June 2023 Newsletter: change is in the air

So it’s that time again. Another month, another newsletter. This month is going to be a big one, so strap in and get ready. But first…

Mental Health Awareness Month

So series take a bit to write. Just because I have an idea doesn’t mean it’ll get published in time. I had a few articles in the pipeline that just didn’t quite make it into the series and that is okay. This last month I talked about my birth defect and it felt good; it was a huge mental health milestone for me! Later in the month I wanted to talk about Men in modern society and talk about overcoming exhaustion but alas, the month ended before I could finish either article. But all-in-all, a success.

Remember to take time for your mental health, it’s important! A lot of the work is messy and takes a concentrated effort but is well worth it. Remember to check in with your friends, it’s rough out there and be kind to yourself.

How is Mike’s Life?

About to go nuclear. Today I achieved my first major adulting milestone and that is having enough in my savings to pay off my student loans. I shed a single tear and felt the sun for the first time in a decade. My thoughts have, in a moment, shifted entirely towards the future. And the future is New Zealand. It is crazy to think I am five months away and I cannot be more excited. Speaking of the future…

Subscriber only posts and other musings

So, I’ve had this blog for eight years now and I’ve been blogging for ten. This is a personal blog and I’ve been doing everything on my own since the beginning. All posts have been free up to this point. I’ve played around with Patreon and Ko-fi as well as other revenue streams but ultimately decided not to worry about it as the blog started as a way for myself to improve my communication skills. Now, as I prep for New Zealand, I realize extra money from writing would be fantastic. So starting this month, some of the posts on the blog will be subscriber only. Right now the plan is to have the newsletter and the first post of the month free, with additional posts each month set aside for subscribers. As such, very little will change, as I’ve typically only be doing a newsletter and an article. The paid content will hopefully encourage me to write more and add a bonus each month for those who really love the content. I’m going to start with $5 a month as I think that’s fair but I’m going to play around to see what works best. I’m also going to start adding the donation button to the bottom of each newsletter in case anyone wants to help out without having to subscribe.


Marketing, hooray! Marketing is an ongoing battle with this blog. For the last couple years, I’ve opted for a Facebook page (thank God I gave up on Twitter) and the WordPress reader. And the growth, while great has been slow. So, this year, I’m going to work on the marketing and my hope is it’ll bring more traffic to the blog. And also remember, word of mouth is the best marketing! So if you enjoy my content remember to tell your friends!

Other Fun Stuff with Mike’s Life

Half marathon training is going well and I feel in better shape than I did in high school. Coding is now a focus! With New Zealand fast approaching, I’ve been finishing up my coding lessons before AI takes over. I’ve also befriended chatGPT, in case it does become world ending.

And that’s a wrap! Life is busy right now but we are in the home stretch! Also, next month is sustainability month!


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Imperfection: Mental Health Awareness Month 2023

As with most of my series, I like to spend a lot of time writing theses articles. And gradually, over the course of months, they eventually come together; like pieces of a puzzle that somehow just fit.

So here I am in my cycle of writing and rewriting as I dive deep into my own mind and answer the questions I don’t want answered. I write so I don’t numb the pain and so I can truly feel what I feel. And the question that has been ringing louder than any other in my head is “Mike, but…”. I’ll get back around to the question in a while, for now I simply write.

Craniosynostosis in a nutshell

For those who don’t know, Craniosynostosis affects about 1 in 2000 births. It is more common in men than in women and it has a few different types depending on what sutures fuse together when you are born. When you are a baby, eventually the sutures in your skull will fuse together. If they fuse too early, the brain won’t have room to grow and will instead push against the skull, causing deformity (as well as other issues) if left untreated. There are shaping helmets (I never had one) to help the skull keep a normal form after surgery, although more mild cases supposedly do not need the helmet for the skull to retain it’s form. When I was born, I had the surgery where they operated on my skull essentially making more room for the brain to grow and ensure my brain didn’t push against my skull. To my knowledge, the surgery was successful.

Why Am I writing about?

That is the question. So originally, I wanted to talk about my Craniosynostosis and then I thought it’d be easier to talk about imperfection as a whole. Writing helps, I’ve used this series to conquer my personal demons and I hope this is the start to a long overdue conversation with myself. The Mental Health Awareness Month series on this blog has always been about personal growth and with writing comes clarity.

To Add…

When I choose a topic, it forces me to think about the topic. I am constantly reframing the question posed to be suitable for general consumption; this is very different than writing in my journal. Craniosynostosis has been a topic I’ve spoken about in hushed tones and has become a defining narrative in my life when I never wanted it to be. The hope is given enough time, I’ll finally be able to accept myself for me and make my fractured self whole. A part of me would be fine never publishing this but that defeats the purpose of the exercise. It is only by talking about it that I can work through it and find acceptance.

The Ugly

Mental Health isn’t something you can wrap a neat bow on. Consider this a trigger warning of sorts. This article has been written over the course of months, edits are made here and there. To write this article, the benefit is digging deep, so for friends and family reading this, you most likely never knew I even had any of these thoughts. My outward demeanor is cheerful and positive and part of that is because I’ve done these deep dives. They are capturing a moment in time and by having written it, I can look back in the future to truly understand my mind. But it is ugly, it’s not pretty, not everything has a positive spin. The problem is people don’t talk about what bothers them, it is easier to dismiss how someone feels if it makes you uncomfortable. So I am making an effort to normalize these conversations, especially for men.

Acting like it’s fine when it’s not

I am the frog and the water temperature is being raised. This article, on imperfection, will still strive for a level of perfection. A wrong word here, an overstep there, and it loses validity. Imperfection. And therein lies the problem, my birth defect has led to an obsession with perfection, for better or worse. I feel like I always have to prove my worth, that people take a look at me and think of me as lesser. That no one will give me a chance at love and… You can see how the mind works. Isn’t it crazy to think? But it’s a prevailing problem in my life.

A Mike, But… Kind of problem

So this article is about the disjointed and of feeling lesser. Less than. And of having no anchor in this world. I was born with a facial disfigurement and I have let it become all consuming since someone first commented on it in 6th grade, roughly twenty years ago. And I’ve never gotten to talk about it, honestly. My whole life I have been told I look fine when I have never felt fine. And the older I get, I’m starting to realize it is more a question of trust. I have never really been given the opportunity to explore my trauma and it has become my everyday. An all consuming feeling of never being good enough. Years of meditation, exercise, a focus on mental health, all to be in anguish… Life has a sick sense of humor. Most days I want to curl into my shell and shy away from the world, to let the darkness win as I can no longer see the light. I watched my life collapse before my very eyes. Career and Love life never manifesting, panic slowly creeping in like a cancer. There have been moments where I’ve felt like collapsing only to realize I’m the only one to pick myself up. Are these thoughts true or delusions? Clearly delusions but in the US we have a problem of stuffing down the bad feelings until they become a poison. So this year, I lean into the negative I’ve held on to for so long and let it happen.

I’m extremely sensitive to any comment regarding my face as I have, on multiple occasions, had people make comment that it is different. When people have mentioned this, I have no way to discern if it is positive or negative; or simply a statement, an observation if you will. Since I have never officially been in a relationship, I have used my defect as the de facto reason. With my Career failures, I have now adopted the philosophy that perhaps it is how I look that is the cause. That no matter how hard I try, because I had my skull taken apart and put back together as a baby, I am destined to fall short. Hence a ‘Mike, but…’ sort of problem. Like ‘Mike’s nice, but I’d never date him because of his face.’

I have spent a lot of time pondering how my birth defect could be a benefit and wish I had an answer. Truth is I don’t. But I can’t run with the narrative that I ugly, that I am unlovable, and that my intelligence and hard work mean less because I am disfigured. Am I disfigured? I don’t truly know. I never had my birth defect addressed growing up outside of a reiteration that I was normal. I never had a “So what if you are disfigured, what does it matter?” talk. The “you’re normal” conversation, while I’m sure well intentioned, never really addressed what I wanted it to address. I simply wanted to understand that why if I was normal, others would comment that I was different. A definitive proof that I was normal or at the very least, how my difference was a strength.

Feelings vs. Reality

At the moment, I have body dysmorphia over my Craniosynostosis. When I look in the mirror, I hyper fixate on my face. Over the years, I’ve become more relaxed on my thoughts towards my image, but the lingering resentment of my birth defect is still there. I see asymmetry and it causes me to implode, where now I shrug and say “It is what it is”. There is not so much a healthy conversation as me believing it isn’t worth the energy to be upset over it. I would love to view myself as perfect the way I was born, I really would. There has been this constant struggle with myself as I grapple with what my mind wants to believe versus what I know to be true. I know everything I just wrote is irrational, that in reality it is all in my head; I could go talk to a friend and they’d tell me honestly that it’s not a big deal, that they don’t even notice it. But that’s not the point of this article. The point is convincing myself and acknowledging these are my thoughts, for better or worse. Not the thoughts I think I should have, but my actual thoughts. I’m tired of telling myself to just believe what others tell me without actually addressing how I feel. As much as I love myself and know how far I come, I know I have much further to go. Sometimes it is ok to say “FUCK” and just lean into how you feel, however that is. This article is the first step to undoing years of self abuse. I never thought I would talk about this yet here we are.

Remember, this Mental Health Awareness Month, if you see someone struggling, reach out. We should never, ever feel like we have to suffer alone. And if you’re struggling, reach out. A better world starts with lifting others up and not having to hide ourselves from the world. People are imperfect and I think it’s those flaws that make us beautiful. As always, thanks for reading!

Autumn’s Grove: A poem by Mike Cole

He watched the leaves turn and he found his grove

He lit a fire and watched it grow.

As the leaves fluttered, the wind bit.

So it blew as it did and darkness came.

And yet he had that little light, which held on oh so bright.

So when the trees began to sway, he closed his eyes gently…

Saying goodbye to the day.

This poem was the winner for the end of poetry month. Of my drafted poems this one is the most sound. Mentally, I’ve taken a nosedive the last couple months and this poem is a reflection of that. It represents my personal struggle trying to keep what little light I have left from going out. It is a poem about the unchangeable and of gentle rest that might come from the unexpected. Where in one instance one might fear the wind blowing out the fire in another instance it can also soothe and calm; it can be both of these things at the same time. Autumn is my season and where I find the most comfort and where I long to go. There is a sense of wandering where and only once the leaves have turned after a long journey may one find their peace.

And that’s it! May is Mental Health Awareness Month! I have a few articles planned so stay tuned in the coming weeks for what’s ahead!

Suffocating: A Poem by Mike Cole

I took a breath to feel if I was alive

My life was mine to survive

It would easy to make this rhyme, all the way through.

But life is imperfect, just like you.

A broken smile, a glance at the wall.

You stand and yet you fall.

Where is your glory, where is your name.

What is to happen, when you play this game.

Tomorrow shines a new dawn,

And come tomorrow you’ll be gone.

So it is once again national poetry month and I’m ready. As I have done for a few years now, this is where I go through my poetry and analyze it myself. What I write and why I wrote it. This year, I am fairly exhausted as I execute my big plans. With poetry, a lot of it is a reflection into the soul. These next couple months are mostly about survival. Whatever it takes to get where I need to be. The first couplet reflects this. Often I like to make imperfect rhymes to reflect broken poems, this time however, I didn’t. It is simply a series of couplets with matching rhymes throughout. The poem itself is a reflection of dreams and how life doesn’t meet expectations. And with the last couplet, I reference leaving it all behind. It’s a line that’s hopeful yet cautious. While some of my poetry is a mix between life and fantasy, this poem follows more closely to where I am currently at. Leaving my hometown is in reach but getting there has taken many years of planning. It will require paying my debts and venturing deep into uncharted territory, a scary prospect for any soul, so the name is accurate. It feels like I’m out of breath as I make cash, plan housing, work on my skillset, and ultimately, a new life.

And… That’s it! That’s the poem and some of the logic that went into writing it. This national poetry month is about to ramp up. Get ready for a few more poems and a month of celebrating the art. As always, thanks for reading!

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