30 days to rule them all

So we’re stuck inside and even the strongest among us can’t self isolate forever. I’ve been in my house for almost 60 days. I went from going out every weekend to building a Utopian society in Animal Crossing. First 30 days were fine and were treated as a much needed vacation. The last 30 days? Not terrible. 90 days? God help us (But we’re not there, yet…). I have a stockpile of books and games, so it’ll take a long while to get through those. But those are only to keep me busy should I get bored.

So thus, begins my habit forming challenges. The other day I hit my 15th day streak on Playne, a meditation video game. I have an in-game fire that will go out if I miss a day. It is now my sole mission to keep that fire alive. The game itself is fun, I’ve learned a couple different techniques outside of what I learned when I did 9 months of “freestyle” meditation. I also now meditate within a range to help with motivation. If I’m feeling like I don’t have the time (during the middle of a Pandemic) I can do 5 minutes of quick breathing exercises. If I’m extremely stressed, I can do 30 minutes of writing words on paper (or in this case, actually typing in game!). All in all, I’m excited to hit day 30 and then beyond. I’m going to hold myself to at least a year of continuous meditation. Duolingo I’ll hit a two week streak as of today (which is now yesterday, because writing can take a while); I also just started coding through Codecademy. I’ve been coding off and on throughout my life, and I’ve always regretted not hunkering down to learn and fully understand it. I loved lego robotics when I was younger but my life since then has taken a very different path. As I gear up for a Masters in Analytics, I want that to change. I’ll need to know Python and SQL, so I figured now would be the perfect time to learn. 30 days to form the habit, then I’m curious to try the 100 days of code challenge going around. It took a while to find a site that worked for me, but I really enjoy the format of Codecademy from the couple days I’ve done of the free trial.

Full disclaimer, I rounded up; “21 days to rule them all” just doesn’t have as nice a ring to it and honestly, I like giving myself a buffer since I’ve been such a failure at forming habits in the past. So really, it’s just 21 days with 9 bonus days. Now that I’m close to the 21 day mark, I can speak a little more to observations I made at the beginning of the challenge. First couple days were tough. What I decided to do was phased habit iteration. I started with meditation as a base habit I wanted to form and then after a couple days I introduced Language learning, and now coding. In addition, I have tried to make a consistent habit of working out. In fact, let’s transition over to talking about my workout routine during the Pandemic.

There are typically two approaches to working out; structured or integrated. Structured workouts are typically a routine that involve high amounts of discipline and might involve running the same route every day and going to the gym to work out. This works great if you have extraordinary willpower. For everyone else, it is the reason you stop and start working out over and over again. Over the last couple years, I have gone with an integrated approach to working out. What this means is, exercise is integrated as part of your lifestyle and is not a separate activity. My first task was to make exercise fun. This is where most people stop. What I decided to do was to start bouldering; I got a discount through work and started making an effort to go every weekend. The second aspect was making it a goal to go outside once a week, once I started taking public transit, this became much easier (also shout out to Pokemon Go). And the third was to make sure I could work out at home but in a way that didn’t feel forced. So, I bought Ring Fit Adventure. Video Games have never disappointed and ring fit has been no different; it solved the motivation aspect of working out at home. Enough of a workout to break a sweat each time, after 15 days I can say I am more motivated to workout. It also has a resistance building mode I can do while watching TV, which is helping me find new ways to exercise casually. Eventually I can add on more to my workout routine but as long as I have a foundation to come back to, I should be good to go.


And that’s it! This Mental Health Awareness month I wanted to try a slightly different approach As I’ve already gone with the dark and gritty (but beautifully vulnerable). I have a couple more articles planned for the month but those need to go through the editing process (which goes a lot faster when I’m not trying to readjust my sleep schedule). So far the blog has been doing extremely well this year and I’m looking to make this the best year yet! Last year was slow but my goal for this year will be a post every two weeks. It’s what I’ve found to be manageable and I don’t want to get burnt out doing too much at once. As a reminder, if you like my content, please consider leaving a like, follow, and sharing the article among your friends! I also love responding to comments! So far, the response this year has been stellar and the blog is growing, which makes me very excited. If you want to support me as a creator, feel free to donate via Ko-fi or my Patreon. Every dollar helps, especially since I currently don’t have a 9 to 5 job right now!

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Our Darkest Shadows: A tale in wellness

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius

Depression. The darkness that lurks in every corner not lit. We all carry our little flames, shielding them with our hands in an effort to keep them from going out. And I’ve found in life, as long as there are still embers, the fire can be lit again. We may not see the embers, but they are there nonetheless.

And this is what depression is. It is stumbling our way through the dark, not knowing if the direction we’re headed in is the right one. It is the fear that the flame we carry will burn out, never to be lit again.


For the longest time I’ve had depression and I had to watch my once bright flame slowly dwindle until it was but embers. The best way to describe depression for those who have never experienced it is that of a rain cloud constantly hovering over someones head. When I was younger, I would take every word said and distort it to my reality. You gave me a compliment? I would tell you why you were wrong. You offered to help? I would take personal offense. As you can imagine, that can be quite exhausting for someone to deal with. The best part? We know what we’re saying is wrong, yet we can’t see past our own delusion.

If you suffer from depression, you know this. There are thousands of articles written on the darkness and how there’s no escape. And if you’re depressed, it is nice for a bit. To know you are not alone in your struggle, that others suffer just as you do. However, then you come to the realization that these articles have no solutions and you dive further down the rabbit hole. And eventually? The lines between reality and fantasy begin to blur and you have to watch your world melt away until you can’t tell what’s up and what’s down. Absolutely terrifying.

This is not one of those articles. This is an attempt to offer some guidance based on my experience.  It’s been a long road, sure, but I can look back and smile. Every struggle has made me stronger and once I learned to cope with my depression, I could see my life in a new light. If this is all you read, just know this: You are worthy of love. You may not feel you deserve it, but you do. Be the person you want to be. And take it one day at a time. It may be hard to put one foot in front of the other but you must.


“And when you needed people the most, it felt like there was no one to be found.”

When I arrived at College, I never imagined graduation. I struggled my first year. My Spring term I found the mental health services. A few years of counseling and then I set out on my own; I would occasionally see a counselor for emergencies, however, not once a week like I used to. At the end of my counseling, I bought a journal and then I set out to bury my past, one day at a time.

I have friends but I feel so alone… I’m sure this feeling will pass but for now I’m in complete despair. I worry too much about what others think of me; I have spent a lifetime trying to find myself when I should’ve been spending a lifetime creating myself. It’s never too late, but I feel as though I have a lot of catch up to do… I wish I had someone in my life I could go to for advice, someone close that could come to my aid in a heartbeat. Mr. E has been the biggest positive influence in my life and the only person I have truly felt has believed in me. I need a break and soon, otherwise I worry that the weight of the world might finally crush me into dust…

I almost didn’t write this article. For research I was reading stories written by others and I could feel the struggle, the conflict. The desire to be better but the not knowing how. Looking for a candle in the dark and finding only darkness… And then I reached for my own journal. Nowadays, I dust it off from time to time. If I’ve had a bad day, I like to write. There was a point in my life I was writing every day and when I reread my journal, I can feel the pen hit the paper and when I was at my worst, the frantic scratches as I sat gasping for air.  To be honest, a part of me wants to snap my fingers and erase this part of my life. However, I wanted to be able to tell my story. And as much as I can try, the past never stays buried.

The Journal

The entry above is from the first day I started my journal. I had nowhere to go and was taking it one day at a time. This was a time where I was fully wrapped in my delusions. My flame was embers and all I could do was pass my hand close to feel what little warmth was left.

It is hard to imagine a time I hated myself and where every step I took was like trudging through wet cement. To simply go through the motions and to have every emotion felt (anger, shame, sadness, and fear) except happiness? A living nightmare. To actively avoid the mirror because I hated what I saw? Pure torture.

But I held on. Why? I didn’t know.  I wanted life to be better and thought “what do I have to lose?” And I supposed, if all else failed, I thought at least I could say “I tried.” and then, “I tried again.” So I used my Cross Country coach as a base. I said “if just one person can believe in me, then I could believe in myself.” I asked myself what he saw in me and remembered that I was encouraged to be at my best. He knew I could be better and that I was more than what I was. He was the one who called me out on making excuses and while it took 5 years, I learned how to take accountability and say “no” (which I still suck at). More importantly, he imposed an idea. A thought in passing that I took to heart, he asked if I really wanted to be “mediocre kid.” And you know what I said? I said “Yes.” Mediocrity was comfortable and darkness? A blanket. For better or worse, it was what I knew. Like Batman, the shadows were my friend.

Victim Mentality

Depression is both behavioral and situational. It is something that can compound over time and is living proof that the little things do add up. Or in other instances, proof that nobody is perfect and all it can take is one moment to break even the strongest of individuals. Depression is complex and must be approached on an individual basis and then, involve a community. People want to be heard and feel valued. The further down the rabbit hole you are, the less likely you are to believe people actually care.

For the longest time I played victim, it was always someone else’s fault or if you know me personally, I would say “society’s fault.” I would blame everyone but myself and then, laying in bed or staring at the mirror, I would do exactly that. Typical “I’m a hideous monster”, “I’m stupid”, etc. You know, all the “positive” reinforcement stuff they talk about in books. And as much as I’d love to share another journal entry, i’ll save you the horrors of the blame game. When I’d go to counseling, I’d sound like a broken record. It was the same story over and over again and while it felt good to talk about, it changed nothing. It eventually led to frustration and then, anti-depressants. I took the lowest dose and tried two different types and while they worked, I eventually stopped.

Regardless, what I learned (and this has been the most helpful in life) was to be proactive vs. reactive. Being proactive is the idea that you are in control and it has three degrees of variance. What you do (control), what other people do (indirect control), and our past or situational realities (no control). Basically all this means is you’re not Doctor Who and can’t change your timeline. All you can really control is yourself and to an extent how you interact with others.

The easiest way to get started is to shift your dialogue. Instead of saying “but”, try saying “and” more. Instead of “I”, try saying “we”, “our”, etc. Instead of “I can’t”, say “I can.”

Acknowledge the past but don’t let it define you. It’s easy to spiral if you’ve had a bad day and focus on that.

Don’t deal with “What If’s.” You will literally spend all day thinking of what could be rather than making it a reality. And the more you do this, the more miserable you become.

And perhaps most important, don’t make assumptions. This was my saving grace. It took forever to realize but a lot of issues I was having with my perception had to do with my assumptions. I would constantly say “Those people are so successful, I’ll never be like that.” and “I bet that person thinks I’m a loser.” or “I don’t think they liked what I said.” Then I started asking people what they thought of me and it wasn’t further from the truth.

Environment Changes Everything

Our innate response when we’re in trouble (or not) is to find like minded individuals. My advice? Don’t. I tried multiple groups before I settled on a strategy that led to my success and while it might not work for everyone, it’s a theory worth writing. If you want success, you must go where success is. In College, I had access to opportunity and resources. I had the luxury of choice. So I joined student organizations and for my first few terms, literally just sat in a corner and said nothing. People were most likely thinking “wow, that Mike guy seems a little off” How do I know this? Friends have told me their first impressions of me. However, I was sitting in admiration (and dismay). I hoped one day I’d be able to get in front of a group and eventually I did. And then the “impossible” happened. people believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I became a leader and was forced out of the shadows. Did I fail? Yes, many times. However, I always got back up. And through doing and pure association, I became. You can’t see what’s not right in front of you, so it’s best to artificially create a new lens through which to see the world (aka surround yourself with the people you strive to be). And nobody is perfect. It takes time and effort. If change were easy, everyone would do it.

Another note I want to make is when I was finally ready to open up. I was extremely fortunate to have great roommates in College. They, as well as my organizations, have made me a better person. They are some of the best friends I’ve ever had. When I would say something wrong, they would call me out. They taught me to cook, clean, and be an overall decent human being. If I was upset, they’d ask what was wrong. I thought for the longest time, if they knew the real me, they’d run the other direction. However, when I had my tipping point, they stayed. They listened. And when I pushed, they pushed back. And that’s the thing, my case is not uncommon. We may not realize it at the time but looking back we have the support we need even if it may not seem like it at the time. Some leave, sure, but most stay. And those who leave you didn’t need in your life anyway.

If you’re struggling to meet people you strive to be, TED talks, podcasts, books, movies, TV, and video games (story driven) make a great substitute until you can find “your tribe.”

I wanted to start this the other day, but today works just as well. I want to record at least one awesome thing a day as a means of changing my outlook on life. Hopefully this will make me love myself so others can love me as well. So, without further ado, what was awesome yesterday? Free food at the library, yum! Soup, Smoothies, Sandwiches, Snacks, you name it, they had it. Completely unexpected but totally awesome! Roommates made cookies yesterday! So many in fact, that it was impossible to fit them all in containers, awesome!

It Takes Time

“I can no longer settle for second best as I myself have become second best, no where close to where I should be. I have friends, I am not alone. I must break this loop of self-destruction I’ve created for myself and I have to do it now; not soon, not later, now…”

You will not see immediate results. You will get a taste of happiness here and there only to spiral back into depression. This is normal. It’s only when looking back are we able to see the gardens planted in fields that once looked barren. And I’m not perfect. I suffer from depressive states from time to time. The key difference is it has become manageable. Where once I would spend all day in bed, now it’s writing, ASMR, meditation, and my trusty stress ball. Other days it’s flipping through a book or watching a show to remind me of the good in the world. Where once my emotions would run wild, I now wield them as I would a sword. If I am angry, I use my anger to focus and channel my passion. If I’m sad, I let myself cry. If I’m afraid, I put one foot in front of the other; sometimes slowly, but still moving nonetheless. And if I’m happy, I cherish the moment and simply allow myself to be, knowing all too well that tomorrow could bring another storm.

In parting, I want you to know that I believe in you. I am not going to sit here and tell you everything will be alright, but I will tell you that it does get better. When you’re ready to give up and your world comes crashing down, don’t. Keep going. You might stumble and you might fall, but you are worth the fight. Hold your little flame close and don’t let go, for one day it will lead you through the dark.


Thanks for reading! This was perhaps the toughest article I’ve ever written. That’s part of the Mental health awareness project. Each week a little deeper and now here we are at the end! It’s been more of an undertaking than was expected but definitely worth it. Next week I will be talking about what I have deemed as “my final demon” and with that article my mental health awareness month series will conclude. I’m both excited and terrified to finally be writing about it. Regardless, feel free to discuss any personal stories related to depression in the comments below (only if you want). If you liked what I wrote but feel self-conscious, I now have a contact me page and can officially receive emails! I read each and every comment and love hearing from all of you lovely people, so feel free to reach out.

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Journey’s End week 6: I set a course for winds of fortune…

“What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


Before I jump in, I’d just like to thank everyone for your support over the years. This site has finally hit 50 followers. A while back I made a plan should I ever hit 50 followers, I would work towards expanding my blog in a more meaningful way. This site is officially a .com now and advertisements are gone so it should make for a more enjoyable experience. I’m looking to put together a team over the next year or so and keep the momentum going. Thanks for joining me on this journey! So, without further ado, let’s get started…


When I was a child, I was asked a very simple question, “what do you want to be when you grow up”? I would always reply, “Successful”. When we’re children, we’re taught to dream big, to go forth and tackle our dreams head on. If only that were a reality we could hold onto for the entirety of our lives… Instead the world tells us what we can and can’t do and our environments begin to mold us… Those who learn to master their own destiny often realize too late.

He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past. This simple idea of being able to rewrite history… And in this context, your own… Is extremely powerful. We write our own stories. The world cannot hurt he who is master of himself. When you learn to weave words, you can simply rewrite your story. Life is a process to be broken down. A series of patterns, data-points to make sense of. As it has always been, we create the narrative. If it sounds pleasing to the ear, then it is pleasing to the ear. Reality is both subjective and objective. We create the story and we can choose to ignore certain laws of nature that remain constant (or we can embrace them). If two people perceive the same reality, then who is to say that is any less real than the objective reality we must all abide by. Is the glass half empty or half full? It depends. If we pour the glass halfway, then it is half full. If we pour the glass full and drink half, then it is half empty. The glass can be both. It’s how you define the terms.

Coffee with My Little

As I mentioned last week, I have multiple spots around campus where I go when I need peace. Many think I’m an extrovert yet I’m actually an ambivert. Or as I like to call it, my introverted friends will say I’m an extrovert while my extroverted friends will say I’m an introvert. As such, I actually prefer to spend most of my time alone. I’ve been taking walks around campus, sitting on my bench as the wind blows through my hair on a warm Spring day. Or I’m in the library, where I’ve claimed a comfy chair as my designated napping spot. My favorite spot? Is a coffee shop on campus that has a balcony overlooking our quad. I like to sit outside, sipping on coffee, and simply watch the hustle and bustle down below. I create stories for those I don’t know and for those I do, I see who they’re with and wonder where they’re going. It’s fun being an observer, as you can watch the world end and begin anew all in the course of a morning. What I love most about this spot is it’s a nice reminder that the world is bigger than we are and that we have a part to play. So I decided for the last time to take my little for coffee. We always go to Dutch Bros so it was only fitting that we end with somewhere that has personal meaning to who I am.

In a sense, this was my goodbye. I used to get coffee with my Little every week. I pulled out a notebook the first time we met and wrote down his interests, who he was, and who he wanted to be. I was with him every step of the way. I watched him go from someone trying to find his way in the world to who he is now, where he no longer needs the advice his Big once gave…

My most cherished moment was when he was in his first interview with the fraternity and was asked, “if you saw yourself in a leadership role, what would it be”? And he said, “I’d like to be the Service Chair”. “Why?” they asked. He replied, “because the current Service Chair is someone I admire and look up to”.

To be honest, I’ve been beating around the bush a lot lately. Soon I’ll have my banquets with the organizations that have been my “tribe” for the last 3 years. Every time I start to think of the impact these organizations have had on my life, I begin to get choked up. I’ll change the subject quickly and avoid breaking down. I’m not one to show my emotions. I’ve spent years perfecting my techniques and methods. Everyone I love could leave me tomorrow and I’d still keep moving forward. I’ve become, in a sense, unbreakable. Every hardship that has ever graciously bestowed its presence on me has only served to make me stronger. A lifetime of betrayal has made the weak, strong.

Family

When I came to college I had the dirt to my name. What was once promised was never meant to be. At this point in time my friends were beginning to disassociate themselves with me. When I needed friends the most, they all more or less abandoned me. And truth be told, I was always the outsider, the David looking to conquer Goliath. And when you’re lonely, it is much harder to make friends. The mornings where you keep on going and don’t even know why… Or the years of counseling because you had no one else to talk to… To avoid mirrors because you hated what you saw when you looked in one… Yea, it’s not pretty. Or tell someone “I’m fine” because it’s easier than saying you’re dead on the inside. Yup, that was my first two years of college… But then I stumbled my way from engineering to business… And I asked my adviser back in 2014, “What do I need to do to be successful”? And she gave me a list… And… I felt like crying. I thought, “how will I ever be able to do all this”? And then I took a deep breath and said, “let’s focus on one thing at a time”. And then I joined management club…

This was my first taste of finding my tribe. Back at a time when I didn’t trust anyone… I went to every meeting, every event, and copied everything my mentors did. I had two mentors in management club, both long gone by now… If only they could know how much of a difference they made in my life… But as I said before, I get too choked up whenever I think about it, so I avoid the conversation… But I will say this; they were like big sisters to me…

Then came AKPsi, the business fraternity… Back when I was a nobody they helped make me a somebody… We have 5 core values: Service, Integrity, Knowledge, Unity, and Brotherhood. These values gave me guidance and direction when I had none. AKPsi, gave me something to believe in… And how do you repay that? When your brothers make you feel as though you’re part of something bigger, that you belong… To take your hand and lift you up when you’re down. That’s family. Not who you’re born with but rather who you choose to be with, to spend your time with… And I love my brothers because they are my friends. When I’m old, these are the people I will keep in touch with.

And my roommates… To have friends to go home to, to hang out with… To listen, to understand… You can’t replace that. So many things had to go right to create the man who stands before you today… And if I could go back and change my college experience, even one moment, I wouldn’t. I don’t know if things happen for a reason but as far as I’m concerned, I’m happy they happened the way they did. I miss the nerf gun fights, the board game nights, weekly get together with the ladies (yes we had a guys house and a girls house), the hiking, all of it. Now my roommates are scattered across the country… Looking back, I can be grateful for the little moments that added up… It gives me something to smile about.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my last mentor/friend. Yet I’ll keep this mysterious. Goodbyes are never easy and I’m saving his goodbye for when I stand tall in my cap and gown.

The Old Man and the Library

To end, I’d like to tell a story. As mentioned earlier, I have my napping spot in the library. Every student should have a napping spot, it brings a tear to my eye when I hear that a student doesn’t. I’ve tried other napping spots throughout the years, but it’s not the same… I always have come back to this one spot… 5 years, this spot has personally seen my journey from beginning to end. Whenever I’d have a break, I’d go here. I’d read, listen to music, listen to podcasts, etc. It was great. Over time I’d always notice a man sitting at a table. Freshman year… Sophomore year… Junior year… Senior year… And never once did I ask, “what’s his story”? Until this year. This is a man who has seen me come in and sit down at the exact same spot for the last 5 years… Is he a professor? A researcher? A community member? I couldn’t tell you. Yet just like me, he has his spot. What’s his story? Should I know? Should I care? Perhaps before the term is over I’ll ask him. Or perhaps not. I’ve built his narrative and I have to wonder if he’s done the same for me… What would he say about “the kid and the library”? Would he say anything?


Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed this post and feel free to share, comment, and like! Next week is an open book but I’ll most likely take time to talk about my college bucket list and what’s next.