Brick By Brick

People are complex beings, beings who have a vast number of intricacies in their make-up. These unique traits help develop things like character, mindset, decision-making, and overall outlook on life and self. In fewer words, intricacies are responsible for making people who they are. While you may share views and similarities with your fellow man or woman in some respects, no one can really understand what makes you “you” right off the bat. Your deep-natured self goes all the way to your core and  can be difficult to explain at times. As an outsider looking in on the life of another, you need to know that everyone has a story, a journey, and experiences to share, but allowing those things to come out might be easier for some than it is for others. The truth is, you never know what someone is going through until you take the time to find out.

If I could sum myself up in so many words, it would go a little something like this: nice, caring, respectful, wise beyond my years, quiet, introvert. I grew up going to smaller Christian schools and was always very well-liked once I got comfortable around my small circle of people, but I did not say much most of the time. Public high school was a bit of a shock, knowing next to no one and being in this chaotic, new environment, but I eventually found my groups and was able to be myself around a select few. Most of the time, I kept to myself and rarely spoke to people unless I was forced into it. During my junior year, which was probably the most social year of my high school career, I decided I wanted choose a college far away from home. “There isn’t anything for me here” I thought, as I looked at big schools all around the country who had the major I was interested in. I ultimately decided to attend the University of Oklahoma and study Entrepreneurship, a growing major in the business program. I packed my bags and headed to Norman in August of 2008 to begin the next leg of my journey. I was excited and looking forward to this new opportunity. I was on a major college campus with people from all over the place. I was on my own for the first time and had this whole new set of responsibilities. Maybe college would be the place where I would finally break out of my shell? As optimistic as I was, what would happen over the course of that year would take me somewhere I never thought I would go. I had no idea that my darkest demons were lurking and ready to jump on me when I was at my weakest.

Mt. Hood National Forest; Zigzag, OR (Photo Credit: Leah Applebach)
Mt. Hood National Forest; Zigzag, OR (Photo Credit: Leah Applebach)

After the first couple weeks of classes were in the books, I came to the conclusion that this whole “going away to college” thing was going to be a much bigger challenge for me than I thought. I felt lost in my classes and had no clue how to really study. I missed my family and friends, who were all over 800 miles away. I was not into the whole partying and drinking thing, so I felt like I did not fit in. I had constant anxiety about my financial situation and how I was going to pay for school beyond that time. All those things I just listed were tough for me, but hands down the toughest obstacle I faced was something that had followed me my whole life: I did not like myself. I did not think I would ever be good enough for anyone or anything. I felt like I would never experience true success or know what it meant to be truly happy. I had this outward appearance of being this positive person when it came to everyone else, but was a wreck inside when it came to how I viewed myself. During that first year in Norman, my inner, personal struggles collided with the outer struggles associated with being in college and I crashed hard. I was extremely negative and hard to be around. I neglected my old friendships for the most part and spoiled some of the new ones I formed. I could not get out of this funk I was in and the depression associated with it was downright terrifying. The craziest part of the whole thing was that if an outsider had taken a look at me, they would have had no idea. I continued to go to class, get my work done, go to sporting events, work out, and carry on with my daily life as if nothing was going on. I was a dead man walking and had no positive outlook on life whatsoever.

I remember sitting at my desk under my lofted bed near the end of first semester and knowing that this is not how life is supposed to be. If things were going to change, I had to change. I had to knock the building down and rebuild it brick by brick. I had to take the necessary steps to own my outer and my inner struggles. I knew the rebuild of my inner self would be a much longer project, so I decided to address my outer struggles first. “Maybe they would even help me with my inner struggles”, I thought.  In my two remaining semesters at OU, I took better notes, changed my study habits, sought help from tutors, and was able to bring my grades up to where I wanted them to be. I made the effort to connect with people and maintain some friendships, healing the ones I had badly strained a year or so later down the line. I made the effort to talk to people from home more often and see how things were going in their lives. I decided to forget about my financial situation and deal with the topic of funds for future schooling when they got to me.  All the while, I was learning how to love myself and realize my true self-worth. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was important and could really make a difference.

“There are no shortcuts to constructing a solid house. You build the foundation brick by brick.”

At the end of the first semester of my sophomore year, I packed my bags for the last time and left Norman for good, but did so on my own terms. I was excelling in my academics and was healing more as a person each day, but decided it would be best for me and my future to choose a school that was less expensive and closer to home. After a semester of community college, I began my two-year journey at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where I would eventually graduate with honors and leave with some awesome friendships and a refined outlook on life. I became an encourager and someone who did whatever I could to bring positivity to the lives of others. I was there for people and listened to their pains, offering advice and counsel in any way I could. I continue to be this person today as a son, brother, friend, coach, and any other role I find myself in. I still have things I struggle with and I still consider myself a work-in-progress. I’m okay with those things because it means I never want to stop growing or learning. I want the person I am to extend to every aspect of my being, whether it be in business, my relationships, or my true purpose here.

I do not know where I am going to end up or what I will end up doing with my life, but I have a peace knowing I will make a difference everywhere I go. I live for my today and my today matters. Embrace this mindset and you will make a difference in your own way, brick by brick.





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