The Secret To Happiness…

The most significant trend I’ve noticed is that when people are unhappy, they like to place blame on something else. As a society, we’ve become obsessed with chasing happiness. We’ve tried to bottle it up and sell it. Some tell others they have “the secret to happiness” and sell them some gimmick we know will leave them open hours later to the next trend. 

*I’m unhappy with my job because my boss is emotionally draining. 

*I’m not happy where I live because I can’t meet anyone new.

*I’m not as happy in this relationship as I thought I would be.

*These new clothes make me look good, but still don’t fulfill me.

Whatever it is, we quickly become dissatisfied and then begin pursuing the next trend. Today is your lucky day because I will reveal the true secret to happiness for FREE. Why would I do that? Everyone has the innate right to be happy. The big secret? It’s been YOU the whole time. You are what needs to change and not necessarily change who you are, but change your way of thinking. 

Your mindset has been tuned to detect negativity. Think about it like this. When you watch/read the news, it’s pretty much ALL negative, from murders, natural disasters, poisoned politics, diseases, etc. Therefore, our harmful to the positive ratio for the world is incredibly skewed. Finding something positive in the news is so rare that they have special segments for them (“Kindness Corner”). Hence, we are so touched when we see a positive news story. 

The truth is good things happen all the time. We are just impacted more by negative events. Naturally, those take more of a toll. On the bright side? We have the power to control our focus. We can choose to focus on the negative or the positive. It’s not to say we should ignore negativity altogether, as we still need the truth. However, you can control the dosage and ratio in comparison to positivity. Follow more positive accounts on social media, watch something else, monitor news intake, etc. Take the necessary steps to help change your frame of mind.

So next time you feel like quitting your job, moving across the country, breaking up your relationship, or returning new clothes, check your positive-to-negative ratio intake. You’d be surprised how this simple shift of mindset can affect your happiness.

Hollywood’s Over – Commitment

Hollywood and/or the Entertainment Industry play an exciting role in the world’s quest for mental well-being. Hollywood and celebrities want you to think that they fully support mental health awareness and will do anything to help champion the cause. Guys, I cannot imagine a celebrity’s schedule, but to constantly be shot down is discouraging. It is frustrating to see a star who advocates for mental health but then needs to be bothered to take the time to actually work for the cause. It is asking a little from a supposed mental health champion to help raise awareness. However, the answer is more disheartening than I realized.

Growing up, adults have all the answers. If they said they would do something, you usually would see them follow through (i.e., guardians, teachers, coaches, counselors, etc.). As you get older and become an adult, you realize not everyone abides by those rules. Many of us are taught to follow through with our promises. In fact, that is a big theme growing up; Don’t overcommit to something you cannot deliver on.

Why is this a big deal? Well, because others are counting on that promise. They are relying on you to hold up your end of the agreement just as they have held theirs. Remember group projects in school (ugh, I know!)? There were always two types of partners. Partner A does all of their work and picks up the slack of others. Then Partner B does not do their job and allows Partner A to pick up their slack. No one liked being partners with Partner B. Sorry to my Partner B’s out there, but you put stress on your counterpart when you do not follow through.

What’s my point with all of this? Hollywood and celebrities who “champion” mental health feel like Partner B. Not only is being rejected (or not replied to) rude, but it also goes back on the person’s word to advocate for mental health. I do not claim to hold any sort of status. My endeavor is not significant, but the intention is different. The purpose is to hear honest stories from real people about their mental health struggles and how they best deal. Why? It could inspire someone not to give up, try something new, get help, and/or, most importantly, keep living.

Let’s not forget about the Mental Health representations in the media. Some works that initially come to mind are, A Beautiful MindRain Man, and Silver Linings Playbook. While representation is improving, we must shake the idea of mental health equating to “crazy” or “scary.” In actuality, many people with mental illness live happy, productive lives. The fact is mental health is manageable. Yes, it requires upkeep and regular care; however, it does not have to define your life. It’s not dissimilar to physical disease. Think about diseases like Diabetes, Crohn’s Disease, AIDS, etc., and how manageable they have become. You can live happy, productive lives with those diseases when maintained and cared for by a medical professional. Mental health is no different. Thus, representation must be improved.

So, Hollywood and celebrity mental health champions. Step up and use your platform for the greater good. We think other issues are more critical, but that is unfair. “Just because I didn’t live through the same hand dealt you doesn’t make me any less or make any more of you.” No cause should be considered “more” important than another. Remember, it is all based on your perception.

Am I Good Enough?

Have you ever wondered, “What if I am not good enough?” Chances are, someone else put that thought inside your head. Do you know who else was told they weren’t good enough?

  • Michelle Obama, Former First Lady of the United States of America. Her high school guidance counselor also told her she was not the right “fit” for Princeton. Translation, your race may be a factor in getting into Princeton. Pathetic. Look at how far she came as a Princeton and Harvard Law graduate and the First Black Lady. Those are tremendous achievements.
  • Michael Jordan is a famous former NBA player. He was cut from his varsity high school team and put on JV. Now he is considered one of, if not the best, basketball players of all time.
  • Barbara Streisand was told several times that her nose was too big for show business. They told her she would never make it with a nose that big. However, Barbra went on to star on Broadway in countless films and musical recordings. She has won 8 Grammys and is considered one of the greats.

As you can see, each of these individuals was told at some point or another that they were not good enough. Did they give up? No, they knew what they had to offer was much more significant than any person could decide. They rejected the notion that they were not good enough. Instead, they chose to believe that they were good enough.

I am not here to tell you that every dream you have will be a great success. Billy Joel wrote, “Dream on but don’t imagine they’ll all come true…” from his famous hit “Vienna.” Never let someone else dictate whether or not you pursue your dreams. After all, the only way to know for sure is to try. At the end of the day, only you know what you are truly capable of.

It is all about believing in yourself and working hard at what you are passionate about. No, it may not lead you to be the First Lady or best basketball player of all time, but is that any reason to not pursue your dreams? Absolutely not. In fact, it was former President Teddy Roosevelt who coined the phrase, “Believe you can, and you are halfway there.”

We all have a purpose on this earth, and while some are more public, many are not. What you do to change the world may not be trending on social media, but that does not make it any less significant. Due to social media, we have trained ourselves to believe that being seen is most important. What do you think they did before social media? Lived their lives for themselves, not others. I encourage you to do the same.

Love (In The Name Of Pride)

If this title caught your eye and seemed vaguely familiar, great catch! It is a take on the U2 song “Pride (In The Name Of Love).” Part of the lyrics are as follows:

“Early morning, April four

A shot rings out in the Memphis sky

Free at last, they took your life

They could not take your pride

In the name of love

What more in the name of love?

In the name of love

What more in the name of love?”

Clearly, referring to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, TN. As we continue to celebrate the month of Pride, we remember the struggles of those who came before us. Although the inequities of the Black and LGBTQIA+ communities are two different causes, they share many similarities. Inequality is what it comes down to. If it puts someone outside their comfort zone, then forget it. That right there is where we miss the opportunity to grow as a collective community not defined by skin color or sexual orientation but as the human race. I started this initiative to show that we are much more alike than different. If you don’t believe me, then I challenge you to do the following:

Step outside of your comfort zone and befriend someone different than you (race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability, age, etc.) and see if you can find one thing in common with that person. Despite your differences, I am willing to bet you can find more than one.

Until the day I die, I will keep spreading this message because we can’t expect others to do the hard work for us. It has to come from each of us. Every single person has a part to play in this war against inequity. Whether it is a shift in mindset or working for the greater good, everyone must accept their role and act. I cannot promise every world problem will be solved as a result, but it’s a start. We then can turn our focus to other issues and work together to solve them. Can you imagine what could be done if people from all walks of life put aside their differences to work for the common good of humanity? The opportunities are endless, and we are wasting our time fighting with one another when we could be solving other problems. Just think about it. Because the LGBTQIA mental health statistics below are NOT ok. We can need to do better.

In comparison to heterosexual individuals:

*LGBTQIA+ community members are 2X as likely to have to have a mental health disorder in their lifetime.

*LGBTQIA+ community members 2.5X as likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance misuse.

*Lesbian & bisexual women are more than 2X as likely to engage in Substance Abuse.

*Transgender individuals who identify as Black, Latino/Hispanic, Native American or Mixed Race have increased risk of suicide attempts.

*LGBTQIA+ community members have higher rates of mental health service use.

Another Taken Too Soon

With a heavy heart, tear-filled eyes, and deep remorse, I write that another young friend has been taken from us too soon. My friends, the pain and suffering so many feel can no longer take a back seat. I am sick and tired of attending funerals for friends my own age. Twenty-five is not old enough to be attending the funerals of peers. The very people I grew up alongside and thought I’d be acquainted with forever. Taken. Gone.

The social media post begin to flood your feed with sadness and memorialization. We don’t get the luxury of “goodbyes” or “I love you’s.” No, we get the gut-wrenching phone call that no loved one should ever hear. It shouldn’t be this way. They should all still be here celebrating life alongside us, not from above.

There are not enough “I Love You’s,”‘ “Rest In Peace’s,” “In Loving Memory’s,” and so on that can make up for the tremendous loss felt by an entire community. Imagine someone suddenly in your community being replaced with a hollow shell. This person was a part of some community. A community they were accounted for and expected to be in. Their absence will be forever felt in that community.

If you have ever lost someone unexpectedly and tragically, you know the unbelievable pain it can create. Please don’t let this pain make you turn to substance abuse or suicide. Instead, reach out to a trusted loved one and get the help you deserve. You are certainly not weak in admitting your pain. In fact, we admire you for taking steps to take care of yourself. If anyone tells you differently, they, too, need to look within themselves and begin their own healing process.

You do not have to live with your emotional pain. Take care of yourself and value yourself like you would anyone else. There is another way, and licensed professionals waiting to help you start your healing journey. I know it is scary, so do it when you feel ready, but promise me you won’t wait too long.
I am sick and tired of attending funerals for friends my own age.

Someday You’ll Learn To Love Your Flaws

If you’ve ever felt insecure about something you perceived as “wrong” with yourself, you’d most likely call that a flaw. When I was younger, I remember being told, “Someday, you will find someone who loves you and all of your flaws.” I thought, “yeah, right. Why would someone love me for my flaws?” It didn’t make much sense as a kid, but as I grew older, the meaning began to take.

I became so fixated on finding someone to love my flaws, so they could make me feel better about them that I forgot one of the most crucial steps. Learning to love and accept my entire self, including those pesky flaws. When I was younger, I found someone who loved me for everything I was. It was puppy love, but yet still a sweetheart. However, I wasn’t at a point where I, too, lived myself. As the saying goes, “you cannot love someone else fully unless you love and accept yourself. That is no easy feat, ladies and gentlemen.

Needless to say, it didn’t work out. We both needed to grow up and learn to value ourselves more. It is easy to get caught up in the heat and forget your identity when you’re young. Yes, you may spend your life with someone else, which is fantastic! Congratulations that is a MAJOR decision! However, remember not to lose yourself along the way. You were single people with accomplishments, loved ones, and lives before you met. Don’t let that all fall by the wayside.

The right person wouldn’t make you jeopardize everything for them to keep you to themselves. No, the right person will want to assimilate into your life because they know what you value and love and want to be a part of that. You see, you’re happy when you do what you love around the people you love. When you’re most comfortable, you’re your most beautiful self. Who doesn’t want to see their partner happy? No one I’d like to be with, and neither should you! Never settle for ANYTHING less than you deserve.

The truth is the most precious love is sacrificial love. When a person is willing to put aside their desires for someone else. This is not because they have to, but because they love the person enough to want to. That is one of the only magical acts left in this sullen world. Please protect, respect, and treat it with the utmost care to keep the magic alive. After all, everyone deserves a little magic in their lifetime.

To The 2022 Graduates…

I want to congratulate the graduating class of 2022. You did it! Whether you’re graduating from Kindergarten or Medical School, you still made it. However, what does graduation even mean? Let’s start with graduating. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Graduate is a verb that means “to pass from one stage of experience, proficiency, or prestige to a usually higher one.” It reminds me of unlocking levels in a game. Once you have done the hard work and figured out how to unlock one level, you are on to the next challenging level.

A great example is when you leave middle school and go to high school. You are typical “the big man on campus” at the end of middle school.” You are in the oldest grade and have the most experience and privilege. Fast forward to freshman year, where you are at the bottom of the food chain. You have to work hard to get to senior year. As many people would agree, there are only a few things better than your senior year of high school. I am not saying it is the best moment of your life or that you peaked in high school (because I don’t believe in peaks – I think we are all on a natural ascent). My only point here is to enjoy it.

No one thinks or believes it at the time because your life is going in a new and exciting direction, but hold onto those moments. You will be surprised at how quickly you will miss them. You will miss your friends; this is the last time you will all be together, united by the same milestone. Next year you will be separated by miles due to different university choices. It is not scary, as it is shocking how quickly your life will change in the next few months. You will even miss your parents/guardians (cue the eye-rolls). I know, I know, but hear me out. When you are sick or having a bad day, your caretaker makes you your favorite meal just because. You will miss that. You’ll miss the goofy moments, celebrations of victories, and even the comforting shoulder to cry on. It is a bittersweet transition, but now it is your time. Your time to be your own hero. Your time to be an adult (which you have been waiting for) is finally here. Ready or not.

In his famous play, Hamlet, Mr. Bill Shakespeare said it best when he wrote, “This above all: to thine own self be true…”. Simple words, yes, but one of the most important lessons we can learn nevertheless. As you embark on high school, college, or graduate school, remember who you are and what you stand for. You will be challenged, especially as you grow older, on your beliefs. Remember to hold on strong to your ideals and values. You will meet others who think differently (not a bad thing), but it will make you question what you stand for. Remember your heart in this very moment. Consider even writing down your significant values so you can look back at your notes when they are challenged. Your notes will remind you why you believe what you believe. Don’t let others impede upon your morals and ideals. No one truly knows your core but you. Don’t waiver to appease anyone else because you have to live with your actions (good and bad) at the end of the day.

The good news is we all make mistakes and shift our beliefs a few times throughout our lifetime. My only ask is that you change your beliefs for YOU and not anyone else. At the end of the day, you’re the one living your life, not anyone else.

If Not Now, Then When?

Dear World (or whoever is reading this),

As I sit here writing to you, the tears begin to cloud my vision and thoughts. An overwhelming sense of failure sets in. My whole life, I have been fighting a battle of competency. Fighting like hell to be heard and finally prove my worth. To be given a chance to show that I have more to offer.
For so long, I have been “waiting in the wings” for my moment. I should be thankful to have people in my corner who believe in me for better or worse. To be seen as competent and intelligent. To feel as if people want to hear what I have to say. Of course, family and friends can make me and anyone feel this way. However, I cannot help but wonder how much of that is true or framed by the rose-colored glasses of their love. It may be a mix of both. Does it really matter, though?

I wish I had that unrelenting belief in myself, but here I am. I don’t always have that confidence that I am worthy and competent. But then, who does? (If you do, please let me in on your secret, you magical person.) We all have our range of emotions that lift us up on our best days and let us know when we are at an emotional overload. As author John Green once said, “Pain demands to be felt.” I want to take that one step further, “Emotions demand to be felt.” When we repress them, we lessen our chances of rising above and moving on. It is the same thought as the only way out is through. I am not going to tell you it is all sunshine and rainbows. It will be worth it.

As I sit here, whining about being seen or heard, I find it interesting this post comes out during Pride month. Talk about a community that has never given up on fighting to be heard, seen, and accepted. We can learn so much from our LGBTQIA+ friends. Did they deserve to have to fight for their rights? No, but they did, and look how far they have come. That can be said for many minority groups who have shown us that we don’t have to be complacent with the way things are. We can stand up for ourselves and say no; we deserve better. Now, I am not comparing my journey to the journeys of minority groups, but I think we can all learn valuable lessons from them.
I don’t want to live in a world where cutting others down to make someone else feel inflated is okay.

I’m over the bullies, bigots, and what have you. It’s enough. What gives you the right to bring me or anyone else down? NOTHING. Just as I do not have that right, neither do you. STAND UP for your beliefs. When you feel like you’ve hit a wall, keep pushing through. Let your fellow fighters help lift you back up and continue to fight like hell. Look at the difference it has already made. Can you imagine what change can be made for future generations?

How To Approach Those Who Don’t Believe in Mental Health?

I am sure a specific person or group of people popped into your head immediately as you read this title. If you are someone who does not believe in mental health, this is NOT an article meant to disrespect your beliefs. It is giving those who believe in mental health tools to help respect their beliefs while caring for their own needs. We must always respect and hold value for others’ beliefs, just as you would want someone to respect your own.

Now that we have addressed respect for beliefs, let’s learn to care for our mental health while respecting others. Number one: focus on getting better. Healing is a personal journey in which you can seek help from licensed professionals and loved ones who understand your needs. It is important to listen to licensed professionals, as they know what is best for you. You are not the first patient, and you won’t be the last for your provider. Find someone you can place all of your trust in. That is essential.

If nonbelievers don’t understand your condition and ask you about it, please refer them to some sources to help them learn more about it. Remember to thank the person for trying to understand and broadening their perspective. It is a learning moment for them, and that should be honored. However, it is essential to note that the nonbeliever must show interest and ask. Take it slow, and never push someone into any belief. No one likes others to impart their beliefs to them.

Unfortunately, in this world, polarizing beliefs can hurt relationships. If someone is hurting you or unsupportive of your mental health, you have every right to distance yourself from them to care properly for yourself. If someone hinders your healing process, it does not mean cutting them out since it is for your recovery. It is not selfish to put your mental health first.
Actually, it is one of the most selfless things you can do. Why? Because when you are caring and loving to yourself, your relationships will be positively affected and bettered by it. It is like the old saying, “you cannot love someone if you cannot love yourself.” That does not just go for romantic relationships but for all personal relationships. When you think of it like that, you’re taking the proper steps for healthy relationships with yourself and others.

In your life, you will come across people with all different beliefs (mental health-related or not). However, it is not as much about convincing them to believe what you believe. Instead, learn about each other’s perspectives to better understand one another. We must remember that people form their own beliefs based on their experiences and perceptions. Most often, it is not out of ill intent but more a result of specific experiences and/or ways of life. Hold value for and honor each other.

The Power Of Hard Work

We are all familiar with the term “hard work pays off.” It means that the results will show for you when you work hard. However, it is not a lesson that can be learned overnight. In fact, it takes time to understand the value. Why is it such an important idea?

Let’s break it down. What really is hard work? Do we have an agreed-upon definition of hard work? Eh, not really. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘hardworking‘ as “constantly, regularly, or habitually engaged in earnest and energetic work.” Hard work means someone who makes a habit of putting in a diligent, passionate effort and/or job. Additionally, defines ‘hardworking’ as “industrious or zealous.”

Now we know what hard work is, but how do we know it will pay off? In short, there is no official guarantee it will work out. This is true. However, does that mean you shouldn’t try? Of course, not. There will always be a risk in any decision you make. Should that impact your decision to work hard or not? How can you yield the lowest amount of risk? Well, not putting in the hard work. Okay, fine, and that is correct in some scenarios. However, how can you ever reap the rewards if you never risk it? To put it simply, you can’t.

It’s similar to Wayne Gretzky’s (made famous by Michael Scott of The Office) quote, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. You need to put in the hard work to embark on an opportunity. You may create a groundbreaking project or solve a longstanding problem. Who knows? The possibilities are countless. When we are excited and ignited by our work, we willingly work hard to yield the intended results.

Yes, there will be times when we put in hard work, which works out differently than we wanted. However, that gives us a better appreciation for when it works. It makes my passion burn even hotter to push myself harder than I knew I could. You will be surprised at what you can accomplish when you are determined. It can be hard to stop you when you set your mind to something.

What’s the point? I encourage you to find that job, project, idea, etc., that excites you. Do all you can to attain this goal. If it doesn’t work out, that’s okay. Learn from your experience, and go back to the drawing board. Whatever it is you do, do not give up. It can be discouraging after working hard and not getting the intended results. However, there is always a lesson to be learned – win or lose. If you keep trying, I promise you will find that passion and meet the intended goal. Don’t give up on yourself or your dreams. We are all so much stronger than we know!