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vulnerability: What remains unseen

“Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It’s tough to do that when we’re terrified about what people might see or think.” – Brene Brown


This month will either break or make me. In my never ending quest to step outside my comfort zone, this might be my greatest challenge yet. The goal with this series is to one, reduce the stigma around mental health and two, create an opportunity for myself to talk openly. Every week will get a little deeper and like Neo, once I climb down the rabbit hole there’s no clawing my way out. Luckily, I’m an expert communicator nowadays, so people no longer run away in horror when they see me (yay).

How am I qualified?

Some might argue I am not [no one has argued that but it sounds poetic so I’m leaving it in.] Some might say I’ve gone mad, however, nay says I. Why? Because over the last five years I have diligently studied every technique I could find for mental wellness. Hell, I chose my major (Business Management) just so I could learn how to develop meaningful relationships in my life. And I did. I came, I conquered and I destroyed. The unintended consequence of my actions is when I open up now, it’s hard to believe how I possibly could relate. Little known fact is I spent the first two years of College in a counselors office and the year after taking antidepressants. I am imperfect and so is everyone else.

Why Write about this?

The first reason is that I am in a position to. I have spent years developing my writing talent so that I would have a voice and with that voice, the power to speak when others might not.

We as a society run from our emotions. We are scared shitless and we choke on our own pain. This is not unique and our pain begins to manifest into unhealthy behavior and habits. We look at Facebook and begin to loathe our own lives even if they’re going well. We see a Snap and feel as though we’re missing out. We write inspirational posts just for the sake of being noticed, feeling heard, and getting likes. And we are miserable.

We as a society hate vulnerability. And not so much being vulnerable but the risk that we might be misunderstood. Vulnerability itself is beautiful and to be heard? Even more so.  To be vulnerable is to be human, so why have we designed society around developing personas?

For Society to Succeed, Men must be vulnerable.

I could be wrong, however, I’m willing to take this risk; I think society would be better if men knew how to express themselves. And while I can’t speak for women, I think most of you would agree. All too often I see men being real dicks (pun almost not intended). And instead of pointing the finger, I think the real question we should be asking is “why?” My working theory is because men aren’t taught to manage their emotions, those emotions begin to manage them. Early on in life it might not be as noticeable, however, over time the issue compounds. And we as people, have emotions that are stronger than others. When we’re sad we cry and if we can’t cry, we get angry. What are men told from an early age? That we can’t cry! And with anger, comes aggression. Anger is only ever healthy if properly managed. Channeled well, anger becomes passion, determination, and immense focus. Handled improperly? You get men who can’t take no for an answer.  And when this happens, the more we push, the more we are pushed back. While not impossible to break through, it’s easier if men are taught that we are imperfect from the start. That we will have our ups and downs, and it’s not so much about weathering the storm as it is to feel the rain and hear the thunder.

And if you’re curious as to why there is an emphasis on men, here it is. While women are imperfect (just like men), my observation has been that women seem to be better equipped to form support groups and networks that encourage openness. Men, however, do the opposite. Instead of open up, we distract ourselves. We grunt at the T.V. when watching football and we drink beer in a feeble attempt to self medicate. When we are backed into a corner we kick and scream rather than let ourselves be vulnerable; we want to be loved yet we don’t know how.

Why are we afraid?

Next week, I will be talking about my struggle with chronic depression. In most situations, people wouldn’t know how to react. Why? Because it’s not something we’re taught. Instead of a hug, most of the time a reveal such as mine would be met with awkward silence. And worst case? Your friends who you thought you could trust, decide they don’t need the added stress and decide to leave. That is why we don’t talk and feel the need to say “I’m fine” rather than “I’m not ok and that’s ok.”

We fear one day if we reveal who we really are, people will not see beauty but rather destruction. And to an extent, those fears are justified. Emotions are messy and if not handled properly, they can cause more harm than they can ever do good. And that is why we need to practice. To tell others how we really feel rather than how we want them to think we feel. If we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we risk losing everything that makes life worth living.

How does this feel?

The simple act of writing without limits feels wonderful. Yes, I have my filters, however, they’ve been refined to the point where I can weave stories with the snap of my finger. Instead of watching my story unfold, I can tell how my story will unfold. I am in full control. That’s the thing. We create our own reality, for better or worse. For me, it’s been the drive to be better and that started with a blog post five years ago. It was an act as simple as sharing my love of poetry over on IGN. I chuckle now, but it was a big deal at the time.

What does it mean to be Vulnerable?

This is a question I have found myself asking. This article has taken months of planning and reflection. And unlike most, I’ve been dreading hitting publish. There always seems to be more to refine, more left to write, and words that simply don’t sound right. The closer I get to finishing, the further away I feel. And I think that encompasses vulnerability best. It’s not so much the act of sharing as it is the fear that my words will be ill received. We can plan for all the possibilities in the world, however we won’t know until we choose to speak up. These articles are not what I would call “safe”. If I’m wrong, the greater the fall and the fear that there will be no one to extend a hand when I hit the bottom. However, these fears are ill-founded. The best moments of my life have been when I’ve chosen to allow myself to be vulnerable. I thought I would lose everything, however, it was in these moments that I could grow and allow myself to feel. As difficult as it is, would you rather be able to say in the end “I’m glad I said” or “I never got the chance to say”…


Thanks for reading! This was an extremely difficult article to write. Next week is the tipping point for this month. The content will delve into my mind and the vulnerability discussed in this article will be ever present. Be prepared and while the topics in the next few weeks will be handled with grace as always, they might make some uncomfortable. Feel free to discuss in the comments; I read each and every comment and always love hearing from you!

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Finding my zen

So, I’ve been fumbling around for the past month figuring out what my next post is going to be. I’ve started numerous drafts and while a lot of them are great ideas, they’re not quite ready. I want to be creative with my blog and try new topics, but I’m not willing to sacrifice quality simply to try a new idea. So this post? This will be more a reflection and a beautiful arrangement of word vomit with a focus on taking it slow and enjoying life.


I’ve been back in the US for about 3 months now and I have to say, I definitely miss being in Germany. In Germany I could sit back, relax, and make my own schedule. Germany  I could be myself and figure out specifically who that person was (and where I wanted to take that person). I was happy. Fast forward to now and as I’ve done many times throughout my college career, I’ve pivoted.

Last year was the year I learned professionalism and my satisfaction was focused on the praise I received, of putting in the hours to simply make myself a better person and seeing the payoff. I was in a sense, a robot. Give me a command and I would do the output. The irony doesn’t escape me, as the processes I worked so hard to improve were that of emotional intelligence and communication. I internalized every concept I read and tried my best to practice each piece of advice given. Years prior, I simply let emotions such as anger, fear, sorrow, and shame control my every day. Or in short, every emotion other than happiness. It’s easier to hate than love, easier to seek revenge than forgiveness. So the man you see today is not the man you saw 5 years ago because very few people actually know that man. Everyone has their own story yet at the end of the day we still are the choices we make. I played the victim card for years, focusing on what I couldn’t control rather than what I could. It was always someone else’s fault and however justifiable, it wasn’t healthy. I hated the man I saw in the mirror and it was easier to look away than to talk to him. And then a strange thing happened. One day I started talking to that man. And slowly but surely, I got to know him better. And now? I can smile at that man and have him smile back. It’s a great feeling to say the least.

Where am I now?

I’m taking a step back. It’s been pure chaos since I’ve gotten back and while I can manage, it’s definitely taken it’s toll. All the healthy living techniques in the world couldn’t save me. I came back from Germany and tried to be Atlas. I thought I could tackle the world head on, with my new found sense of purpose and I couldn’t. I crumpled under the weight of my own ambition. So now I meditate, I cook, I run, read, and do everything that I enjoy. I’m not so focused on finding a job as I once was and am simply content with being me. It’s great and while some might call it giving up (topic for another day), I call it a weight being lifted (a shrug if you will). Because at the end of the day, the person who will care about you the most is you, so shouldn’t you enjoy every moment?


So there you have it, a little taste of my life. If you have any stories you want to share, feel free to post in the comments below. Like what you read? Share with your friends! Hope you enjoyed!

Blink: Worth a Read?

So, I read a lot. I’ve been going through about a book every week or two for the past few months. I’ve had a few favorite authors throughout my lifetime: Steinbeck, Hemmingway, Orwell. And now? Malcolm Gladwell, the author of “Blink” He was recommended to me through a professor of mine and I’ve since read “Tipping point”, “Outliers”, and now “Blink”. All three are wonderful books, so with that, let’s get started.

What’s it about?

“Blink” is an adventure book that delves into the unconscious mind. It explains specifically the question of “trusting our gut”. What I like about Malcolm Gladwell is he uses research to illustrate his points. He will go over case over case until his question is clearly illustrated. He’s analytical without being dry. If you’ve ever wondered why you make the decisions you make and have a “hunch” then this book is for you. As you read further into the book, the bigger picture becomes clearer and clearer. My favorite part was when he went over mind reading towards the end of the book. So if you say mind reading is impossible, you might want to give this book a go.

My Recommendation

Read it! It’s such a fun book. Not only is it fun but it’s a thinking man’s (or woman’s) book. Malcolm Gladwell has yet to disappoint. The writing is quality, the humor good, and the interesting subject material aplenty. So go on, give this book a spin and yell at me if you’re disappointed.


Where to Buy?

I literally do all my shopping on amazon (thank you amazon student), so here’s a link: Blink

Comments?

Already read Blink or have questions? Comment below and start a discussion, recommend it or say it’s terrible, whatever you want, just be polite!

Germany: Around the world in 90 days

“Do the things you fear most and the death of fear is certain” – Mark Twain



The Road less Traveled

So it’s been a little over 2 months since I first arrived in Germany. A lot of my posts these past few months have been concerning travel. I’ve been to Paris, Strasbourg, Amsterdam, Bavaria, Mannheim, Frankfurt, etc. I’ve been traveling most weekends and haven’t really had time to reflect on the experience as a whole.

Before this experience, I had rarely traveled outside of Oregon. And in fact, I had barely spent time exploring my home city of Portland. I lived in a very tiny bubble. I remember the spark that planted the seed of adventure, the desire to see the world. By chance, I got a letter in the mail from an organization called “People to People” to be a student ambassador for non other than bowling (fun fact: I was in a bowling league for 10 years and president of my high school bowling club). Had I gone, I would’ve traveled to the Netherlands and competed with kids from all over the globe, but alas, it was not meant to be. Yet since that moment, I have waited for the day when the planets aligned and I could finally travel. That day never came, so I said “you know what, [insert expletive here] it, I’m going anyway”. Originally the idea was to travel to South America, as I was taking Spanish at the time and wanted to improve my Spanish while immersing myself in the culture. Yet I kept pushing the trip aside until, surprise, I was a Freshman in college. Then life happened, I grew up, started focusing on my career, and became highly involved around campus. Then I had a choice.

I could focus my energy on graduation, to have a diploma in my hand and a real sense of security, or I could push graduation back a few terms and go abroad. Not an easy decision. But as fate would have it, I decided to take summer classes a year ago. And during that time, there was an info session. And I remembered. 8 years ago, the excitement I felt when I was asked to travel to the Netherlands, the disappointment when I found out I couldn’t go. The years of Spanish, the desire to immerse myself in another culture. So I finally decided I would say yes. No matter what, I would go abroad. And here I am. Is it everything I dreamed it would be? It is. It is the single best decision I’ve made in my entire life. I’m not going to lie and say it was smooth sailing from that point out. In fact, it was anything but. As confident as I sound now, I had a lot of anxiety and reservation even after I made the commitment to myself. There were many times when I was ready to drop the program, when I wanted to say I had too much on my plate and I simply couldn’t afford to take a term abroad. But I asked myself, “When all is said and done, do I want to live a life of regrets”? To always wonder what would’ve been had I gone abroad. And that’s all I needed. A reminder that this was the next step in my journey. That, wherever life takes me, let it be forward. So why Germany?


Germany

Maybe it was all the history channel I watched as a kid, the pure fascination with the world and the association of Europe with cultural heritage. Perhaps it was the fabled rumors of delicious beer, beer that far surpasses any beer in America. Or it might of been the allure of magical castles or simply the idea itself (to experience something new). Yet if I’m to be honest, there were a few main reasons I chose Germany.

It’s centrally located

Want to spend a weekend in Paris? No problem. A weekend in Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Italy? Absolutely no problem. In fact, London and Ireland are a short flight away as well. If you’re looking for easy travel, look no further than Germany.

It’s got history

Mosbach, while small, is the perfect embodiment when you think of a German town. Each building… Well… Just take a look for yourself. This is Mosbach and I’m actually living here! No joke, it’s pretty much straight out of a fairy tale. Oktoberfest is pretty cool as well, and Lederhosen are very stylish. Of course there’s more history than that, tis’ but a snippet.

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Following my roots

In the 8th grade, I had the privilege of being in Australia for my cousin’s wedding. While there, I hunted down my great great great grandfathers grave. It was fun and made me realize the importance of heritage. I take great pride in where I come and while I’m still trying to piece together the family tree, I can say I have a lot of German in me. In fact, on the name sheet for my classes, my nationality says German; was it a mistake or something more? I can’t really say. I’ve also learned ein bisschen Deutsch, so… Anyways, it’s a lot of fun if you have heritage from the country you’re going to! It’s something to consider, but not necessary to have a great time.

The U.S. 2016 presidential election

I picked the right time to go abroad. Will The U.S. collapse or prosper? Who knows, I’m in Germany. If I want to, I can simply come back here and live a peaceful existence, regardless of what the election outcome is.


Closing Thoughts

Am I a different person? Yes. Life is about taking risk. If we don’t takes risks, we don’t grow. And when we’re not growing, we’re stagnant or worse, stumbling backwards. I never want to wake up one morning and realize that I’m exactly the same as I was yesterday. The thought absolutely terrifies me. I want each day of my life to be an adventure and the best way to do so is to constantly set new goals. So my message is go out, be bold, and don’t waste your time worrying. If you’re on the fence about going abroad, don’t be. You don’t want to be the student that regrets not taking the opportunity while you had it. In fact, I honestly can’t imagine what my college experience would be like without this opportunity.

 

 

Embracing Chaos

So let’s start where it all began; The Big Bang. The Universe was in harmony, molecules bonded, planets formed, life was created. The Universe was in order. Every moment that passes the Universe expands ever faster and the unforeseen happens, bringing a little more chaos into our lives. Is it bad? Not at all! I may sound like a mad man, but hear me out.

So, what is chaos? Chaos represents that which we cannot control and that scares a lot of people. Control gives us a sense of stability, so as humans we seek to control the world around us. Yet this is a futile effort. We have this illusion of control, that somehow our lives will be better tomorrow than they are today. This is not guaranteed. Some may say it comes down to perspective, that if you think positive, your life is all sunshine and rainbows. This is a false assumption. Optimism only goes so far and it can be a slippery slope. Being overly optimistic can lead to a false sense of security. It can become easier to ignore reality than face that the world can be a cruel, unforgiving place. “Good to Great” wisely stated (I’m paraphrasing, but you’ll get the gist) that optimists don’t survive in the real world. The people who survive believe they will prevail but set realistic expectations. So pessimists rejoice, you have the right attitude (just don’t have a rain cloud over your head)!

I have spent my entire college career trying to answer what role chaos has played in my life. Like the great human being I am, I spent the the first two years trying to control the chaos with no avail. Then I simply let the chaos control me. And then, I invested a lot of time and energy building myself from the ground up, the typical reinventing that many-a -college-student goes through. What did I find? Once I understood how to control myself, how to self manage and all that good jazz, I didn’t see chaos as such a detriment. I wouldn’t say chaos and myself are BFF’s right now, but I’ve found life to simply be more enjoyable. I know what you may be thinking “hey, he figured himself out, that’s great! But doesn’t the act of finding/creating yourself help reduce chaos?” Yes and no. The way I see it, investing in yourself is the equivalent of being handed a compass. A compass may point you in the right direction but at the end of the day you can choose any map you want to follow. But there’s a difference between looking at a map and having direction vs. actually setting down the path you’ve chosen. All the preparation and tools in the world won’t prepare you for reality, the environment and situations you may or may not come across. You may find that the road you chose to wander down is a dead end. If you are afraid of chaos, you’ll turn around and retread your steps. The familiar will  always give a false sense of stability. If however, you embrace chaos, you might say “this road is blocked, but I know where I’m headed, so here’s another road that’ll get me there”.  So go ahead and embrace chaos, you won’t be disappointed.

The Power of Context: Life isn’t a one size fits all label

Ever heard the phrase “it’s the little things that matter most”? Of course you have, unless you’ve lived under a rock your entire life; no judgments here. Is it true? Yes, yes it is. That’s not to say big moments don’t matter but it’s often the little moments that add up and create big moments. So why then, as human beings, are we stuck in a vicious cycle of oversimplifying the complexities of life? We can say criminals are evil but that’s an easy answer that doesn’t add up. If I volunteer on the weekends, I’m perceived as a good person. As flattering as that is, that’s a generalization. So what makes everything add up, where you can say, “oh, now that makes a lot of sense”? Well, my friends, it’s context. We are not always good and we are not always evil. Context explains why “good” people do “bad” things and “bad” people do “good” things.

Why Context Matters:

Context matters because it allows us to make better sense of the world. Instead of saying someone did something out of “character”, we can analyze and break down what they did and why they did it. When we make generalizations, we are left scratching our heads. If I’m perceived as a good person people will dismiss when I do something out of line, or worse, change their view of who I am with this one instance. If, for example, I call someone a “bad” name, rather than trying to understand the context and what lead to the name calling, they can simply say I’m a “bad” person. And due to personal bias, once they make this new assumption, they will look for anything that will reaffirm their new belief that I am a “bad” person. Yet, flip the story around. Let’s say I compliment that person and reaffirm their world views. Then I am a “good” person. So, simple. Just be a “good” person. This would work in a perfect world. Yet what as human beings do we tend to do? We focus on the negative. We are hard-wired to do so. Everyone wants to feel as though they have worth and we seek this through the approval of our peers. Humans are social creatures, so it makes sense. In a perfect world, we would be 100% intrinsically motivated and not care what others thought of us, but once again, we do not live in a perfect world. So back to my previous example. We can have a thousand positive interactions with an individual yet it only takes one moment to destroy a relationship. Does this seem logical? No, yet we do it all the time. We hold grudges and we put up walls. So an understanding of context in a sense can overwrite what we are hard-wired to do and make forgiving others much easier.

Asking the right questions:

A question we don’t ask enough is why. Such a simple question yet so powerful. Why is a question of trying to understand context. It encourages discussion and facilitates results. It not only helps you understand the situation better but shows appreciation of the other party. Ask why enough times and you have an answer. Instead of “good” or “bad” we get “Oh, I never saw it that way” or “Oh, that makes a lot of sense”. That’s the power of understanding context. It’s understanding. Context encourages us to break down labels and try to understand the other person on a situation-by-situation basis. “Heat of the moment” now makes a lot more sense. So go ahead, ask the question “why” and let the results speak for themselves.

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