Friday, January 27, 2017

A Service State of Mind

Wow oh wow I have not posted on this dumpster fire of a blog in a long time.


What better way to revive this thing (temporarily, probably) than by talking about my favorite thing at Mizzou?

About two weeks ago, I returned back to Columbia from what may have been my last trip with Mizzou Alternative Breaks. The last week of this past winter break I got to return to L'Arche Jacksonville (where my MAB trip served in 2016). So please take the time to imagine 12 college students crammed into a 12 passenger van with all of their luggage and stuff for 15 hours. Done visualizing that potential dumpster fire? One fart and things could have gone to absolute shit. But everyone held their flatulence (that's a lie) and here I am digressing again...

I wish everyone in the world could experience the happiness and love you feel at L'Arche Jacksonville. Because that happiness and joy on a global level could solve a lot of problems. L'Arche is my happy place. I think it's everyone's happy place, actually, because every day that I was there over the past two years everyone just seemed happy.

And 12 students from Missouri got to experience a piece of that happiness. And we got to share meals with a community that fosters that happiness. And we got to feel a little bit of the love that resides at L'Arche, and the impact it had on us was profound. Maybe not "drop-what-you're-doing-and-change-you-major-so-you-can-start-a-non-profit" profound, but that kind of stuff only happens on Hallmark channel reruns.

The love and happiness we got to be part of at L'Arche was blissfully simple. They all love one another and find joy in being with each other, and they opened up their homes and their hearts to us without hesitation. You don't find that in very many places, but I wish you could. I truly wish you could.

And I can't think of 11 friends I would have rather had that experience with. Brianne's patience, Caleb's sass, Cayla's enthusiasm (and ability to budget cause god knows I can't), Erin's kindness, Jamie's humor, Jess' energy, Jordan's drive, Kylie's passion, Molly's thoughtfulness, Paul's charisma, and Sam's open heart (among many other qualities they all possess) have surely made me a better person and words will never be able to describe what it means that I got to share this experience with all of them.

If you are a Mizzou student and you have not gone on an MAB trip yet, I implore that you do so before your time at Mizzou is over. It will change your life.

To the people at L'arche Jacksonville: Thank you. A million times from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for letting Mizzou into your home for the third time (and hopefully many more times in the future). Thank you for letting us into your hearts and sharing your joy for the world and life with us. You have touched our hearts and we can't wait to show the rest of the people in our lives that joy and love.

To the incredible people that shared this trip (and ridiculous van ride) with me: I love each and every one of you and am a better person for knowing you. And this is probably the nicest you'll ever see me, so screen shot it. Each of you was picked by Cayla and I because of your compassion for giving yourselves to others. I can't wait to see how you use that compassion in other parts of your life. You inspire me each and every day.

To Mizzou Alternative Breaks: Without the people that make this organization run, these opportunities would not be possible. There's a reason we're the biggest, and best, collegiate alternative breaks program in the country. Every coordinator, graduate assistant, board member, site leader, and participant has helped to shape what this organization has come to be and will continue to grow into. Thank you for being the best part of my Mizzou experience and for contributing to the Mizzou experience of so many other tigers.

I truly believe that every single person has the capacity to show love and kindness to one another. It's my hope that this capacity is utilized by anyone and everyone so that the world can become that much better of a place in the future.

Be kind. Do good. Show love.

-- Tyler

Friday, January 1, 2016

S*** Happens...

Staying awake on an overnight shift can be difficult. So this is how I'm occupying my time.

To say that 2015 went swimmingly would be a crock of shit.
I told myself I would start this post with guns blazin'. I think I pulled it off.
But what's a year without a little adversity, right?
This past winter semester I tanked my GPA.
My dog died.
I was diagnosed with three mental disorders.
I had my first panic attack (and several more after that).
Lost a few friends.
Donald Trump is still running for President.

And you know what? I don't care. I literally could not care less about all of these things.
Because shit happens. Shit happens all the time and too often there is nothing you can do to prevent it.
I've learned that the only thing you can do when shit happens is deal with it. Grab the bull by the horns and fight back.

So yeah, I could focus on all the things that weren't great this past year.
Or I could focus on all the things that happened over the last 365 days that were absolutely, mind-blowingly, incredible.

This was a year of firsts.
This year I got my first tattoo. And then I got another one after that... and another one. And I'm getting more... sorry mom and grandma.
This was my first semester as a Center for Leadership and Service Ambassador. I'm advocating for incredible programs that offer incredible opportunities at Mizzou.
This year I went on my first Mizzou Alternative Breaks trip with a group of incredible people.
That trip led to me getting to work at a job where I finally feel like I'm doing something with my life and making a difference in the lives of other people.
That job showed me that, while I am passionate about music, I am much more passionate in working with other people to discover their potential and tap into that potential so they can be great.
This year I made more friends. I met new people that are genuinely good people that make me want to be better.
This year I turned 21. That's all I'm gonna say about that.
This year I spent my first summer away from Liberty and had an incredible summer in Columbia.
This year I discovered the magic of coffee.
This year I started learning Italian. And I'm actually kind of okay at it.
This year I finished music theory and I could not be more thrilled to put it behind me.
This year I got to plan another Mizzou Alternative Breaks trip to Florida and now I'm going on another trip with another incredible group of humans (T-7 days until departure).
This year I listened to a lot of incredible music and made a lot of incredible music. Music is cool.
This year I climbed a lot of things and had a lot of adventures outdoors.
This year I started to really appreciate who I am and enjoy my own company.

I don't really buy into new year resolutions. I find it to be a rather tacky idea.
But I have to make one. Or several.
In 2016 I resolve to just be happy. I resolve to accept that bad times will happen and that I can either crumble under them or learn from them and move forward. I resolve to be humbled by the good times and appreciate when things are looking up.

And to everyone that has stuck by me during the good times and the bad: Thank you. Thank you a million times over I wish I could give every one of you the world. Just know that you have made a positive impact on the life of someone who will be forever grateful and that person is me (duh) and I think you're a rock star because of it. Thank you thank you thank you thank you.

I have 366 (leap year, y'all) days and I resolve to make the most of all of them.

Happy new year!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

People Make Me Nervous: Going to an SEC School When You Have Social Anxiety...

I like to think I'm a pretty outgoing guy. Both of my jobs require me to interact with people. I'm pretty (very) involved on campus. I'm pretty emotionally intelligent and good at interacting with others... for the most part.

That being said: People make me so nervous. Being around people and talking to people I don't know actually freaks me out a lot. Everyday tasks like walking through the student center and making phone calls causes my heart to start racing and for that fight or flight reflex to kick in. You will barely ever see me sitting by myself in a crowded place.

Social anxiety sucks. It is shitty with a capital SHITTY. I'm outgoing. Introverted, yes, but outgoing. I like to be successful and make friends. But being in social situations where I am not in control of the situations causes me to internally freak out.

Take, for example, my Italian class: I went into this class knowing literally nobody. Zero humans in that room were people I knew from previous parts of my life. And it was a class where I had to TALK TO PEOPLE IN A DIFFERENT LANGUAGE. I'm not even good at foreign language. That shit is difficult. È molto difficile (that's Italian). Long story short I made like 2 or 3 friends but God it was so difficult, y'know?

But there's just a lot of things that I think people that don't get some level of anxiety from social interaction don't understand (at least from my personal experience).

1. I'm not *afraid* of people. They're not big scary monsters that I find horrifying. We're afraid of being judged, looking like an idiot, pissing someone off, accidentally offending someone, getting murdered while our back is turned to someone, and other perfectly rational fears.

2. I am uncomfortable for the stupidest reasons. Case and point: The other day my best friend and I got on the bus to go to campus. We got separated (it happens). The bus was VERY crowded and I was standing in a giant mass of humans that were not really respecting my (very large) personal bubble. I wanted to cry and/or throw myself out of the nearest window because I was having so much trouble with just staying calm. But I did it because I'm just that good.

3. Alcohol is NOT a solution. Okay chemically speaking alcohol actually is a solution. Psychologically speaking it's not. There is a chance that I can loosen up a bit and have fun and let all my worries melt away. There's also a chance that I could lay on the floor and curl up into the fetal position and not say a word and freak everyone out. So I mean yeah go ahead and hand me a drink if I'm looking a little anxious, it could help. Or it could ruin everything. The choice is yours. :)

4. Vague text messages make me want to die. "Can I ask you a question?" "I need to meet with you." You better double text my anxious ass and tell me exactly why or else I am going to jump to the WORST POSSIBLE CONCLUSION. With great power comes great responsibility.

5. Invite me to things. It might make me anxious but I'm gonna be real bummed if you leave me out of stuff. Sorry I'm difficult. I was born this way.

6. If you invite me to go somewhere that is party-like and then you ditch me when we get there you have just committed the ultimate act of betrayal. This is not my environment. I don't know these people. I need to pee and I don't know where the bathroom is and I'm not comfortable asking anyone here. Look what you have done. Why did you have to hurt me in this way? Now I'm gonna leave and walk home (because irrationality is a strength of mine).

7. I don't need you to be my counselor when I'm struggling. You can just acknowledge it and say something nice and we'll be on our way.

8. Addendum to above: If I know you really well you have to be my counselor. It's in the contract we both signed when we agreed to know each other. You should have a copy. I emailed it to you.

9. If you don't understand what I'm experiencing don't act like you do. I don't pretend I know how to be an engineer or how to exercise. Educate yourself and ask questions. Understanding is a necessary component of empathy.


11. I am very very very very very very very very very very very very picky about physical contact. Not the "oh I haven't seen you in forever" hug / handshake. The casual pat on the shoulder, pat on the head, slap on the butt (that one doesn't happen much, thankfully), friendly punch on the shoulder, not friendly and very painful punch on the shoulder, etc. And some people can get away with it. Some people I actually kind of enjoy physical contact with (scratch my head please this curly hair gets itchy). But there's no rhyme or reason as to who it's okay for and who it's not. But fear not: If I don't like you touching me I will tell you. So if you think you have violated this rule but I have not told you then you are in the clear. Fist bump and high five on, my friend. You have a green light.

12. I know my anxiety is not rational. My anxiety does not care, thanks. Try a different approach.

13. I probably assume you don't like me as much as you do. I kind of like to assume people hate me and find me annoying. Thanks for being my friend, friends. You should get community service hours.

14. I will take insignificant things very personally at the most random times. Ditching me on the bus (subtweet)? I'm offended. That very insignificant comment? Offended. I might not say it but I'm probably offended. You didn't text me back? It's probably because you hate me and don't want to speak to me ever again. Sorry. I'm offended. You used a comma AND a period in your text message? Clearly you are annoyed by me contacting you. Now I'm offended.

15. If I share what I'm going through with you please feel very proud of yourself. I have trust issues and we've already established that I think I'm very annoying. You must be a rockstar.

16. That being said I'm not fragile. I'm not broken. I just have my own personal obstacles that I'm working to overcome. Everyone has them. I'm still in this life to kick ass and take names.

But if you come up to me and start talking to me out of the blue I'm gonna sweat a little bit so shake my hand fast or it's gonna be gross.

Today I found on Tumblr:

Some of you will be offended by this. I do not care.

Have a good night, everyone!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Dare to be Different...

I should be finishing up some homework for my summer class. But who actually wants to do that?

Now for anyone that isn't already aware, I can't play sports to save my life. So I don't know why, for the life of me, I watched any portion of the ESPYs last night. It was a bunch of celebrity athletes that I don't know getting awarded for a bunch of things that were probably pretty cool. I heard a lot of moving stories about victory, overcoming obstacles, and perseverance. All of these are things you learn (or at least I assume you do) by playing sports. Or being a musician. Or being a human being.
Something has been brought to my attention again by probably the only athlete that was on the stage that I recognized: Caitlyn Jenner.

Caitlyn won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. "Although it is a sport-oriented award, it is not limited to sports-related people or actions, as it is presented annually to individuals whose contributions "transcend sports". Often these transcendent figures are also athletes who have been at the top of their sport, such as Muhammad Ali, Dean Smith, and Cathy Freeman." I got that quote from Wikipedia. Thanks Wikipedia. You are so useful. 

I'm not here to argue whether or not Jenner should have won this award, because I am entirely unqualified to determine whether or not she (read it "SHE") was the best candidate. 

I am merely here to express my profound disappointment in humanity. It is the 21st century and we still criticize people for being different. People criticized Michael Sam for being gay (like he could help it). People criticize Jenner for finally being who she feels she ought to be.

People criticized women when they wanted to vote.

People criticized African-Americans and their supporters when they decided that slavery was a load of bullshit and then they criticized them again when they wanted to be treated as equals to white people. 

Being different is not a reason to be criticized.

Saying Caitlyn Jenner is not a hero or is not courageous is rude and deplorable.
To come out and say that you are going to be who you were born to be in a world that condemns people that don't fit the status quo (and we do) is brave. That is an act of courage. 
To be an Olympic athlete that decides to embrace being trans-gendered and take the shit that the world has thrown at you for your honesty is courageous. And if there is even one trans-gendered human who has had a positive impact made on their life because of Jenner's actions then Jenner is, in fact, a hero. At least to that one person. And who are we to tell someone that their hero is actually not a hero?

Was Jenner the most courageous person nominated for the award? I don't know. That is opinion and hearsay. But there should be a very solid number of people that should feel very ashamed of themselves for what they say to other people purely because they are different.

I am different.

You are different.
We are ALL different. 

Whether you are black, white, gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, Atheist, trans, depressed, happy, or any other adjective you can think of. You are different from every single individual on this planet. 

God forbid people tell me I am a coward or not brave because of my depression.

God forbid people tell Michael Sam he isn't brave even though he didn't fit the status quo (and he could probably kick your ass but good luck).

To tell people it is wrong to embrace what makes them different is to tell them that it is wrong to be human. 

To tell people which differences are okay and which differences are not is to try and play the role of God, and chances are you are not God. 

I don't give a turd what your holy book tells you. I don't care if someone violates every rule, guideline, or suggestion that your god tells you to abide by. It does not give you the right to be mean, malicious, etc. It does not mean that people can bully other people to the point where the victim feels that suicide is the only way to escape the pain that was inflicted on them.

We are all different, but we all have one thing in common: We are all human. 

It's time we started acting like it. 

Gee, I hope I don't fall and hurt myself when I get off this high horse!

Today I found on Tumblr:

Life is not without struggle. Make your story the best adventure you can imagine. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I Will Be Happy...

First I want to acknowledge a beautiful piece of writing. A friend of mine wrote about the struggles and stigmas facing those with mental health issues and it resonated with me in a way that nothing I have ever read has managed to do.

Read it here, and don't continue reading this post until you are finished:

Mental health is a very serious issue. Too many times I have been told that I have no reason to be depressed, or that I am not someone "who looks like they would be depressed." As if depression waits for a reason or only befalls those who act or look a certain way. Too many times it has been implied that I don't fit a stereotype. And I think my friend said it best when she wrote that "You cannot put me in a box decorated with black nail polish and frequent trips to Hot Topic because you don’t wear depression like a necklace or put on anxiety like a hat."

To be depressed does not mean that you wear all black and seclude yourself from the world. It can fall onto people that you would not once think it could happen to.
Depression can be the person that smiles every day and stands out in a crowd because of their charisma and leadership abilities.
Depression can be the person that isn't afraid to speak their mind.
Depression can be the person that has a big attitude and a tendency to communicate with sarcasm.
Depression can be your high school's student body vice president.
It can be the person that is outgoing and involved and seems like they have every reason to be happy.
Depression doesn't care if you should be happy.
Depression doesn't give a damn about how good of a life you have.
It'll tear you down anyway.
It is a monster. A monster that works its way into your head and can cast a shadow on every happy thought you've ever had. Nothing is off limits.
But that's not enough.
It causes pain. It causes so much pain. Enough pain that some people want to die to get away from it.

It causes enough pain that you will do anything to escape from the monster in your head, even for just a brief moment in time. You will do whatever it takes for that instant of freedom, even open your own skin and make yourself bleed. Because physical pain is nothing in comparison to what that monster in your head can put you through. I know. I have the scars that will forever remind me of my feeble attempts at escape. Those will never go away. And there's no glory behind them. They are not some metaphor for struggle and triumph. They are scars. Nothing more and nothing less.

Because hurting yourself isn't a permanent solution. My scars are not beautiful. They do not make me brave. For six years I tried to combat the pain in my mind with physical pain, and that didn't  do a damn thing. From the time I was 14 until well after I turned 20 I turned to a knife to silence the voice in my head that told me to hate who I was.

I hid myself behind a huge amount of extra curricular activities, a busy schedule, and an often fake smile so I could appear to be "normal" when, in reality, normal is not real. Normality, like perfection, are figments of the imagination that people try to achieve when it is truly impossible.

Yes, there were people that tried to tell me otherwise. People that loved me and continued to love me even when I couldn't love myself. But nobody could force me to like me. That was something I had to hash out for myself.
I love who I am. I love who I have the potential to be.

My depression was not beautiful. It was ugly. The battle was ugly. The effect it had on me and the people that I love was ugly.

I went through all of high school feeling like I was alone in my struggle, and didn't confide in anyone. And it was so unnecessary. I had every reason to be happy and depression wouldn't let me see that.

If you suffer from depression, or anxiety, or something in your head isn't right I beg you to seek help. Especially if you have ever thought of hurting yourself, have hurt yourself, or have ever had suicidal thoughts. You are not alone. This world should not be deprived of the light that you can bring into it. There is help for you.

And if someone tells you that you're just seeking attention, or being dramatic, or that you have no right or reason to be depressed, or that there are people who have it worse than you please tell them to pull their head out of their ass, because their ass is not a hat. They're contributing to the stigmatization of a disease that has taken so many precious lives and snuffed out so much happiness.

Everybody deserves to be happy and to love who they are.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

20 Things I Learned by the Time I Turned 20...

I could write some long winded intro about the list I'm about to throw at you but I'm not going to.
I've learned a few things in my 20 years and a handful of months and I'm gonna share 'em.

Sweet and simple.

  1. Being drunk is not an excuse for shitty behavior. Ever. "Sorry I was drunk" should not be given as an excuse for acting poorly and should not be accepted as an excuse that someone tries to give you. Control yourself. If drinking turns you into a bad person don't drink. There. 
  2. Messing up is okay. Sometimes you don't get the grade you worked for or the job you wanted. Messing up is okay. It's okay. Everyone does it. If you make a mistake and you learn from it then you will be a better person in the end. It's called "failing forward." Fail. But use that failure as a springboard for progress.
  3. Learn to appreciate being single before trying to commit your affection to someone else. If you aren't happy single then you aren't happy with yourself. Nobody can make you happy with yourself besides yourself. I firmly believe that. 
  4. Appreciate people for who they are and not who you want them to be. I struggle with this. So bad. But putting unrealistic expectations on people to be something that they are not creates a lot of pressure for them and a lot of disappointment for you.
  5. Beware the people whose charming qualities start to become annoying. Do not read that as "beware the people that do things that annoy you on occasion." There is a difference. For example: Laziness can disguise itself as a chill and laid back attitude. 
  6. Intentions behind actions can mean as much as the actions. A question I'm trying to remember to ask myself when someone does something that pisses me off is "Why are they doing this?" Sometimes people rub us the wrong way with purely good intentions. Naggy mom? She's doing it because she cares. Even if it is annoying.
  7. Pursue your passions. Pretty self explanatory. 
  8. Stand firm in your values. They make up a large part of who you are, and places like college really test your values. Don't let stupid stuff like college change who you are or what you value. 
  9. The little things matter.
  10. Empathy is a dying character trait. As time progresses people are becoming less willing to put themselves in the shoes of other people. So many problems could be avoided if people would just take a second to see a situation from the other person's point of view.
  11. If you screw someone over apologize as soon as possible.
  12. Nurture the friendships that are important to you. Don't be afraid to cut off the ones that are holding you back.
  13. Slow down. Living fast means dying fast. Take some time to appreciate the scenery. 
  14. Work hard and play hard. In that order. 
  15. Focus on your strengths and stop trying to mitigate your weaknesses. You'll have a lot more self-confidence that way.
  16. Give back. Volunteer. Do what you can to make the world a better place because this is the only world we have (until we colonize Mars). Go out of your way to make those less fortunate than yourself have a good day. You'll never regret it.
  17. Be a kid sometimes. Even if you can legally be tried as an adult in the court of law take the time to be a little (note that I said LITTLE) immature. You can have fun as a young adult. Or at least that's what I'm told.
  18. If you can schedule a nap time for yourself DO IT. Just do it.
  19. Laugh at all the sex jokes they hid in the cartoons you watched as a kid. Understanding them means you're growing up. Growing up can be shitty sometimes. But not when you realize Spongebob and friends told a lot of dirty jokes when you were younger (Sandy Cheeks in Bikini Bottom? I rest my case). 
  20. The meaning of life is whatever you make it. Nobody lives the same life as somebody else. So nobody decides what the meaning of your life is but you. Do what you feel in your heart whatever it is you were put on this planet to do.
I'm so wise. 

Today I found on Tumblr

This seems familiar...

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Thank You...

Good God above I have not blogged in what feels like months (because it has been months).
So let's play catch up with my life, real quick.
In about three days I will be halfway done with my undergraduate career which means I am one step closer to being a real adult and I'm not sure if that should be exciting or terrifying or both.
I haven't failed any classes yet, so that's a plus (there's a pun hidden in there if you want to look for it).
I still climb things for a job.
I got a second job as an addiction recovery technician so that's crazy and cool.
I am now in the process of planning a week long service trip to somewhere in the continental United States for this next winter break.
I'm still sarcastic.

Everything is as it should be, so let's digress.

What a semester. What a school year, really. Has it been the best year of my life? Probably not. The worst year? Definitely not.
But there has been a good amount of struggling (what's college without struggling, though).
I'm prone to falling victim to stress, anxiety, and over-thinking. And I'm really good at thinking myself into a bad mood. And I will be the first person to say that I am a LOT to handle. And there are two kinds of people that put up with me: the people that have to and the people that choose to.
The people that have to are family. The people that I am biologically related to. And they've been doing it for 20ish years so they're really good at it.
The people that choose to, on the other hand, are miracles in human form. I do my best to put my best foot forward in public. Whether that be at work, in class, or some other function that puts me in view of strangers. And I'm really good at that. I'm really good at making it look like interacting with strangers is my favorite thing in the world. And I do enjoy doing that. That's why I'm involved in what I'm involved in. But it's exhausting.
Interacting with most people makes me tired. Usually in a good way. It's comparable to that satisfying exhaustion you feel after you leave the gym. You want to rest but you're happy because you think you did something good.
My batteries do not run on social interaction. I am, by definition, an introvert. An outgoing introvert, yes, but an introvert just the same. My focus is largely centered on internal stimuli and critical thinking. I value one on one time with people, especially people I am close with.

And I can tell you right now that I would not have made it through this semester without some seriously appreciated one on one time with some seriously awesome people. And I hope they're reading this and I hope they know who they are.
I do not open up the vulnerable side of me easily. I do not give people all of my trust easily. I am not the kind of guy that puts all of his eggs in one basket, so to speak. I am not usually someone who takes the risk of throwing everything that I am into relationships. I like to hold back and keep some things to myself because, despite a lifestyle that has me interacting with other people constantly, I like to live a private life on occasion.

So to those people that I have taken that leap of faith with: Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and from ever fiber of my being. Thank you for laughing with me and being there for me when laughing is the last thing I want to do. Thank you for telling me everything is going to be okay when the future looks bleak. Thank you for not running away when you realized that being my friend might be more difficult than you thought. Thank you for rising to that challenge. Thank you for listening to me rant and for listening to me freak out. Thank you for pushing me to find that happy place when I would rather just sit down and give up. Thank you for lending me your strength when I have exhausted mine. Thank you for smiling when you see me even when the look on my face expresses emotions that would imply that I am less than thrilled about the day. Thank you for talking about deep emotional stuff even when there's a million other things you'd rather be doing.
And thank you for being you. Thank you for being at the right place at the right time so that your existence could give me one more good thing to cherish.

Thanks for being there.
-- Tyler

Today I found on Tumblr:

Same, I guess.