating have been…nonexistent. While I succeeded in making a few gay guy friends, they almost universally did not prove to be concrete (most commonly due to the underlying fact that most of them were not too invested in the concept of being friends with me and making the effort to do so, despite my intentions and efforts), and as the months and years go on, so too does my life, and it would be nice to experience what it’s like to genuinely be in love with someone. I’ve been on the receiving end of affection a few times in my life. I recently found a birthday card mailed to me in 2015 which was a hard item to come across; the message inside was incredibly sweet, but the author has since found a boyfriend last year in June and has made no effort to reach out to me in I don’t know how long. My attempts to initiate conversation also largely went ignored, and aside from that, the bigger issue I also run into is attempting to maintain friendships with guys after they start dating someone. For reasons unknown to me, they mostly fall off the radar completely. The conversations are shorter. Their attention is put elsewhere. I know the reasoning behind it, but it’s still a frustrating thing to not even be put on the backburner as a friend, but to instead be shoved off of it into oblivion altogether. It’s a mixture of hope that their relationship goes well, and a sadness knowing that our own conversations and friendship will eventually fade into the sunset.

This is all the more reason for me to make a move like this now, to shake up my life a little bit. I sure as hell am not getting younger, and have missed out on opportunities virtually every person my age has experienced. I’ve had incredible trips to places I used to read about in books. I’ve had plenty of high and low points professionally and personally. But the category of a social life, of having friends who genuinely put forth effort to include you in plans and physically see you, whose friendships manifest themselves in a flurry of social media interactions and face-to-face meetups for movies, drinks, clubbing, is something that has almost completely eluded me, and I damn well won’t solve the issue by staying in Michigan, and by not putting in the effort to change it myself. Nobody is going to make me happy but me, and for the time being, I am my own best friend, support system, you name it, and that’s what I have to embrace for the foreseeable future. How foreseeable remains to be, well, seen.

The implication of movement can have a definition of a few various things. There are many good moments of movement I have been through, but on the other side of the coin, so too have the bad moments been there as well. In leaving my world of Michigan behind, there is also the wonderful friendship I had with two people I met through my on-campus job. Over the past few years, our friendship hit very many high notes. As with any relationship, friend or otherwise, there were also more challenging moments we had to navigate. But navigate we did, up to recent times. I am supremely grateful to have had the chance to share living quarters with them for nine months to round out my final year at Western, as grateful as I am for our friendship as a whole, but the strain of living not solely with roommates, but with very good friends, was a hay maze I did not have a working GPS for, and numerous times it reared its ugly head, resulting in more troublesome moments for us to work through. If time travel existed, there are many things said and, especially, done that I would redo in a heartbeat for the better. Part of life, however, is living with the consequences of your actions, both good and bad, and due to my actions particularly in the first few months of the year, an environment that I had so eagerly embraced last August became, for me, an anxiety-ridden struggle, out of fear of creating any further issues. My internal struggle hit a peak in mid-March, as I opted to spend as little time as possible at home for the span of a few days, a decision I made purely on my own and was not fully comfortable with, but something my anxiety drove me to believe was a necessary measure to avoid further stress for all three of us. My emotions were so awful, I briefly revisited some suicidal thoughts…which is a very dark place to say the least. When the semester came to a close, I transferred back to my mom’s house to put an end to any further potential mishaps altogether.

I had infrequent conversations with one of them over the span of much of the summer, mostly about rent to our landlord. At that point in May, I had been paying the energy bill solo since November for reasons unknown, and would keep her updated when the latest bill arrived. Not long after a message for the final bill, I happened to click on her profile and noticed she had unfriended me. All forms of social media had been delinked. I was caught a bit off-guard, as it came without warning, but I took it as a sign that she wanted no further communication with me, and I respected her wishes. The line went dead until mid-August, when I made a post about how I felt lonely after having a particularly bad day at work, emotion fueled by not only that, but my lackluster luck with men. Not long after this post went public, I received a text from her: “After this message I am permanently deleting you from my social media, phone, and life. I am sick and tired of seeing your constant self-pity party on social media when you are th-.” The remainder of what I can only guess was a message I did not want to read was cut off after that. Aside from the social media part having already happened a month prior to the text, it was unexpected to say the least, but something that did not alter my mood in any form. I was in the middle of a show on Netflix and went right back to what I was doing. I contemplated sending a reply, much less reading the text, but fighting fire with fire was a tactic that, in this case, I knew would only escalate things. The only two bullet points worth noting here is that everyone is free to post what they decide to post on the internet, while accepting any potential risks and ensuring what they are doing is lawful. I have no control over how people feel reading what I put out to the world, nor would I ever be interested in such a skill, because people are and should also free to read and engage with material that they like and enjoy, again permitting the legality of such material. If you don’t like what you read, there is no one to be put at blame but you. I have long used this blog especially as an emotional processor, as a virtual companion interested in knowing every facet and fabric that makes up my day, my mind, and my emotional well-being. My intention is never to paint people in a bad light, but rather, to process how I feel, sort of a mental cleansing technique. In this case, I bear absolutely zero ill-will toward either of them. Living with friends is a tricky road to navigate, something I should’ve been more prepared for, and there were multiple missteps from me that could have been prevented. I sincerely hope their lives are thriving in Kalamazoo and maybe someday we can patch things up down the road. The only real thorn in the whole situation is the $600 worth of energy bills that were supposed to be evenly split that I paid for, but money comes and goes. There is bigger fish to fry.

Employment-wise, I remain under pen and paper to CVS as a supervisor. While it has been a significantly less pressure-filled job than working for Macy’s and Sears, it is not something I can currently maintain financially if I aim to realistically survive as a Chicago citizen. I have been job hunting for the past several weeks, with minimal luck. I did encounter a canvassing job that I snagged an offer for before even leaving the office, and after my first day, I unfortunately had to bow out. Virtually every home in Chicago has a small flight of ten or so steps, and with winter approaching and my ankle (still) not at 100% functionality, the last thing I want to do is risk taking a bad fall. Despite the prospect of making some good money, it just wouldn’t be worth it, and to that length, there made no sense in wasting any of their time in further training for me, at least for the time being.

By far, however, my biggest struggle is unsurprisingly my loneliness. By no stretch did I expect an immediate change from living in Michigan. Making friends and meeting people takes effort, well unless you happen to be highly attractive, in which case the struggle is typically lessened by several degrees. Yet, almost a month in, and I have only two social interactions to speak of that do not belong to those I make on the Internet. Adding to this is the fact that, for the first time in my life, I am 100% living alone. It is a change I openly embrace, to be sure. Living with my mom and her girlfriend over the summer was nice, but due to my mom’s girlfriend’s bipolar depression, she would frequently target me for a series of verbal smackdowns, and it wasn’t anything pretty. It gave me a very real taste of being in an abusive relationship, of having someone almost constantly tell me I’m an asshole, I’m arrogant, the list goes on, and she would grasp at almost anything she could to convert it into a weapon against me. My mom for her part, not wanting to get caught in the verbal crossfire, would play the role of neutral observer, occasionally making comments to go along with her girlfriend’s tirade but (thankfully) later telling me that it was just an act to appease her and avoid even worse altercations. For the most part, these emotional endurance tests would take place on Sundays, a day traditionally designed for rest and relaxation (which would often develop into anything but relaxing). After signing my lease and officially confirming my moving plans, she stepped up her abusing game to an almost daily tirade of what a shitty person I am, going on and on about past mistakes, trying to rile me up, and so forth. I began secluding myself in my room on a more frequent basis, to the displeasure of my mom (to which I could only shrug). The attacks reached a new level when I came home from work one night to find a note written on my bed: “Your mother informed me that you stole my paycheck #000 for $416. She confessed this to me with the knowledge that I was recording her statement. I have decided to file charges.” The exact check number is both unknown to me and irrelevant at this point, the exact amount was a rough estimate in that neighborhood, and charges were never actually filed. I actually simply tossed it aside and planned on calling it a night (they were in their bedroom at the time), up until 15 minutes later when she pounded on my door, brought me out to the kitchen, and began another emotional slugfest, going into the story about how my mom had gotten drunk, supposedly went into my room, “found a paycheck” in my backpack, and gave it to her. The story later changed to her opening my mom’s purse and finding the check laying on top. I repeatedly denied having anything to do with the check, for the simple fact that I had nothing to do with it. She hounded me for a good half hour and then released me to lick my wounds, which was followed five minutes later by calling me into their bedroom to find my mom had woken up and unexpectedly launched into a slightly-buzzed emotional outburst about wanting to adopt my sister’s daughter. Her girlfriend’s mood switched like a light, and the two of us exchanged words of support with my mom, occasionally laughing, and the conversation ended much more pleasantly than the previous one had.

The following day after returning from work, the carnage continued, this time with my mom playing her role of artifical interrogator to, again, escape any worse consequences. My answer of “I don’t know what happened to the paycheck” was repeated a good twenty or so times, dodging accusations that if I’m denying any involvement, that must mean I’m framing my own mother for stealing it, words I never spoke nor believed. Suffice it to say  I have never been under threat to have law enforcement called on me for a crime I did not commit until that day, and hopefully to your no great surprise, I have no immediate plans to return to my mom’s house ANYWHERE in the near future. Getting out of that situation was one of the biggest blessings of my life, and as much as I love my mom (who sided with me and knew I had no involvement with the check), I cannot be in a toxic environment where someone unexpectedly does shit like that. No thank you.

All that said, yeah, some solidarity is a welcome change in my life, but only to an extent. Most of my days consist of going to work, or laying in bed, or occasionally walking around downtown. I truly love being a Chicago resident, and am thrilled at the prospective opportunities in front of me. But few other times in my life have I had to be this strong emotionally as I’ve had to be the past few weeks, consistently aiming to remind myself that it can and will get better, that things will change. But despite my efforts to make those changes happen, I have made…well, not a whole lot of change happen. My interactions on Grindr and Tinder have had minimal success. My attempts to connect with Chicago gays on Twitter have 99% resulted in no replies. None of these things are things I say to garner sympathy, but emotionally, I am stuck in a very frustrating stage in my life as far as my social aspects go, and not being able to have any immediate fix or any sign of relief on the horizon is a very hard concept for me to deal with. Granted, I am accustomed to being alone. The past several years have molded me into being a very independent person, and having to rely on myself for things is almost as second-nature as breathing. But for one rare moment, maybe two, it would be nice to not have to be so emotionally strong, to have someone in my life who can fully support me, as a friend or even as a boyfriend if I’m so lucky.

My 27th birthday occurred this past Sunday, and for Saturday night I decided to take myself out to pizza and follow it up with a night at Sidetrack (one of the biggest LGBT clubs in the state). By pure miracle, a mutual of mine who I’ve been wanting to meet for a while happened to be free, and met me at the bar not long after I arrived, along with a friend of his. What had initially promised to be a relatively average evening very swiftly evolved into a very fun night that I desperately needed. He and I had a very good conversation as well, culminating with him telling me, “You got me.” I cannot think of anything to bring me a greater level of comfort than a degree of reassurance words like that bring, and although no physical presents mainfested themselves this year from anyone, it was certainly a nice gift to receive.

The one gift I did receive Sunday morning, however, was stress, when I awoke to find out that my phone service had been shut off. I made it to work (yep, a whole 8 hours on my birthday, yay), and later messaged my company, T-Mobile, on my break using a free wifi pass from a local Xfinity hotspot. The person I talked to through the app told me my phone was marked as lost a few days ago, which thankfully it wasn’t. I reached out to my mom (as she’s the primary account holder) to contact them to remove the block, to which she gave no reply. I decided to go to the nearest store to see if they could tell me anything further, and come to find out, my line had been suspended. With. No. Warning. Happy birthday to me.

My mom and I talked on the phone a few days prior and I told her I’d be able to send a payment in a few weeks, which she sounded okay with, but I have no doubt in my mind her girlfriend went on a signature tirade against me and was a strong contributing factor in having my line shut off, which I can understand under the circumstances as I’ve been attempting to adjust financially, but giving me zero warning in advance is fucked up. Oh yeah, I should’ve had my own account ages ago, for sure, and this was definitely that push I needed. For one, I have no Internet at my apartment. If anyone needs to contact me if I lose service, good luck Charlie. Many would say a phone is a luxury. For anyone with a full-time job, it is essential to be in contact with your boss if needed. If (god forbid) I miss a shift and have no way to contact the store, my job could be in jeopardy.

Thankfully I now not only have my own account set up, but I have a new SIM card and phone number, adding more to the official-ness of the Chicago transition. I don’t have many contacts in my phone that I’m in regular contact with. At the moment in fact, that number is just three, excluding my mom (who I understandably haven’t talked to since Thursday and, especially, since Sunday). A Twitter friend I had by the name of Bryan would periodically text me every few months or so, and as much as I wish I could be friends with him, he’s unfortunately made it very clear that despite our past interactions, he wants absolutely nothing to do with me. Last I recall, he’s still on Twitter under the name @pissyandpassive. Whether he knows of my new handle or not is a mystery to me. Will I ever hear from him again? It’s unlikely at this point. But case in point, there wasn’t a whole lot anchoring me to my old number to begin with. It’s all part of that brand-new start feeling.

So at the moment, that’s where I’m at. Significantly in need of friends, but certainly in a better physical environment than what I’ve been through the last few years. My other goal is finally getting to see an orthopedic specialist and get my ankle back on track. I pray to whatever gods that exist that I continue to hold out hope that things will get better, that I will make friends, that I will have people in my life with a genuine interest in hanging out with me. Time will tell which side will yield first. In the meantime, there will be more solo trips to Boystown. There will be more dinner dates with me, myself, and I. And there will likely be more messages sent out to strangers on social media i the hope that strangers can become friends. But it’s a two-way street.

I hope I can find people willing to cross that street for me and walk down it together. The fight goes on.

A Triumph, A Twist, And A Turn Of The Page

So, so much has gone down in my life (surprisingly) since the last time I put something on here that I realized the only logical thing to do was…to put something on here.

Just less than a week ago, just shy of 1AM on June 29th), I submitted my final assignment and, today, received my official notification. I have graduated from Western Michigan University. Officially.

This is such a huge thing for me. It almost doesn’t feel like it even happened, quite honestly. The actual graduation ceremony happened on the 23rd. Due to various circumstances (part of which I’ll dive into in a bit), I decided to opt out. It was a decision I wrestled with for a bit. I didn’t put much thought into the ceremony until recent months, and even then, something about being part of a ceremony where I was a virtual unknown didn’t quite move me to participate (that, and spending $50 on a cap and gown I’d wear only once, which was also money I didn’t have). This is a notably nontraditional approach, all things considered, but then again, my college life, namely my whole life, has been very nontraditional. I have mostly grown up without a car and the inability to drive. I have remained single my entire life. It was a miracle I went to prom both years that I was eligible to go, much less the fact that I went with a group both times. Going to college for almost six years only seemed like the next natural thing on the list. But what’s important is that I have graduated! It was a challenging road. I  made some awesome friends and lost them, and then had them come back again (in some cases). I endured some of the most unsavory roommates I’ve ever experienced in my four years at my apartment complex. I even underwent numerous battles with myself and my anxiety, which capitalized itself in four separate bouts of suicidal thoughts, and various moments of internal weakness, going so far as to manifest itself in a fear of returning back home strong enough that pushed me to camp out on campus.

There are several moments of weakness, to be sure. But the transformation I’ve undergone is remarkable. I entered college in 2012 a closeted, mostly timid person. Over the course of the following years, I would become lucky enough to gain the friendship of a number of wonderful people, have some truly incredible experiences, gain plenty of newfound independence, and take the enormous step forward and come out of the closet. Of course, my journey of personal growth is not over. It never will be. And there’s still plenty of work to be done. But the progress I’ve made is wonderful, and I now have a document and a $60k debt to prove it. The loans I will be paying back for a few more years to come. The memories, however, will be ingrained in me forever, and that’s something I can sit here and be proud of.

Life is not without its fair share of twists and turns, however. Last May, I embarked on my next globe-trotting adventure to Paris and Spain. This was my fourth international excursion, something I have been ridiculously fortunate to do (and I cannot underscore that enough, honestly), my second foray to Paris, and my first entrance into Spain. It was, in short, wonderful. Soaking up so much culture is an amazing experience, and it’s an incredible feeling to see a world so different yet so same from the one you know and to realize there’s an entire universe beyond the four walls you may easily become accustomed to. It’s why I love traveling so much: I love the adventure of something new. I love exploring a world beyond what I know and enter into a culture where I’m the one that’s a stranger.

During our time in Madrid, I unexpectedly took a second trip, this time down a flight of stairs at our hostel. Upon landing, I looked down and realized my left foot had rotated itself almost completely horizontal. Pain is an understatement. After being whisked away by ambulance to the local hospital, they did some x-rays and told me I had fractured my ankle and would likely require surgery, which they presented to be as option 1 (option 2 simply leaving the hospital and return to the group). Not wanting to put myself in an even worse situation, I opted in for surgery without a second thought, and after straightening out my foot and encasing it in a protective clay-like substance, I was set up in the patient waiting room with another, older gentlemen in one of the beds not too far away.

For anyone’s burning curiosity, getting surgery in a foreign country is an interesting experience. Some of the nurses spoke English, and I knew what was going to happen before going under: They were making two incisions in my foot and sticking some screws and plates in my ankle to hold the bones together and let them heal. Nothing too complicated or extravagant. For the actual procedure, they provided me with a local anesthesia to my back, which numbed me from the waist down, set up a blue tarp blocking my view to the lower half of my body, and went to work for roughly 30 minutes or so. An overnight stint at the hospital, followed by plenty of discharge instructions, and I was all set to leave.

This led to another “first-time” experience for me: My first time using crutches. These ones were not free, unfortunately, and came with a 90 euro price tag in addition to the medication I had to purchase. These crutches were not your run-of-the-mill crutches that rest in the comfort (or discomfort) of your armpit. They have holding cups to fit your arms into, and have a handle to grip with your hand, and then you maneuver yourself from there. My first few days using them was…rough, to say the least. There were a couple times I nearly put my entire weight on my left foot (which I was instructed not to do), which could’ve been disastrous. Nevertheless, I persisted.

EF Ultimate Break, the travel company I had utilized for my third trip, gave me the option to fly back to Michigan a few days early. This all went down on Wednesday, and we were slated to fly back to the Americas the following Tuesday. My immediate thought was that I was in Spain, and there was no way I was gonna fly back early just from a simple ankle fracture. I did, however, opt to give myself an extra two days to recover before catching up with the group. EF arranged a separate room for me in Madrid at the same hostel, followed by a solo room at another Madrid hostel for Friday. By far, the biggest part I struggled with, apart from the pain, was the medication. Going out of surgery, I knew the first few days would be challenging. What I was not fully prepared for was the Clexane, a type of blood thinner they prescribed for me to prevent blood clots, since my left leg was mostly out of normal commission. To my dismay, the Clexane came in the form of an injection I had to give myself once every 24 hours to my stomach area. Needles have historically never been my thing, and the first injection I gave myself Friday morning was a struggle, to say the least, but it was a necessary hurdle to overcome.

Most of my group members were largely concerned about me, going so far as to leave me a box of get-well-soon chocolates at the hostel where all this went down. Reuniting with them felt wonderful. A good number of them quickly became my family away from home, and I drew in so much comfort having them not only with me but willing to go the extra mile and help me, whether it was bringing me food or volunteering to push me around in my wheelchair. Not once did I have to ask anyone for help as far as movement was concerned. My hardest obstacle was achieving simple, everyday tasks. I could no longer take a shower normally; I had to rinse my hair underneath the sink. I had to be careful putting on my shorts. My left foot up to just below my knee was tightly (and nicely) wrapped in standard gauze wrapping. The surgeons had placed what felt like a cement leg holder beneath my gauze-enclosed leg, along with a sort of ankle brace, and what felt like a brick underneath my foot. Moving my leg was doable, albeit moving a leg that felt like it had an extra few pounds tacked on.

While I did not get a chance to live up the experience of the remainder of the trip as best as possible, I was still able to do what I could to have a good time. At times, it was definitely a pain to not being able to normally walk, a thought I have had on multiple occasions. But my biggest motivator is the understanding that things could be worse. There are countless other people in far more drastic situations. I recently read a story about a woman who was inflicted by a type of flesh-eating bacteria and had to have all four of her limbs surgically removed (for the full story courtesy of People.com, click here). My case is certainly a mere fraction of what people like her have gone through. I know without a doubt I’m lucky it’s only a bone fracture. But in my present climate, then and now, it’s presented me with its own share of challenges.

The long flight back home was nothing extravagant. I had the good fortune of upgrading my seats well in advance, and had a nice, cozy seat with plenty of leg room mere feet away from first class, and put in an advance request for wheelchair assistance. The journey home was not without its share of close calls; due to (surprise) a flight delay from Malaga to Paris, I almost missed my pond-crossing flight, and arrived scant minutes after the posted takeoff time, largely thanks to the swift handicap shortcuts from one terminal at the Charles de Galle airport to the other, and while on the long flight, I slipped and almost fell, placing my weight on my left foot in the process. Nothing traumatic occurred, but I was thankful they had Tylenol on board. Another guy in my group (shoutout to you, Moe!) was on the same flight and willingly stuck by me up until we parted ways in Detroit, and I certainly wouldn’t have made it home as easily without him.

Upon arriving home, my mom brought me over to the nearest Urgent Care center by our house. After a few minutes of wait, the doctor informed me that I’d have to get my foot checked out by an orthopedic specialist (which made sense), but did examine my foot. I still had full functionality of my toes, which were partially exposed, and my blood vessels appeared normal. I just needed to have a foot specialist check it out. Made sense.

My other big obstacle through this process was figuring out how I would be able to function at work. As a sales associate, a large portion of my time at work is typically spent on my feet, helping customers find merchandise, taking merchandise back to appropriate locations on the sales floor, checking fitting rooms, the list goes on. With me being down a leg, my concern turned to how I would be able to work. Part of me hoped there would be a paid time off option, where I could spend the needed time at home recovering. However, in hindsight now, I am glad things turned out the way they did. Being home almost 24 hours, a throwback to my two and a half year gap between high school and my entry into Western, it would have driven me (and likely my mother) insane. My manager told me that it would be no sweat. They would pull out a chair, keep me behind the register, and essentially make my role largely that of just a cashier. Many times, the boredom has been real. Being trapped in one spot for many hours a day gets exhausting. But making money is much better than not making money, and for that, I can be thankful.

After some brief waiting after returning home, I saw an orthopedic specialist on the morning of June 1st. Some x-rays were taken, and my cast was finally removed. Part of the inside by my ankle was, unsurprisingly, covered in a bit of blood, but the other surprise was seeing staples in my skin. Three were put on the right side where the smaller incision was made, and roughly 20 were on the left side, where the larger incision was made. I was told point blank that it was time for them to be removed, and my first internal thought was that I was in for some pain. Was the pain as severe as twisting my foot? No, but suffice it to say it was uncomfortable. Pro tip: Don’t get your skin stapled. Just, don’t do it.

The orthopedic specialist, a guy with hair in a short ponytail who gave off a strong rock guitarist vibe, came in and gave me the run down. I was still under firm orders to avoid putting any weight on my foot at all. He recommended I start taking vitamins for bone health, prescribed me a session of physical therapy, a handicap parking pass, a compression stocking (to avoid DVT and blood clots), and recommendations on where to buy different crutches or a knee scooter. He was super friendly, helpful, and informative. The major downside to the trip, however, was the fact that my Medicaid was not reactivated at the time, a consequence that cost me $250 up-front before I made it past the reception desk. While it was an extremely necessary appointment to keep, I was informed later on that cheaper options were available, had the reception staff knew I was paying out of pocket and had no insurance at the time (a fact that, now, has been remedied). At the end of the day, it is what it is, but I do need to be more cautious about informing medical staff of forms of payment, should I find myself required to pay out of pocket again in the future.

The biggest change, now, was a brand-new aircast. This is a typical device most people have probably seen on those with ankle and leg problems. I have to place my foot inside the cast, velcro myself in, place a plastic-like protective shield over my leg, and then use three straps to velcro it into place. The comfort level can be adjusted by pumping air into the cast, which can be locked in place or released at any time. It’s also ridiculously more comfortable than the other cast was in, and gave me greater freedom to move my leg once I was out of it, due to the fact I was rid of the other cast and its cement-like counterparts.

At this point, I’m on the tail end of my time on one working leg. I have been taking aspirin for the past few weeks as a blood-thinner, and have been vitamin-ing it up every morning. I am no longer in pain! I knew my first few days after surgery would be brutal, and they were. Best of all, as I’m taking aspirin, I have long since said goodbye to the Clexane and the injections. My full respects to people who do that on a regular basis, but as someone who is definitely not pro-needle, it’s not something I enjoy in the slightest. The best I can say is that my next appointment next week Friday will give me a good prognosis on where I’m at and when I can be on two feet again.

This brings me…to this.This picture from the Ireland part of my trip last year is a perfect representation of where I’m at: The land I sit on represents the miles I’ve traveled. I entered college a shy, timid 20 year-old with crippling social anxiety, and six years later, I leave as a completely different person. I came out. I traveled to seven different countries. I made friends, lost some, and made a few more. I grew in confidence, holding onto positions that required me to interact with complete strangers. The path of self-improvement is never-ending, but I remain proud of where I’ve gone so far.

Ahead of me, like that photograph, is a sea of unknown. The last eventful task on my to-do list is moving my things from Kalamazoo in a few weeks, a tall order as I don’t have easy access to transport my bed. Apart from that, it’s a slow game of getting caught up on bills. At the end of the semester, I made the move back to Grand Rapids to temporarily share a roof with my mom and her girlfriend. I’ve missed my mom more than I can describe, and while our relationship has never been purely perfect, she has been the biggest rock of my life, and for someone without a long, strong Rolodex of friends to call upon, it has been instrumental having her in my life. I also fully acknowledge how I now belong in a post-college stereotype: Graduate college, move in with parents. There are a various number of people who actively live in that stereotype, and make it work. My future plans definitely have no place to remain rooted in Grand Rapids, and I am eagerly awaiting the chance to move at the earliest opportunity. Part of this process has been the gradual catch-up process on the various bills I owe. Without access to transportation as easily as I’d normally have on two working legs, I have largely had to rely on my own finances through the use of Uber to transport me to and from work, a tall order I put into careful consideration in contrast to the free public transportation I received in Kalamazoo, having been a college student. This has come with a price tag of $25 per day, and $125 a week. It has not only been killing my wallet, but my stress level, as I can say that having minimal finances is not a fun feeling. Thankfully the light is getting a bit brighter. I am almost caught up on everything and can begin putting money away to move. In addition, once I have easier access to the bus, I’ll be saving off money! On top of that, I began the search for a new, higher-paying job. I have enjoyed my coworkers, and the work itself is not terribly challenging, but being paid the minimum wage, even with full-time hours, is not a reality I wish to continue being a part of.

Beyond that lies my big move: Chicago. I determined months ago that the Windy City would afford me many opportunities for growth, both professionally and personally. The two big challenges first are finding employment and finding a place to live. I’ve mostly utilized sites like Indeed, Zillow, and the like to accomplish these goals. By no means is anything in place just yet, though I have found a few (relatively affordable) locations. Another task at hand is aligning the three elements: Finding a job and pegging down a start date, finding a place to live and landing a move-in date, and finding and gathering my things to actually make the move that coincides with the two.

All I can do in the meantime now is taking each day as it comes. Graduating college is a massive accomplishment, and while I am another statistic that did not follow the traditional four-year plan, much less the pathway of staying on the road of higher education immediately following high school, I still made it. That is huge. But my life is just beginning. I refuse to become a permanent living-with-parent statistic. I know this situation is temporary. If I had my choice, I’d be in Chicago right now.

My final class was LGBT Studies, a broad overview of historical events, figures, articles, and discussions that have shaped the progress of LGBT history. I found it enormously fitting to take as a final class, as it symbolized my own personal journey being gay, and the various facets of being gay that I have grown to accept. The fact that my graduation fell on pride month, designed to celebrate the achievements of the LGBT community, was equally fitting. It’s been a long road, but I’m still alive. And the road isn’t stopping yet.

My life, now, is like the sea: Full of possibility. A blank canvas. But most of all, it’s not endless. Sooner or later, you hit land. You hit the end. I’m determined to do what I can to make the most of what I have, before I hit that ending. This is the beginning of the rest of my life.

The Concept of Love

For the last several years, I have long wondered about a very infuriating concept: Dating.

I believe it’s a vastly popular concept that nobody wants to spend their life alone. Everyone values companionship, a life partner, someone to experience the chaos of existence with. There are those who have little to no trouble attracting interest. Their looks are their top-shelf offering, while their personalities frequently belong in the clearance bin. Others have enough personality for a full-length Harry Potter novel, but are less successful in the visuals category. And there are those in the middle of the ground region that have the best of both worlds. Everyone has their own tribe that they belong to, and the parameters that they fall between. Some facets are assets, and others are roadblocks, but of course the general idea is work with what you have, which many people do successfully.

For anyone who knows me, I haven’t been the luckiest soul in the dating pool. I have been single for a full 26 years. I haven’t gone on any dates because you traditionally need someone else to be willing to go on one with you, and while I have come close to kicking it off my bucket list, it hasn’t happened yet. To give you an idea of my experience, I had a Tinder match offer to go out with me last year; I’m fortunate to live right next door to a popular breakfast restaurant in my city that’s open for most of the day and 24 hours on the weekends, so we were going to go there, and mind you he lived about a half hour away and was willing to come to Kalamazoo for the sole purpose of going out with me. A few minutes after confirming our plans, he messaged me again and said an unexpected issue was happening with his roommate and we’d need to reschedule, and I’ll leave it up to you to discover if I ever heard from him again.

And that’s how it’s typically been. I don’t have many opportunities to go out unless I decide to go by myself (which, from experience, is significantly less enjoyable), so Grindr and Tinder are my two main resources, and it’s very safe to assume they’ve been limited resources at that. A solid 95% of my outgoing messages go unanswered; I had one particular guy who looked like someone I’m acquainted with go so far to say he wasn’t interested when I happened to drunkenly message him one night, and I’ve always been the ‘one and done’ type of person: Message him, if he ignores you, move on. Simple. Of course Grindr itself is not prime real estate for finding Mr. Right, unless you’re looking for Mr. Right Now. I learned that lesson the hard way two years ago where a combination of an unexpected financial hurdle and the stress of being consistently ignored drove me into a depression that kept itself latched on to me like a vulture for a good two or three weeks. That is unhealthy. Even just downplaying things and searching for friends has yielded zero results; again, you typically need the other person to have some level of interest in you to establish some form of relationship. Of course I would never force anyone to talk to me or date me, but it nevertheless remains frustrating.

It’s also forced me to take a hard look at myself and what I’m doing. I’ve sexted multiple times, frequently with guys who don’t live anywhere remotely close to me. Do I expect anything to come of it? No, but it’s more or less a good exercise for me to keep my mind active sexually, to know how to stimulate a guy, should I ever happen to find one. I’ve developed crushes on people. A particularly severe one lasted for I believe a year before he brought it up with me, we continued being friends, and then I never heard from him again. But each time I’m brought back to the same question: What is the concept of love, why do we put so much weight into it, and what value does it really hold?

Society has put a tremendous amount of leverage into what it means to be in a relationship, and the value it brings, and while having a partner to experience life with is (I imagine) a very wonderful thing, it is not the only value and meaning to hold on to. There are multiple people out there who openly choose to not date and enjoy being single, and they deserve all the credit in the world because living your life single is not always the most enjoyable. Your workplace, your friendships, your community, and plenty more all have meaning and value as well; dating someone is not a magical cure-all to your ailments, and is not and should not be the sole mission for anyone in this world.

Historically, I grew up as a relatively shy and introverted person. My opportunities to engage in social activities were few and far between. I maintained a few friendships in middle school and high school, but it was never brought up to the point of consistent after-school plans, contrary to the lives of the majority of my fellow classmates. Much of my socialization revolved around my high school’s band program, and quite honestly, I would not have made it out of my freshman year alive had I not participated. Among the memories it instilled in me, it also cemented my love of music, which has been my primary driving factor for much of my existence. I also began developing feelings for guys in high school as well, but it wasn’t until 2014 that I fully embraced my sexuality and threw all notion of caring what others think out the window.

It’s no surprise to me that my introversion is also a contributing factor to my lack of experience in the dating arena. In recent years, I’ve grown to be far more outgoing. I used to tremble at the concept of talking to strangers on the phone thanks to my anxiety, but after working as a leasing agent for 16 months and using a phone regularly, it’s become second-nature to me. But still, here I am, heading into 2018 without a single relationship to my name.

And yet, my life has more value than my relationship status. In place of having a boyfriend to hold, take care of, support, and experience life with, I’ve instead put myself out there and have experienced other facts of life that have drawn great meaning to me. To date, I have taken 4 international excursions, with number five approaching in four months (this time to Spain, France and Italy). I have taken a few solo trips on my own that have given me time to fully appreciate myself, and I have given a lot to the various people in my life that have come and gone over the last few years. While the list of things I wish I could change about myself is slowly shrinking, having a boyfriend isn’t quite as much a priority to me anymore as it used to be. Just prior to the end of last year, I began eating more healthy, which has been something on my list for quite a while. Perhaps having a thinner body will attract greater interest; it’s no secret that gay men in general can lean more towards the narcissistic side, and if you’re a pound or two overweight, they’ll drop you faster than last season’s Ralph Lauren apparel (though I can say for a fact that not all gay men, or people in general, are like that). And if it doesn’t, oh well. I’ll still have myself (and a thinner body) to appreciate.

Love, as I’ve grown to realize, is far deeper than a meaningful connection with someone you’re in love with. It takes shape in nearly every facet of your life, from the attention you give people, to the time and effort you put into your passion or job. I’ve been on the receiving end of being ghosted multiple times by people, gay guys in particular who, for reasons unknown, feigned friendships with me. I’ve become much more observant of guys who actually put in the effort to talk to me, and have stopped giving so much of my effort into relationships that have become too one-sided, which has led to a much happier me. A guy I’ve been friends with for two years is taking one of the classes I am. Tuesday was my first time seeing him since July when he took me out to dinner, and while I know he’s busy with classes and work, I’ve long wondered about when his free time is. History will certainly tell us that if he was interested in hanging out with me, he would’ve made the time to do so at this point, and even if it was for only an hour or two, that would be fine with me. And of course there was the rather charming “fuck off” type of message I received back in October (full details are in the last blog post) that also made me take a look at the effort I was putting in to guys.

I’ve been so determined to make as many friends as possible that it’s also made me turn a blind eye into the elements that comprise of a friendship, namely the commandment that thou shalt not engage in one-sided relationships. My persistence to attempt to salvage some form of camaraderie, some form of interaction, preferably one that is both physical and visual, has led to more stress and more “woe is me” than I even care to divulge at this point. This has specifically been true for the guys I’ve been, or have attempted to be, friends with; every female acquaintance I’ve encountered has never given me as much hassle as trying to make plans with another guy, and a gay one at that. A guy I became friends with in July 2016 decided to not make any contact with me after I mentally gave him a two-week period to reach out to me. He then messaged me a couple months ago after zero contact, and now hasn’t made any effort to talk to me since; a message to him on Grindr has gone unanswered, and if that alone isn’t a signal, I don’t know what is. I visited my mom last week and attempted to make plans with a mutual follower, and after broaching the topic and telling how disinterested he was, I dropped it. Let the lesson plan here show that if you are trying to make plans with another guy, or trying to make an effort to converse with one, and you are getting little to no effort in return, RUN! Case closed. Point blank and the period. Anyone who claims to call you their friend should be making some form of effort to communicate with you, rather than, as an example, consistently post on social media and interact with multiple other people and give you little to no response at all, and while I certainly never expect immediate replies, I do expect a reply at some point. It’s a difficult lesson to implement, as I have had issues letting go of a few friendships over the years out of my hope that things can go back to how they initially were, but overall, it’s for the best. My happiness (and yours) is more important than any relationship, friendly or otherwise. I’ve been screwed over by guys, and have had my emotions trampled on with little or no care whatsoever, but life goes on, and it simply forces me to keep trying to change my circumstances.

The point of why I go through all of this is simple: I have learned, through my experiences, that being happy with yourself and doing what you love is the most important thing of all. Sure, I’d love to have some gay friends, and more people to hang out with. I’d absolutely die of excitement at the opportunity to do brunch, to go to Chicago or New York or Atlanta with a group of guys and just have fun. I’d love to go out on the weekend with them and hit up the clubs and get my drink on as much as the next homo sapien, but right now due to my current circumstances (see above), I don’t have that luxury, which is okay because it’s taught me to be happy with what I have currently. That, to me, is the best thing of all. I certainly won’t stop trying to talk to guys, and make new friends, maybe a sexual encounter here or there, but I will be happy one way or another. Do not let anyone or anything stand between you and what makes you happy, which, for 2018, is the exact mentality I’m going to have.

Another Year Older

It’s been a while since I put anything on here, and in the span of three months, a good chunk of events have happened.

With it being a few weeks short of the end of the year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what happened to me in the past twelve months that have transpired. Some of those events have been truly amazing. Others…well, if time machines existed, I’d sign up in a heartbeat to not experience them.

I kicked off 2017 with an impromptu solo vacation to St. Pete’s Beach, roughly 30 or so minutes away from the Tampa airport. It was a great time to get away by myself for a while, relax, and brace myself for another semester and all it would throw at me. I experienced my first crab cake as well, which was delicious. It was, overall, a really great time.

A few weeks after, I took a trip to Chicago for the weekend with my friend Bradley. I was really thrilled he invited me to come along with him, and it was my first taste of Boystown, Chicago’s popular LGBT neighborhood. I also got to experience the magic event known as brunch, and I do not regret one single mimosa consumed.

Early March, Bradley and I voyaged to Chicago again, this time heading out on vacation to Ocho Rios. The week-long break from life was absolutely terrific, as were the unlimited food and drinks. I also experienced my first spa treatment in the form of a facial, along with a ridiculous sunburn that essentially turned me into a lobster for a couple weeks. The skin peeling was not pleasant. The vacation itself, however, was completely worth it.

Later that month, I stepped into a new job capacity at the caf: Scheduling Supervisor. It was admittedly very nice to have the opportunity to set my own hours, and while it came with no pay raise, I was eager to take it on as a means of having the job experience. It was, at times, a challenge, and many other times, it was nice to feel like I was making a positive impact.

Two months later, it was time for another international globe-trotting adventure, this time taking me to Scotland, Ireland, and back to England. I cannot  underscore how thankful I was to have the opportunity to go on another trip like this, and it was a very once-in-a-lifetime experience (this time without my phone getting stolen). I had a great group of people to travel with, and our Tour Director, Georgia, was amazing. Every bit of the trip was all incredibly worth it.

Much of the summer saw me working both jobs with few days off in-between. Mid-August, I finally had the chance to get away twice, once back to Chicago for a weekend, and the second to Key Largo for a solo vacation. I didn’t get to see any of the people I had hoped to encounter in Chicago, but it was still wonderful to get away on both occasions.

Early August, I also took an enormous step forward, finally getting out of the apartment complex I had spent much of my college life in, and moving in with two of my best friends. It was a transition that did not come without its challenges for me, as I had to adjust to no longer living within my bedroom. Through the stumbles, it’s been a major relief for my anxiety, and although my anxiety has periodically cropped up, it’s a significantly better living situation by MILES compared to the past few years.

September 11th came and went, and with it came my forced resignation from the caf due to the vacation I took the week prior with it being Welcome Week. I do not regret having gone on that vacation whatsoever because, in all aspects, it was time for me to get a new job. Working a max of 20 hours possible every week was simply not cutting it anymore, and with my age approaching the late-20s range, it was getting time for me to move past the college life. This just happened to be the shove I needed to find a better job.

The end of October came as well, and with it came the loss of my leasing office gig, having moved off-site in August and no longer meeting the criteria of Brand Ambassadors needing to live on-site. While the new property manager, Ester, said I had potential, she felt I was not at the level I needed to be for her to keep me, which is understandable. That job came with a consistent stream of mistakes on my end, having received no proper training and having to learn nearly everything in a direct hands-on manner, and while I truly enjoyed the experience, there were times where I struggled, and my struggles periodically impacted the lives of not only my coworkers, but current and prospective residents as well, and my efforts to fight to stay on were in vain.

The start of my birthday month was ridiculously stressful, having now been left unemployed entirely. It was quickly approaching the point of choosing to buy food or pay my rent, and that’s certainly a spot nobody wants to or should be left in. By that point, I had about two or three interviews under my belt, and a couple interested calls from employers, but nothing that clicked. I came close to getting a supervisor gig at the new AMC theater that opened downtown, but that fell through. On a whim, I turned to retail and applied for a seasonal position at Macy’s. Four minutes later, I was sent an email to schedule my interview, electing to come in the afternoon the following day where I was met with one of the managers, Tricia. After three brief questions, she hired me.

December has been pretty average for me. Much of it has been spent essentially living at Macy’s, picking up as many hours as possible and trying to not think too hard about my next life moves and where my future will lead me.

On the relationship front, some of my friendships with people have taken a hit. Bryan, a Twitter friend I made last year, determined I was no longer worth his time or effort, and since returning to Twitter, has made zero effort to talk to me in months. Justin, another friend I had, randomly decided to drop me out of his life completely. Off-screen, my luck hasn’t been much better. I’ve been stuck in a pretty consistent stream of unanswered messages, with a few failed date plans sprinkled in. I had a guy from Tinder make plans to have dinner with me, only to have his roommate unexpectedly run into some issue, and hasn’t talked at me since. Another guy I’ve been friends with for a while randomly decided to buy me dinner in July and has made zero effort to talk to me since. Another guy I encountered in the late part of the summer lives about 15 minutes away, and also made no effort to make plans with me as well.

One of the biggest hits came in October, where one such friend flat-out told me “I really wish you would get the hint” after my repeated attempts to try to make plans with him after he expressed interest a month and a half prior. His unexpected refusal came with the explanation that I had kissed him without permission, and that he felt like he couldn’t trust me after issues he experienced with his ex. While I don’t fully know what issues he went through, I know I am certainly not the type of person to force myself onto others, let alone kiss them, and despite the fact I don’t remember what he’s referencing, that also doesn’t mean it didn’t happen either. I have no reason to not believe him, and yet there’s nothing I can do at the present time. That said, it posed a pretty big question mark: Why would someone who I have not seen at all the entire year, after expressing interest in hanging out with me, suddenly change his mind and say he doesn’t feel like he can’t trust me? Nevertheless, it’s not my decision. I will never force someone to talk to me, much less date me, if they don’t want to. Still, this involves someone who literally lives a few houses away. The issue here, I believe, is not the fact that he couldn’t make the time for me, but rather the fact that he didn’t want to. All relationships are, and should be, a two-way street. I am certainly thankful he was up-front with me and essentially told me to stop talking to him, and all I can do is wish him well and move on.

At the present, I am gearing up for my final semester of college. I have five classes on the menu that stand between me and my degree. In the midst of that, I’m also patiently waiting to know if I will be able to keep my job or not. I have an interview set up a week and a half from today, and am in the process of searching for more opportunities. The last thing I want is to be left in the same spot I was in back in November.

All things considered, 2017 was certainly not the worst year of my life. It most definitely came with a good chunk of obstacles, but that’s part of the challenge. It’s a game of a bow and arrow. Every obstacle faced places more pressure on the bow, making it bend further and further, but when you follow your arrow, it’ll never fail to propel you forward. It’s all about how you face those challenges. I have certainly been facing the struggle of not having a car this year more so than in years prior, but life goes on. I may be heading into 2018 single for the 26th year in a row, but time marches forward. There’s a handful of friendships I lost, but that’s part of the game.

There’s a lot I’ve learned about how to properly treat people in a variety of situations. There’s also a lot I’ve learned about what I should expect for myself. All forms of relationships are all about effort. If someone isn’t going to put in the effort with you, don’t put in the effort with them. If someone clearly isn’t making attempts to hang out with you, stop trying. No matter what, always settle for more. Set the same expectations for others that you set for yourself. I have learned that while I’m nowhere close to finding a boyfriend, my energy can still be put to beneficial use.

2018 will be a big year for me. I plan on graduating and discovering my next path in life. It’s gonna be a big year for the country too with midterm elections right around the corner. A lot of positive things have happened in 2017, including the #MeToo movement. Somehow, someway, everything just might work out for me.

It’s been a great ride so far, and the journey’s not over yet.

End of an Era

Time passes. People move. Like a river’s flow, it never ends. People come and go. New opportunities pass as quickly as they come. The chance of a lifetime flies by without a second glance. Life happens. Blink, and you may miss everything.

For four years, I have been in one consistent routine: My on-campus job. Certainly far from being the most glamorous or savory, it paid the bills, paved the way to beautiful friendships, and instilled confidence in me that I don’t believe I would’ve found otherwise. Many times, things were less than pleasant, from coworkers and managers right down to the work itself. But it was a job. I did what was required of me. And most of all, it gave me something to believe in: Myself.

At the dawn of a new semester, I found myself in a hotel room in Chicago, having had to spend the night due to a delayed flight from Orlando en route from my vacation in Key Largo. After making it to one of my classes, I returned to the dining hall, ready to resume my post of reaching out to applicants, hiring in students, adjusting the schedule, and all the fun in-between. One of the managers there who was in charge of the students informed me that the main manager of our unit was not happy I had taken a vacation the previous week, and no longer wanted me responsible for the student scheduling.

This came as a bit of a shock to me. I had made sure to give prior notice before I left (which possibly could’ve slipped through the cracks and something I should’ve kept up on, admittedly). It was not my first vacation under that capacity, having escaped to Europe back in May earlier this year. And (although this was not a point I vocalized) most of my work, if present, would’ve consisted of hiring students, changing the schedule, and so forth, items the managers are certainly able to handle in my absence. To top it off, despite holding only two part-time jobs, I had, up to that point, been working nearly every single day. My shifts weren’t long, no, but at times, it was still exhausting, and I needed a break. My mental health is important.

He offered me some shifts on the student schedule to make up my hours, which had instantly been shortened from 20 to 5 with that bit of information. I said nothing aside from an explanation of my actions, privately noting that if anything, I’d much rather prefer to work in a supervisory capacity as before.

The following day, I arrived after lunch in the hope of picking up a shift or two. Said main manager happened to be there, and showed hesitation when I mentioned my intent to pick up one of the open supervisor shifts, and noted he would have to consult with another manager to see if I could permanently take it. Despite being down a supervisor at the time and my willingness to work, he initially specified that the working supervisor would cover both sections of the caf. After realizing that the other supervisor had called in, he allowed me to work from then until 8, where I proceeded to clock out, eat my meal, and leave.

Last week Monday, and with a bad feeling in my stomach, I arrived to work, where said main manager pulled me on to what used to be my office of operations. He explained that my absence during welcome week was unacceptable, and they had decided to end my employment. He presented me with the option to resign, rather than be terminated, which I gladly took, and with a briefly scribbled note on a clipboard he had with him, I effectively signed off on my four years of employment.

While I vocalized my understanding that we were short-staffed and busy that week, I did mention that it certainly wasn’t an intentional vacation, and despite the part-timeness of the job, I did highlight a particular commitment of mine earlier in the year where I returned to complete my shift after smashing my thumb in a cooler door. It was still to no avail, and with the common “good luck in your future endeavors,” I returned my plate to the dish window, said a few goodbyes, and walked out.

It’s an enormously surreal feeling to no longer work at a place you’ve worked at for the past four years, and to have it end so abruptly. I can at least be thankful that I had the choice to resign, albeit forcefully.

In its absence, it does put pressure on me to find my next gig. My primary reason for staying was to absorb as much resume-boosting material I could, particularly the last five months. It was, however, outliving its usefulness, and I was eager to find something that was a bit more dynamic. Now, I’m getting that push, even if it’s more of a shove in this case.

As things stand, I remain employed at my former apartment complex, and while it also remains in the realm of part-time, it also provides me with some form of income. This, too, is gradually reaching an impasse: One of the stipulations to be a ‘brand ambassador’ is the need to be an on-site resident, something that was recently brought forward by our new property manager and initially introduced by corporate back in May. While my argument of being a former resident of four years is, in my mind, suitable, it’s still unsure how much impact it will actually have, if things eventually reach the end of the line for me. Adding to the unknown is the fact that I don’t know if, much less when, this will be brought up, and how suddenly my employment will end unless I can fulfill a different capacity and remain employed under a different title, avoiding the ‘on-site resident’ requirement altogether. There’s a massive question mark over how much of a requirement it actually is, so things could go either way, but she encouraged me (and rightfully so) to prepare for the worst, and line up another opportunity as soon as possible.

Thus far, I have sent out applications to a few places, including Meijer, Target, and CVS, as well as other apartment complexes in an attempt to continue serving in a similar capacity as before. Wherever I end up is the big question, the answer to which I’m keen on discovering as soon as possible.

The past two weeks have been so consumed by my sudden job switch, I haven’t had much of a chance to take a breath and remember where I’m at. I’m a stone’s throw away from receiving my degree next spring. I remain as single as ever, which, although bothersome, is something I’ve grown to live with. My living situation has dramatically improved from what I’ve known the past several years, and despite my occasional missteps, I could not be happier to finally be living wth people I actually know, much less two of my best friends.

Elsewhere, my international pavement-pounding excursions continue! Not too long ago, I booked my next trip: Mid-May, I will be bound once again for Europe, this time hitting up Spain, the southern portion of France, and Italy, starting off with two days in Paris! I know not long from now, I will (hopefully) be bogged down with a full-time job post-graduation, so the more chances I get to travel the world now while I have the time, the better. There’s a lot of world to see out there.

In case you were wondering, all things considered, I do NOT regret going on vacation. Yes, it cost me my job, but my mental health is vital. I’ve undergone my own mental obstacles as much as the next person, and like anyone else, I deserve a break. Was it perhaps not the greatest timing for a vacation? Could I have done more to get reassurance from the managers that I wasn’t going to be unexpectedly ousted from not only my role, but my job altogether? Of course. But I have outlived the usefulness the caf has provided for me. I have gone through too much of the same routine day in and day out, checking attendance, sorting silverware, wiping down tables, and enforcing the rules. Is it still a role that has some contribution? Absolutely. All jobs do, to a degree. The past four years gave me more than I ever expected. It’s time for me to seek my next big adventure.

I’ve had more than my fair share of doubt over my future. As uneasy as this makes me, I need to focus on the present. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed there’s not another disaster around the corner.

Love Is Love

In the midst of my own life, and the lives of millions of others, an important cultural event of significance has once again cropped up.

The month of June. Surprising, evidently, to numerous news anchors across the country (the clips are on YouTube!), it symbolizes more than the beginning of summer and, for many, the beginning of wedding season.

June is also Pride Month, a monumentally significant aspect in the lives of millions of members within the LGBT community.

Back in high school, this was a grave unknown to me. I was preoccupied with enjoying my summer, laying out by the pool, and freely streaming my favorite TV shows to my heart’s content. But in recent years, it has grown in significance to me, as well as to many others, especially in today’s political climate.

There are some who attempt to mount the argument that if we have a Pride Month for the LGBT, what about a Pride Month for heterosexuals? It’s not too foreign from the argument against February being Black History Month, and attempting to present facts why a White History Month should exist.

It’s tragic, to me, that those who make an effort to display those arguments fail to recognize the importance of why such months exist, because for a good century or two, give or take a couple decades, African-Americans and LGBT have been predominantly under serviced, underrepresented, and overlooked as citizens of the United States. Surely I don’t need to reference the early to mid 1900s, when segregation was a primal fixture of American culture, where you could be denied service based on the color of your skin (or, in other cases, your sexual orientation), or where you could be attacked, lynched, hanged, and otherwise harmed by individuals who were sworn to uphold peace as police officers of their respective counties. The images of African-Americans being blasted by a fire hose for absolutely no reason, or of gay men and women being viciously attacked and stabbed, are still fresh in the minds of many, and it is only thanks to the civil rights pioneers of the time that we have the equality we do today (though, notably, with more work to still be done).

I don’t write this post with the intent of providing a history lesson. Surely there are a few facts I would likely quote in error without doing the proper research beforehand. But what’s important behind why I’m writing this, and why Pride Month exists, goes deeper than what may be seen on the surface.

One of the most divisive figures in society currently serves as the most powerful person in the world. There are those who support him, in some cases blindly; one post I saw had a man speaking out in support of Trump withdrawing from the Paris climate change agreement, and, when asked about it, he said he had no clue other than the fact that “I trust Trump.” The opening of this month has, for the first time in many years, received no formal statement by our government, aside from one by the First Daughter who many believe to be not as entirely sincere as it may appear to be.

We live in an age where citizens, many of which are perfectly normal, law-abiding citizens, are attacked based on the color of their skin, who they are as individuals, or who they love (the lady from Walmart using a racial slur may sound familiar, as a recent event). Many of these were circulated across the web after the results of the election, where multiple individuals throughout the country were attacked physically (and, in many cases, verbally) by those claiming such things as “This is a free country, Trump’s president now.” With no doubt, figures like Tomi Lahren (or, perhaps better known as Tammy Lauren) did nothing but fuel these flames and encourage such public displays of free speech, an action which evidently is not extended to the likes of Kathy Griffin and the backlash she received for her Trump photo.

Two years ago in this very month, after years of fighting, marriage was ruled as equal between same-sex couples, a result that did not come about without the effort of multiple individuals. Within the last eight years, for the first time in this country’s history, the sitting President at the time publicly spoke out in support of LGBT equality. Not only that, he backed up his words with actions, such as the departure of such policies as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Two days prior to my European tour, I returned to Kalamazoo to grab a few missed things I left in my apartment, and decided to stop by the caf. I happened to come across one of the sheets I had typed up months ago instructing the students on who to contact about scheduling issues, and directly next to my name, someone had wrote the word ‘gay’.

This is something I chose to keep mum on with social media, apart from a picture I posted to my snapchat story and possibly a few tweets (my memory is a bit hazy). I didn’t readily disclose it with anyone, as far as I can remember, and apart from a friendly reminder to the employees about respect in the workplace regardless of who it involves, I said nothing more of the incident. But for one of the very rare moments in my life, I felt attacked, in a way. Yes, it’s a word on a piece of paper, and nothing more. Nobody was screaming in my face, telling me what a horrible person I was and how I was going to hell. But it was still unsettling to see that, to see that someone would take it upon themselves to target me for whatever reason.

A few years ago, I arrived to work my shift for that day, swiping ID cards. As I walked over to the counter, some guy audibly spoke the word ‘Fag’ to his friend, while staring in my direction. While I am enormously thankful these are the only two incidents where I’ve been…targeted, discriminated, whatever you wish to call it, it’s still sad, in my mind, that there are people who exist that, in some way, shape, or form, refuse to let other people live their lives and do whatever makes them happy.

That, right there, is the motivation behind Pride Month, behind why we, as well as any other person on this planet, should take pride in being who we are. Individuality should never be silenced. Being free to live your life should never feel like a second choice. And in-between transgender bathroom rights at schools being placed back in the hands of the states to decide, in a world where the United States Secretary of Education has refused to publicly state any instance that would prompt her to defend a student regardless of their demographics, background, or sexual orientation, in a world where the Vice President of the United States supports conversion therapy and electrocution as solutions to cure what some call the “gay disease,” it is more important than ever to take pride in who you are.

Coming out three years ago has been, for me, one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. It’s something I never thought I would do in the foreseeable future at the time, and I am beyond glad I did. No matter who you are, or where you come from, you should never be afraid of being who you are, and doing what makes you happy, and that, to me, is the big message behind Pride Month.

It doesn’t get better on its own. If you want to change your life, and change your circumstances, you better work. You better be prepared to make the changes that’ll make you happy. Only by learning to live your life fearlessly can you develop the strategies to make your life better, and live the life you want.

The fight goes on. The battle for full equality for every single person continues. And for as long as I live, I will never stop doing what I can to make the lives of those around me better, because that’s what the world needs.

Be who you are, and love who you love, and you will make an impact. Never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.

Twelve Reasons Why, One Reason How

I’m personally not big on following trends. For the most part.

This has manifested itself in a couple of ways. When a new movie comes out, I’m typically not the first one in line to see it. When a new album gets released, I don’t listen to it for quite a while. If there’s a new TV series hitting the airwaves, I probably won’t catch it for a few weeks, if ever.

Thirteen Reasons Why turned out to be an exception.

Like most of the world, I have been gripped with the tale of a high school student named Clay Jensen who comes home from school one day to find a series of tapes left behind by his friend Hannah Baker, a girl at his school who committed suicide, and left those tapes behind as, you might’ve guessed it, thirteen reasons why she did it.

I was not aware there was a book preceding it, and on a night of aimlessly browsing Netflix, I decided to pick it up, and it took me for an emotional tailspin.

More than that, it had a personal connection to me, as I have had thoughts of suicide three times in my life. I’ve had actual, genuine thoughts of killing myself, and ending my life.

The first occurrence happened in my freshman year of high school. I was severely on the outs social-wise; my life consisted of school, band, and homework, with very few opportunities, at least as far as I can recall, for social interaction. The song Outside Looking In by Jordan Pruitt describes my struggle perfectly:

“You don’t know how it feels, to be outside the crowd. You don’t know what it’s like, to be left out. And you don’t know how it feels to be your own best friend, on the outside looking in.”

Thankfully, mostly through the power of music, I survived. I was never universally popular, but at least I never again reached that stage mentally. Or so I believed for a while.

The second incident happened last year in February. The specific details behind this are things I’d prefer, even on my own blog and space, to not mention, but again, I made it through.

The most recent moment happened last August, and it was also the moment that truly hit the most. It’s like a huge, gaping hole in your heart that you can’t figure out how to fill. You lose every ounce to keep going. Everything just feels…hopeless. You feel drained. You don’t even want to go to bed. You just want everything to stop. And all of that was precisely what I was feeling, hitting me after one of my friends I was hanging out with left my apartment.

I felt completely hollow, and useless, and several other adjectives I can’t think of to describe offhand, and while I made no attempt, the thoughts ate me alive. I reached out to a few people to try and vent my emotions, and one of them happened to be a half-hour away from me, who willingly dropped what he was doing to not only come to see me, but bring comfort food in the form of ice cream with him. He did not stay for a significant period of time, but it was the simple act of reminding me I’m not alone as I felt (and sometimes still feel).

Had he not done that, I figured that the odds would be very good that I would at the least be hospitalized, if not, dead at this point.

My mood fluctuates, like any given person. I go through things like everyone else, and I’ve had more than my fair share of rocky moments. I’ve endured a handful of people at work making rude comments about my weight (one going so far as to ask me if I was pregnant). I’ve faced personal issues of who I am as a person, and my subsequent attempts to work through them. I’ve encountered a few…less than pleasant social issues, some of which were of my own fault. But those three moments in my life stick out to me because they are the moments where I was at my absolute worst, mentally, and with one exception, I largely had to try to work through these issues on my own.

That’s where I draw the similarities with Hannah. The first two instances, I largely kept it to myself. Why drag other people into my issues when it feels like nobody cares about me to begin with? That’s the reasoning I took, and it’s a line of reasoning I’m sure many others take as well.

Back in my high school days, I stumbled upon a quote saying “Be kinder than necessary. Everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle.” The accuracy behind this is unreal, and it’s the focal point behind who I constantly aim to be as a person and in my relationships with others. Do I love every human? Absolutely not. Some people I dislike. A handful I can’t stand. But flat-out hating people, and living off of that energy? I cannot do it. Ever.

There are factors about me that I wish I could change. I despise not having more friends, and it’s certainly not for lack of trying. My most recent attempt at friendship saw me continually trying to make plans to hang out with one person for the entire fall semester, only to have them repeatedly dodge my attempts and never really reciprocate any of my efforts. This person explained on multiple occasions how busy they were, but quite frequently, details of their outings on social media showed they were busy hanging out with other friends, with no real interest in trying to include me. My last attempt had me walk halfway across campus for socialization, only for them to change their mind and mention we can plan for another time, which I mentally thought and knew was never going to happen (and, after being removed as friends on snapchat and having no interaction in almost four months, turned out to be correct).

The problem was never their schedule. The problem was me. It puts a significant weight on my own self-worth as a human, and not in a good way. I’ve lost a number of friends due to their newfound relationships, more times than I can count. People eventually get bored of me and leave without so much as a stereotypical “have a good one.” One such person who claims to still be friends with me has made zero attempts in weeks to demonstrate this, after mentioning they are suddenly too busy to be friends with me anymore. Granted, it’s a long-distance friendship of sorts, but I also have a handful of other long-distance friends who have shown no issues in making contact with me.

Are these things I actively talk about? No, because for the most part, they’re only significant to me, and I’m the only one impacted by them. Some days, it takes a lot to keep going. Many times, I feel relatively hopeless. But I also fall under a fundamental belief that if my own issues are next to impossible to solve or make any form of progress with, I can at least positively impact the life of someone else, and that’s something that keeps me going.

I am ecstatic that Thirteen Reasons Why is opening a much-needed dialogue about bullying, mental health, and suicide prevention. No matter your demographic, everyone goes through bad times. Some of these times, you have no idea about. People have had experiences far worse than my own, or may be going through some bad experiences currently. It makes you wonder (as it should) what other people deal with, and, ideally, what you can do to be a more supportive person, whether you know someone or not.

A disappointing factor to me is that some are suddenly championing the need to be more supportive people and to treat people better. I don’t think we need a television program to demonstrate this point; you should be a decent human being enough to be doing this already. For example, you may think a Muslim ban is a good idea, but that doesn’t mean you should go beat up every Muslim you see. You may believe transgender individuals do not deserve to use a bathroom that corresponds to the gender they identify is, and if that’s your belief, own it, but don’t punish someone for living their life in a way that conflicts with your own. Hey, if you’re not a fan of “the whole gay thing,” that’s pretty swell, but (and I know I’m just talking crazy here) maybe trying this radical concept of letting other people live their lives might do you some good.

High school environments are notorious for peer-pressuring factors. Everyone wants to be cool, and fit in, and not be weird, and several other things. Various parts of life are a lot like high school: You know the cool group of kids, the punks, the burnouts, the jocks, the list goes on. But rather than trying to fit in, it’s so much more rewarding to simply stand out. People who cannot allow others to be happy living the life they want to live are not people you need to know.

If you see a problem, speak up! In one of the last sequences during the preliminary interviews, the recordings are dated for November of this year, suggesting that in real-time, Hannah’s suicide hasn’t happened yet. Do you see where I’m going with this? You have the power to impact someone else’s life, for better or worse, with every Facebook post, every text, every snap, and every sentence that formulates from your lips and fingers. You have the power to save someone’s life without even realizing it. 

And here people think that one person can’t make a difference. Sure, you may not be able to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, but that’s not to say you don’t have the chance, every single day, to make someone else’s life better.

That’s exactly what I operate on. I cannot tell you the number of times people have commented on how sweet and nice I am, and it’s not an act for compliments or attention; it’s who I am as a person. Does this apply 24/7? Of course not. I have my bad moods like any other homo sapien. I just personally find it much more rewarding to, I don’t know, be nice to people in general, or at least aim to.

Don’t become the subject of a tape. Become the cheerleader of someone who needs it. If you’re tired of bullies, do something about it. Spread awareness. Raise your voice. We all have much more power than we realize. In today’s society (need I even mention Syria?), it’s so desperately obvious how much we are in need of support and kindness, as corny as it likely sounds. If you have a lot of followers, awesome. Do something positive with that. Start denouncing all forms of bullying and ignorance wherever you see it. Let people know they are not alone.

Who knows? Maybe it’ll save more people like Hannah.