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!

December 2022 Newsletter: An End to Bad Habits

So it is officially December and what a year! The biggest changes have been to my habits and this newsletter we’re going to do a little reflecting.

One Hell of a Ride

Usually I save the reflection for January but as fate would have it, Habitica has a New Year Resolution challenge. For the challenge, it’s asking for reflection during December and thus I write. So let’s dive in.

My goals have all been reached but one. This year I set out to learn as much as I could and I’m impressed with what I was able to accomplish. It was slow going but the wheel still turned. In Duolingo, I was in the top 8% for learners and spent a total of 953 minutes learning, which comes out to be a 16 hour total! I was able to reach a 50 day streak and am on track to make it for 365 days. My top languages were Spanish and French, staying true to my word.

In total, I cooked four meals this year and about a thousand quesadillas. I learned how to make French Toast and figured out the dishes that would give me the most bang for my buck. My cooking habits are in a good spot and I’ll be looking forward to more meals next year.

I walked a lot this year! I wish I had the data on how much walking I did but alas I do not. Pokémon Go got me out of the house and adventuring more than I ever have before. My Ebike has now hit over 500 miles on it and got me where I needed to go.

On WordPress, I wrote over 17000 words and averaged around 800 words per article! And this year saw 180 likes on my content!

With Piano, I practiced a bit during the summer and invested in online learning platforms. It is the final stretch and I’m going to try to learn the basics by year’s end. All other goals have been reached, this is it!

Challenges Faced

The greatest obstacle I faced was myself, as cliché and cringe as it sounds. I’ve learned that much of my life has been a failure to fully commit. I will tell myself to do something and the hours will not match. No matter how smart I am, I failed to understand what I wanted and to put the hours in. This realization came from my quest to Diamond League in Duolingo. Duolingo I used to do the bare minimum. I would do a quick lesson just to keep a streak going until eventually giving up. And then a friend added me on Duolingo. I started competing and haven’t stopped since. With this, I realized how much work I need to be putting into everything I do and really just enjoy the journey. French has made me want to pull my hair out until I just chuckled and let it be as it was. Progress is progress no matter how slow. For this next year, I want to reach a level where I put in the work and see the payoff. I say this every year but each year I get a bit closer; the difference now is I know exactly what I need to do.

Planning for Next Year

An end to bad habits. This year has really seen me digging into the trenches and pulling out all that goes bump in the night. I have really come into my own and looking back I feel a sense of completeness. What I set out to do this year has changed my way of thinking and has made me realize the importance of doubling down. There is always something new to learn and always room for improvement. Finishing up my habits has given me a new perspective on my blogging and made me realize how much I can improve. The format of my site I’m in love with and now I want to really focus on content. Doubling down and really writing my heart out. There are so many ways I can expand my writing and I feel like I’m in a good spot to set out on this journey.

Goals for Next Year

As I begin drafting my resolutions for next year, I’m really taking a look at where I want to be. This year has had a heavy focus on my habits and laid a foundation that I’m happy with. Coding I’ve begun earning certificates, which a few months ago I never thought I’d get to. I have an understanding of what I want to use coding for and have made steady progress getting there. Piano I’ve learned half a song and am jumping back into it to finish the year strong. Cooking adult recipes on my own has been great. So in all honesty, it might be a lot of the same with an emphasis on the hours I put in. I want to really sit down and be with my habits, strategizing with an end in mind. As this year comes to a close, I want to thank everyone for reading my blog and if I don’t post anything else this month, look forward to seeing everyone next year!

New Year, New Mike: The wheel of reinvention never stops.

Yes, it is January. And what does that mean? Reflection but of course. My blog is one big ode to my self improvement. Years ago, I had the brilliant idea of using my blog as a way to keep track of my New Year’s resolutions. A look at what I want to be and a way to hold myself accountable. Since then, I’ve been able to look back at years past and see if I accomplished what I set out to accomplish. I’ve had surprising success writing out my resolutions this way and I’m excited to share what I have planned for this year.

What I’ve Learned

Since I’ve started posting my habits on my blog, I’ve kept my goals as continuous goals. It’s not a one and done list! Instead, I modify and adapt. As such, my goals aren’t shear chaos as they were in years past. They are a constant and I’m glad. With each passing year, they become more focused and refined.

I have started using January as a planning month. Instead of running to the gym come January first, I take my time to carefully consider what I want to do. Since I’ve only started doing this quite recently, I have no idea what the end result will be.

Not a French Kisser

One of my goals for last year was to learn French. My German has become much improved since my youth and I found it time for a new language. I have a French friend and one of my dreams is to make my triumphant return to Europe, not as a boy but as a man. So I’ve been practicing French. The great news is that I’ve started. The bad news is I haven’t been practicing as much as I like. So this year, I’m doubling down. Lessons every day, more French shows, and listening to podcasts. As an added goal, I want to do more to measure my success with languages. My reasons, pardon my French, are rather dorky. I am learning Japanese simply for the sake that I’ve played Nintendo games my entire life. French is to impress my friend. And German was so that I wouldn’t starve to death in the airport when I did study abroad.

My goal right now is to learn French, German, Spanish, and Japanese to fluency. Outside of those languages, I may or may not pick up sign language but only time will tell. My Spanish is rusty and needs work. German I can understand but like Spanish my goal is to learn it so I can hold conversation. This is going to be a year of polish and I’m excited to see where it takes me.


Coding went surprisingly well. My main focus this year is web development. I’ve been lazy the last couple of months but I found coding material that is not only practical but enjoyable. But tough. Very, very tough. If I build a game, great, but web development comes above all else. I’m putting no pressure on myself for this, I am simply treating it as another skill to learn. It could take years or weeks, but my pace is my own.

Piano Man play me a tune

One of my goals has been to hone my musical craft. In my effort to be the smartest man in the room, music is one obstacle I haven’t quite been able to tackle. Motivation is key. So I reviewed instruments and landed on piano. It’s a social instrument and meant to be shared. I can walk into a building and should I find a piano, nine times out of ten I can sit down and play. The other aspect is lessons are easily available. Piano song guides are plastered around the internet and if I want to learn a song, I can. Try doing the same for violin and you’ll find much more of a headache. I still have my Skillshare account, so I’ll be doing lessons over there. It’ll be off and on but I’m hopeful something will stick eventually. The goal is to make it fun and slowly but surely I am getting there.


An elusive habit since I’ve moved back home. In college, I learned how to cook. I made many dishes during my studies and found that cooking was not only cost effective but also a tastier option to eating out. So this year, I’d like to ease back into cooking my own meals. The plan currently is to sign up for a New York Times Cooking subscription and to start looking through a cooking blog I only recently found out about, Food52. I am going to slowly integrate cooking as a lifestyle choice rather than simply force myself to cook for the sake of cooking. There is no set plan for my meals but I’m starting the year by simply looking at interesting recipes. Life is a little chaotic right now so I don’t know when I’ll go shopping but I have faith this year I can really get back into making delicious meals.

Big Picture Goal

Individual, SMART goals are great, but they’re not enough to move someone forward. As has become tradition, I’ve been theming my years. A year of Assertive here, a year of New there… These frameworks help set up the plan for the year and help bring together my “Why”.

So this year I want to be my year of Desire. Desire in the sense of asking myself what I want and setting out to get what I want. When I became an Eagle Scout, I picked out a silver coin of one of our laws. In that moment, I picked courteous as I thought it best represented who I was. Always thinking of others, trying to please everyone to the best of my abilities. Later in life I learned that if you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. And now I’m ready for the next evolution of that concept; being courteous to myself. So this year is about my goals and getting ahead in life. It’ll be paying off my student loans, helping with as many events as I can and eventually transitioning to project management roles. It’s time I stop sidelining myself and focus on my success, whatever it takes to get there.

Other Goals for the Year

While new skills are a blessing to learn and typically what I choose to focus on, I also want to instill other habits beyond simply building my human capital. For that, I have two goals for 2022. And those two goals are more walks and riding my bike again.


In Corvallis, I opted to walk every day to class. It gave me time to think and enjoy simply being in the moment. I could walk everywhere and it was great. Now, when I try to walk, I find I have no destination. So I’ve been looking to change that. I’ve recently gotten into Pokémon Go this past year and downloaded Pikmin Bloom as a way to encourage walking. Now going out has a destination and I couldn’t be happier. This year, I want to ramp up my walks and make them more rewarding. Between the two apps, I think I’m on the right track.


I bought an electric bike. Right before the Pandemic… The good news, last year I finally put it together. How many times have I ridden it? Once… I went from biking every day in college to nothing. So this year, we are going to course correct. I want to ride and I’m going to use my brother to help me get back in the habit. He’s started riding a lot this last year and he clearly has found a motivation I am lacking. So the easiest way forward is to join him. Sibling outings until I’m comfortably riding on my own again. I’ve felt rather homebound for the last couple years with my anxiety, so I’m hoping bike rides will help restore some of the freedom I lost. It’ll be nice to bike to work instead of taking the bus and should I need to get somewhere, it’ll hopefully be less of an ordeal than it has been for the last two years.

Happy New Year! That’s it for the article! Overall, I’m hopeful 2022 is going to be a great year. I’ve taken a lot of time for myself during the Pandemic and have come away better for it. Cheers to 2022!

Productivity Apps and motivation

This article is about apps. Over the Pandemic, I’ve given technology a lot of thought and realized that technology hasn’t really been helping us. Or more specifically, me. Endless scrolling through dating apps without dates and obsessively opening and closing apps led to an epiphany; they were not bettering my life in any way, shape, or form. I found myself accomplishing nothing and the Pandemic became worse as I began a cycle of starting projects only to never finish.

So I deleted the non-essentials and set about finding new apps. My goal was to make technology my friend and today I share two apps that have helped me thrive during the Pandemic; Habitica and Forest.


The holy grail of apps. I found this by chance as I was brainstorming ways of being productive. My wish was to gamify my habits, much in the way Duolingo has turned language into a game. The original plan was to build my own app but to my pleasant surprise Habitica fit the need well. You have your avatar and your tasks are split up into recurring, one time, and daily. You can set them to easy, medium and hard. The kicker is, if you fail to do your tasks you take damage. You succeed in completing your task? You get money, experience, and mana. When you reach level 10, you get to choose a class and that’s when the app really starts to pick up. Each class has four skills and I picked rogue. I can steal money, stab a task (money and experience), collect more items, and even avoid damage if I’m feeling lazy one day and don’t complete all my daily goals. Each skill cost mana, which means you’ll be wanting to keep up with your tasks.

At about level 10 (I’m almost 50 now) I started looking at the other features. The big ones outside of having a fully customizable avatar (along with mounts, pets, and backgrounds) is the party and guild system. The two guilds I joined are for anxiety and life hacks where users can simply chat. These don’t have quests, the party system does. Parties consist of 30 people and create a small community of people dedicated to achieving their goals; it’s absolutely brilliant. With your party, you’re mostly doing quests where you typically unlock pets as rewards (as well as gold and experience) but some quests offer weapons and armor.


With Habitica, I solved my task problem. I could create goals and adhere to them. However, I was still missing a piece of the equation. Tasks that took a couple minutes or had a clear objective, no problem. But tasks that required flow, motivation, and willpower? Those were a struggle.

By happenstance, I stumbled across a Codecademy blog post where ‘Forest’ was recommended. The idea is simple; you set a timer in app and plant a virtual tree. Leave the app, the sapling withers and the forest does not grow. Reach the allocated time, you have a tree. The main draw? You earn coins depending on how long you set the timer and with those coins you can buy trees as well as shrubs to populate your forest. There is a treehouse tree, a lemon tree, a sundae tree, a celestial tree, and the list goes on and on. You can also use your coins to purchase soundscapes from the lapsing of waves on the Ocean to sitting in a cafe in Paris. With this app, I’ve been able to accomplish more in the last couple months than I had all of last year. Coding has been difficult to learn but getting a reward every 25 minutes has made all the difference. The app is updated fairly frequently with new trees and shrubs, which may not be a big deal for some, but it’s fun for me. The app also has a competitive leaderboard and achievements, so I expect to be using the app for the foreseeable future.

A musing on micro communities and motivation

With the Pandemic, I’ve taken a lot of time to think about what brings about the most joy in my life. To accomplish this, I’ve been exploring the very idea of what makes us human. I’ve boiled it down to competition and community. There are other fundamentals for sure, but as a whole we live to compete and are obsessed with reputation. We need these two things from a survival standpoint. I’ve been dreading competition over the last couple years but have come to see how invaluable it is in our every day life. Left unchecked, it can be dangerous, but utilized in the right ways it can be life changing. If there was no competition, there would be no reason for doing anything. Competition provides challenge and challenge in turn fuels growth.

On the flipside with have community, which I’ve been exploring a lot more. Codecademy has provided a haven for hobby coding, where I can go to feel welcomed. Habitica, has helped with habits. Without banding together in groups, it is much harder. We need other people and if we can focus, we can find little pieces of the world carved out for us. Community we are typically brought up into but micro communities (mostly existing online) we seek out. Typically, we are doing and then for growth to occur, we join together with others. Sometimes we compete, other times we support; it’s all a cycle of motivation. This is the first year I’ve fully explored online communities that match my interest and I plan to delve deeper. It’s an exciting time and here’s to hoping my dreams come true. It’s fascinating how much of a difference a few apps can make.

That’s it for the article! And for the month! I’ll be back in October, for my Short Story Horror Month. The big news is I’ve accepted a full-time offer to work at State Farm as an Account Manager. This month I’m studying for my license in property and casualty as well as life and health. I have 30 days to get everything in order so most of my time is going to be spent studying. On top of that, I have jury duty for the first time in my life as well as a birthday that needs celebrating. It’s an exciting and terrifying time but I’m sure it’ll all go well! Thanks for reading!

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