When I sit here and think about how to share my experiences with all of you, I at first couldn’t think of a single freaking thing to share. What the heck have I been through that could help and inspire others? What have I accomplished? But, my biggest thing is that I have overcome a few things, but I’m still overcoming most things. I’m still making progress. My story doesn’t have a conclusion. Nevertheless, I have something to say, and here it is.

I’m the black sheep of my family. I’m the one who thinks differently and makes all the wrong choices. All those wrong choices stemmed from trying to be like my family and make my parents proud. Then, I realized those choices were only wrong to me because it didn’t feel right. I wasn’t being true to myself. After three full years of college, I dropped out. The idea that I am the one who has control finally hit me, and I took that opportunity to act. I said a HUGE fuck you to all the expectations that weren’t my own. I left and started my own lifestyle. I need no one’s approval to be myself. Yet, this fight still happens every damn day. It’s hard. I can’t talk to my family about most things I’m doing and why they make me happy. But holy hell, I’m so much happier than I was before.

Let’s rewind a little bit. I came out when I was 17 and had my first girlfriend. She was 24. I told my whole high school, back in small, conservative, typical town in Vermont. I didn’t tell my parents. I never fit in at my high school anyway, I was always the one who wanted to get out. I was the one who didn’t have many friends, but didn’t want to be friends with the people I was surrounded with. Then I went to college with the unquenchable thirst for new things, new people, and the opportunity to learn. This was squashed fairly early. I must say, I did have fun and I learned a lot about myself. But, I would say I didn’t make any real friends until my Junior year of college, my last year there. Everyone I surrounded myself with were so shallow, selfish, and vacant. I had no understanding of it.

I’ve struggled with depression for my entire life. The lack of real, genuine people and lack of passion for what I was doing threw me into an almost four year low. I was not allowed to study what I am passionate about. I’ve known what I wanted to do since I was 15, and my parents failed to take me seriously, constantly telling my that I was wrong. I wasn’t. At 20 I left college and within two weeks of the year ending, I had two jobs. One of these jobs changed my life.

Cafe Ole in Old City, Philadelphia is a whirlwind. It’s a wild energy. This cafe built me a backbone, taught me how to talk to people, especially strangers, without the terror of being disliked. It taught me to be free, kind, and generous. It also trapped me. I developed a beautiful friendship with the manager, but she was very hard to work for. At a time, I loved her as a friend. I could confide in her. But, there came the time that I realized as wise as she and I both thought she was, we were both wrong. She has preconceived notions of who people are and judges them accordingly, but I wasn’t the naive child she thought. She treated me as such. I would go to work every day and be scolded and cursed at because I wasn’t good enough at my job, I wasn’t happy enough, I didn’t treat people well enough. I left this shop a few months ago, and what a beautiful difference it’s made. I’m currently training to be the manager of a coffee shop, and this opened the opportunity for me to create that wild energy and pay it forward. My goal is to create a place that’s warm for people, a place where all the employees know your name and care about you, not just care about what they’re providing for you. Oh, opportunity.

I’ve also recently become an online fitness coach, something I never saw myself doing. I’ve always been an athlete and led an active life. Having played softball, soccer, rugby, and then discovering rock climbing, I’ve always had something to train for. I loved fitness and a healthy lifestyle long before I even knew that’s what I was doing. I now have the opportunity to teach others and help them gain a positive body image and healthy lifestyle simply by living my lifestyle! I also work at a bar that has specialty beer and the opportunity to learn about it, an interest I’ve always wanted to pursue and the opportunity was dropped right into my unexpecting grasp.

My work life right now is basically my whole life, I work almost 80 hours a week every week. I’m tired, sometimes I’m completely hopeless, and sometimes I barely have the time to shower. It’s hard. Life is a constant challenge. But, I know if I keep going, if I keep my chin up and persevere, it will all pay off. I’ve got to be honest, I’m not entirely sure in what ways it will pay off or when, but I know it’s coming. Good things are coming because I TRY! Effort will get you anywhere you want to go.
So, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I haven’t accomplished a ton, I don’t stick out from the average, I haven’t overcome too many hardships, but I like to think I can show others that happiness is attainable, even if you’re not happy every day. All of our lives will be a work in progress for our entire lives. There’s too much out there to learn that will light the flame of discovery in ourselves. Let us live life with an open heart, soul, and mind. Let us be open to love, light, and dark. Life is a discovery and I intend to do exactly that.

Story submitted by Bayli