My Journey in Vulnerability

I wanted to take some time to share what I've been doing for the past six months. Back in November, after visiting my family for a couple days for Thanksgiving, I received a walk-up call when it came to my health. My Mom sat down with me and discussed my weight gain, particularly the fact I was supporting it with bad habits. I have always been a larger individual and will always be, even when I reach goal. But the past couple years, I had gained weight because I was careless with what I ate and I wasn't moving as much. I had gotten HBP readings every single time I went to the doctor and felt really bad about where I was at. The conversation with my Mom was the first monent that I had broken down about that struggle. I had tried so many times to lose and didn't stick to plan. It wasn't really a failure, because deep down, I still had that drive. What happened was that I wasn't learning from my missteps. My Mom looks back on that moment and apologizes, but I tell her it was necessary. There has to be a moment in which something clicks. Often, that moment is filled with immediate regret and shame for past mistakes. Getting past that is tough, but necessary. 

So the last six months have been largely a triumph. Since January, I have lost 70 pounds. For me, it is finally starting to show. Even more than just physically. My energy levels are significantly higher. I feel so much more comfortable in my skin. As many of you know, I finally came out publicly last month after five years of suppressing the queer identity I hold due to body issues. My size was justification for believing that I could never love a man enough. I just pushed that part of me down as far as I could and numbed myself to that possibility. I wish I hadn't but I refuse to dwell on the past. I let the past inform but not control my decisions, behavior, and existence today. 

As I have said before, I will probably struggle with body issues my whole life. I still look in the mirror and part of me sees and still identifies with that individual that was 70 pounds heavier. But I feel like I have the tools to manage those feelings now. I'm able to love myself more, so that self-love conquers self-deprication. I owe a lot of this to not only my parents who have supported me in this journey since January but also to the Weight Watchers meetings. These meetings are so important because the people that attend them are my support team. I go to the same meeting every week, see the same people, and share my journey with them. It's a space in which we all can be vulnerable. And that's the power and secret of the program. It's vulnerability. You can get it almost anywhere in the program, but the meetings, in my opinion, are where that vulnerability shows up more authentically and naturally. Vulnerability catalyzes individuals to take action, to make changes in their personal life, and to reflect on what is most important to them. I derive my success so far from these moments. 

Right now, I'm pretty much halfway to my goal. I have a meeting with my doctor on Friday to discuss my weight loss. I've always been afraid of the doctor because I knew I was living an unhealthy lifestyle. Now, I'm excited to share my progress and consult with my doctor. I'm nervous about these next 70 pounds because it's gonna be more challenging. I'll have to push myself more, potentially cut some favorite things out of my diet, and go places I haven't gone in a while. But with this go around, I'm not afraid. I know that I will jump in and persevere. This is for life. And I have a new lease on it. 

Pulse: A Year Later

49 lives. 49 queer lives. 49 queer lives at a Latinx night. 

As an American concerned about our obsession with guns, the Pulse shooting hurt. As a not-yet-out gay man, it hurt even more. In some ways, I've been envious in the past of how others in the community can be so free to be themselves publicly. And Pulse was a reminder that there is a part of this world that still wants us hidden, ostracized, or worse yet dead. 

Yet as we remember these individuals today, I'm reminded of the strength of the queer community. I'm reminded of the power we create in spaces we are afforded (and in spaces we make). I count myself blessed to be surrounded by people that accept me for who I am. The theatre community has been a haven for me to be who I truly am. Part of these blessings require that I fight for the chance for others to feel that same acceptance. To not live in fear of being persecuted and ostracized because of who they love or how they identify. 

I leave you with a quote from a musical that has been sitting with me for a while. I love y'all with all I have and I'm damn proud to be a part of this community.

Even when the dark comes crashing through
When you need someone to carry you
When you’re broken on the ground
You will be found
— "You Will Be Found", Dear Evan Hansen

Being my authentic self

If you have followed any of my social media over the past four and a half months, you will notice that I have committed to changing my bad habits related to my health and wellbeing. I started Weight Watchers over four months ago and have committed to walking 8000 steps a day for the past month. My diet has significantly changed, yet I can still enjoy delicious things and sweets! In total, I have lost 61 pounds!

Often, good decisions beget other good decisions. As I focus on my wellness, I've been able to gain the courage to open other areas of my wellness. It's been crucial to this process, because much of my struggles that I have publicly hidden relate to insecurity about my body. Despite some of my recent success, I still feel like I hate the way I look. Part of me wants to accept myself the way I look and love myself much more than I do right now. Yet there's the little voice that sticks with me and will probably continue to stick with me even when I hit my goal weight. That's a battle I have to fight and I at least feel like some of my hard work in the past months has at least helped me acknowledge that this exists. 

I have tried to ignore so much about myself because of my body insecurity. Significantly, my journey through Weight Watchers and soul searching that comes with that process has lead me to recognize how much I have repressed any feelings and inclinations towards my sexuality. I've stifled that part of myself so that I didn't have to address it. This behavior I think largely stems from bodily insecurity and believing that my size and bodily shape is not worth loving. That I won't find anyone in this world to love me. 

As I've begun to work on my healthier habits, losing weight, I've forced myself to address my sexuality as a gay man. I believe I've repressed this part of who I am in fear that I wasn't loveable as a larger gay man. In some ways, I have had some difficulty exploring and solidifying this part of my identity purely because of my size. The irony of it all is that I'm fully convinced that despite the weight loss journey and personal fulfillment endeavor I'm on, I'm still gonna be a larger gay man once I hit my goal weight. It's just the way I'm built. 

There are so many folks out there that struggle with being their true selves because of the size of their body. It's not to say that losing weight and becoming skinny is going to fix all of your problems, because let me be clear in saying it won't. The bodily shame and insecurity will still exist after those pounds are shed away. It does for me and will continue to for the rest of my life. Do what you can and are willing to do to be comfortable in your skin. Change the narrative. Embrace your body. Don't let it be a buffer like I did. It's not healthy and it robs us the pleasure of your presence and your contribution to this beautiful world of ours. 

I have to recognize the privilege I hold as a cisgender, white, gay man. Many people don't have that privilege, which is why I'm committed to recognizing it and doing something with it. Working to understand others in my community, their struggles, and what makes them special.

Being real

I'm gonna be honest with y'all. I am the jovial, fun, happy-go-lucky person y'all have come to know and love. I enjoy being around people and doing things and taking advantage of life. 

But I haven't been incredibly honest with y'all. Underneath that reality is a more darker hue. I have serious self-acceptance and self-esteem issues. I feel like I seem confident most days, but deep down, I lack a lot of confidence in myself. I really don't know where it comes from: I wasn't raised that way. I feel like my rearing was something that has made me into the public version of myself that I am today, the one I described opening this post. 

I think it really starts with this nasty habit I have of comparing myself to others. It happened throughout my childhood, when I compared myself to how much my brother was able to woo girls and how much of the "cool kid" he was. The last bout of this nagging habit came during graduate school, when I kept  convincing myself that I didn't belong because my peers had more mentors, had "better," more typical student affairs experiences than I did. I eventually came to realize that the work I did and do today is valuable and important in Student Affairs. I'd be lying if I said those same thoughts don't creep into my head occasionally, but I have more confidence in what I do. 

For the longest time, I have struggled with my weight and size. And in many ways, both are really my fault. Bad habits in college, eating out too much, not exercising enough. Yet, despite addressing the blame, I still fight every single day to tell myself that my worth as a human being is not dependent upon my size and stature. That there are people out there that appreciate me for who I am. That I could attract a life partner despite my size and weight. One day, I believe all these things to be true. Another day, the doubt creeps in. 

I'm only 24 but I obsess about having it all figured out. Having my finances under control, having my career laid out in front me, never making mistakes in life or my work, and making everyone around me proud. And some days, in fact many days, it's hard to see evidence of such. Please note that I don't say this to evoke pity or the like: I know I am one of a million people with the same problems and I have the incredible privilege of a great support network of colleagues, friends, and family. 

Tonight is the first time I'm actual verbalizing that struggle publicly. I don't want to hide beneath the "problems" and not address them. This is a first step and I hope those out there dealing with similar or even graver personal and self-deprecating concerns can take a first step someday as well. Low self-esteem sucks y'all. And you can push through all you want, but it eventually catches up with you.