The Blog: On Second Thought

Real stories.

That’s what we’re about. And over the last two years, we’ve found there’s a place where real people, dealing with real life, open up and share those stories. That place is Van’s Warped Tour, the largest hard rock festival there is. This is our third year on the 41-city tour, and it just so happened to kick off in our hometown of Dallas, Texas.

So we decided to do something a little different to capture the stories there. We gave people a sketchpad and some markers and asked them to write down their stories in one word, sentence, or picture. Below are their raw responses. These are our people, the ones who are honest with themselves and about themselves, and who are beautifully broken.

"Unique" (Source: I Am Second)

“Unique” (Source: I Am Second)

"Find art in everything" (Source: I Am Second)

“Find art in everything” (Source: I Am Second)

"Strength" (Source: I Am Second)

“Strength” (Source: I Am Second)

(Source: I Am Second)

(Source: I Am Second)

"Art" (Source: I Am Second)

“Art” (Source: I Am Second)

"Smiling is my favorite" (Source: I Am Second)

“Smiling is my favorite” (Source: I Am Second)

"I know it's tough but please don't give up" (Source: I Am Second)

“I know it’s tough but please don’t give up” (Source: I Am Second)

"Grow" (Source: I Am Second)

“Grow” (Source: I Am Second)

DSC_1673

“Very easy going” (Source: I Am Second)

"Music saved my life" (Source: I Am Second)

“Music saved my life” (Source: I Am Second)

(Source: I Am Second)

“Kids & ink” (Source: I Am Second)

"Fucking crazy life" (Source: I Am Second)

“F***ing crazy life” (Source: I Am Second)

(Source: I Am Second)

“Pseudo beard” (Source: I Am Second)

"Diligence" (Source: I Am Second)

“Diligence” (Source: I Am Second)

"Friendship" (Source: I Am Second)

“Friendship” (Source: I Am Second)

(Source: I Am Second)

(Source: I Am Second)

"Don't forget to smile" (Source: I Am Second)

“Don’t forget to smile” (Source: I Am Second)

"Happy" (Source: I Am Second)

“Happy” (Source: I Am Second)

 

"Anxiety" (Source: I Am Second)

“Anxiety” (Source: I Am Second)

(Source: I Am Second)

A picture of a pair of earbuds. (Source: I Am Second)

"Fun" (Source: I Am Second)

“Fun” (Source: I Am Second)

(Source: I Am Second)

“Freakin lame” (Source: I Am Second)

"Third wheel" (Source: I Am Second)

“Third wheel” (Source: I Am Second)

(Source: I Am Second)

“The weirdo, creator, and gay boy” (Source: I Am Second)

(Source: I Am Second)

“I am a daughter of God” (Source: I Am Second)

(Source: I Am Second)

“Chaotic” (Source: I Am Second)

(Source: I Am Second)

A picture of a cat. (Source: I Am Second)

(Source: I Am Second)

“Strong” (Source: I Am Second)

"I am a child of YAHWEH" (Source: I Am Second)

“I am a child of YAHWEH” (Source: I Am Second)

"Nemo" (Source: I Am Second)

“Nemo” (Source: I Am Second)

"Blue" (Source: I Am Second)

“Blue” (Source: I Am Second)

(Source: I Am Second)

“Music brought me out of the darkest place of my life” (Source: I Am Second)

 

(Source: Pexels.com)

(Source: Pexels.com)

To be fully loved, you must be fully known. Here’s me taking a step toward the latter.

I’ve been considering sharing my “story” for a few months now. Some things here and there have been nudging me in that direction. But this past weekend while visiting my in-laws’ church in Houston, I felt the final tug to make it happen. The speaker shared his story very openly and ended by saying that while it’s hard (and risky) to be transparent, it’s God’s story to tell, not ours to hide. So here I am, being open, being vulnerable, and simply trusting that God has purpose in using my words.

I battle depression. Not just the kind that puts me in a bad mood from time to time. No, it’s the kind that led me to create a plan to end it all and a stay in a psych ward against my will. The kind that has wreaked havoc on my marriage and brought me to the point where I tried to drink myself to oblivion. The kind that can kill you.


I battle depression. Not just the kind that puts me in a bad mood from time to time. … The kind that can kill you.


If I had to trace it back to the very beginning, I would probably say there were signs of it as early as high school. But unfortunately, I wasn’t “diagnosed” until January of 2015.

Preceding my diagnosis, I had about a year and a half of extremely fast-paced, incredible yet chaotic experiences. I ended a very hard relationship, moved to Seattle for an internship (at a church that fell apart while I was there), began a new relationship that soon led to an engagement, moved to Texas, dove into some very intense training (with people I had never met before!), and then planned a wedding and got married. SO. MUCH.

After moving to Texas, I was going downhill mentally and emotionally. My thoughts became irrational and I sank into a dark, dark place. When my husband, Jake, and I got married in January 2015, we finally decided to get help. We knew something was wrong but we couldn’t figure it out on our own. We ended up stepping into counseling. It wasn’t easy. I was hesitant because of the stigma around “people who have to see therapists.” But in our desperate need for help, we went anyways.

The next few months were awful.

Jake and I were always fighting, and he was becoming tired and weary. I kept turning to him to “fix it” and to “make me happy.” He worked as hard as he could, but nothing he was able to do was good enough to make it all go away. I could hardly function mentally. I felt so far from God. I was losing hope.

That’s when suicide first entered my mind.

It was May of 2015. I remember sitting out in my car one night in the parking lot of our apartment complex. The thoughts slowly crept in.

“Maybe it’s not worth it.”

“Maybe life isn’t worth it.”

It terrified me. I just wanted it to be better.

That night passed and I held on. Jake ended up asking me soon after if suicidal thoughts were something I was dealing with. In my shame, I shook my head no. But in my tears, he saw the truth. Standing by me and supporting me, he brought me to our counselor. I told her and she suggested medication. But I was incredibly stubborn and rejected the idea.

Months went by. Some weeks were better, some were worse. Sometimes I was even convinced I was “healed” but sadly that just wasn’t the case. In October, the depression came back stronger than ever before. Jake and I had another fight one night, and I was panicking as I questioned where I would find my peace and joy. Jake couldn’t be that for me. He wasn’t enough to fix me. So that night, knowing my parents were out of town, I bought a bottle of vodka and went down to their house. I started drinking as much as I could handle until most of the bottle was inside of my frail and weak body. I’m very thankful that in my altered mindset, I texted Jake to tell him what I was doing. He rushed to where I was at to take care of my broken, empty, and drunk self.


I bought a bottle of vodka and … started drinking as much as I could handle until most of the bottle was inside of my frail and weak body


I wish I could say that was my wake up call, that in that moment I realized I needed help and got that help. But it’s not. Sure, I agreed to start taking medication. I went down to my family doctor, but I played it off like it was no big deal.

The author, Kadi Stunz (Source: Kadi Stunz)

The author, Kadi Stunz (Source: Kadi Stunz)

Within a month the depression and suicidal thoughts became worse. It all exploded in a Home Depot parking lot.

I was sitting on my phone, a battle raging within. That’s when I opened my phone and started the search.

“How to commit suicide.” It had finally come to that point. I was done fighting. It was too hard. I had tried for a year to make this go away and it wouldn’t. I was finished.

As I searched, I remembered that I had set up a “battle plan” with my counselor in case I ever got to this point. I was supposed to call her immediately. In one last desperate search for help — with one last ounce of fight — I did. I asked to set up an appointment with her. She told me the first opening she had wasn’t until the next day, but through my tears I quietly answered, “I don’t know if I can make it until then.”


I was sitting on my phone, a battle raging within. That’s when I opened my phone and started the search. “How to commit suicide.”


She immediately told me to meet her at the nearest hospital. With no other options, I went. That night, November 4, 2015, I spent the night in the mental hospital, admitted against my will.

White room.
Hospital gown.
Cameras everywhere.
None of my possessions.
Completely alone.

All I could force out of my mouth on that dark and hopeless night was, “God, where are you?”

That was my wake up call. That was when I finally saw how desperately sick I had become. That was rock-bottom. And that’s when my perspective started to change.

Instead of continuing to wallow in my hurt and confusions and discomfort, instead of continuing to play the victim of whatever game I thought God was playing, I started crying out for help. Crying to God to help me and to be what I needed. I needed HIM to be my joy. I needed HIM to be my peace. I needed HIM to be my healer.

Jake and I spent two days begging God for change and hope.

Kadi and her husband, Jake. (Source: Kadi Stunz)

Kadi and her husband, Jake. (Source: Kadi Stunz)

***

 

When going to the doctor for things like depression, they ask you to fill out a little survey to see how “bad” it is. I remember sitting in the waiting room when I first went to get medication with my clipboard, answering questions such as, “Have you wanted to harm yourself?” As I was filling out the survey (and lying on ALL of the questions), a lady I knew in high school recognized me from across the room. I made sure my clipboard was out of sight as she began to go on and on about how happy I look and how much she loves following me on Facebook. That moment has never left my mind. It made me wonder who else had been lying just like I had been.

And that’s why I’m sharing my story now. To encourage others to stop lying to themselves and others. To be more than your social media accounts. To admit when you’ve hit rock bottom. To cry out to someone beyond yourself. To be real. To be known.


Be more than your social media accounts. Admit when you’ve hit rock bottom. Cry out to someone beyond yourself. Be real. Be known.


It’s been almost seven months since Jake and I had that moment. While I still have really hard days and moments, I can honestly say depression no longer controls me. I dare say I’ve found victory. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my moments. And now I’m sharing my story in hopes that you can find relief, too. Stories are powerful. And one of the most encouraging things during my dark moments was hearing other people say, “I have truly been there too. And I made it through.”

There is SO much hope in that. There is so much hope for you.

Kadi is a professional photographer and artist. She lives in Dallas with her husband and Brittany Spaniel, Summit. You can follow her work at kadidawn.com.

(Photo source: Kyle Broad via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Kyle Broad via Unsplash.com)

I was talking to a friend awhile back about the power of our thoughts and how they are busy creating our reality.

The conversation came up because she caught me in long train of negative comments about a situation in my life that was both less than ideal and also mostly out of my control. She pointed out my bad attitude.

At first, I resisted.

I told her I was just venting and that she was making a bigger deal out of it than it was. I tried to tell her I didn’t mean what I had said and that I was just trying to be funny or dramatic. She didn’t buy it.

“I wonder what would happen if you changed the way you think about this circumstance…” she said.

“What if you changed your mind?”

The whole thing made me feel upset at first. Changed my mind? Had she even been listening? I mean, wouldn’t a “positive spin” on a negative circumstance be kind of like lying?

Still, she pushed me…

“Our thoughts are busy creating our reality” she said.

I told her I wanted to agree with her, in theory, but that I was clearly having a hard time putting this into practice.

Honestly, I have to admit my long-time skepticism about this way of thinking.

In my mind, the whole thing felt a bit hokey, like a slippery slope to thinking I was somehow in charge of more than I really am.

I would tell myself that being critical and cynical was funny, that it was cute, that it was “just part of who I am”.


I would tell myself that being critical and cynical was funny, that it was cute, that it was “just part of who I am.”


But as I talked with my friend that day about cynicism and positive thinking, something unexpected happened. I began crying. Like, out of nowhere. She had taken the negative statement I was making about my situation (like, “my life is falling apart”) and turned it positive statement (“my life is coming together”) and then asked me to say it out loud.

I almost couldn’t do it. I was in tears.

As we talked more about it, I realized that my cynicism had, for a long time, been an incredibly effective form of self-protection for me. And if I was going to let down my cynicism, I was also going to have to let down my guard, too.

I was going to have to believe that something amazing was about to happen.

Hope takes so much courage.

When I get really honest about my cynicism and negativity, I have to admit that the reason it feels so comfortable to me is that it feels like it’s protecting me.

And in its own way, it is.

If we spend enough of our time worrying about things, complaining about things, criticizing things and judging other people, we get to avoid the terrifying work of fighting the raging battle of negative thoughts that is storming in so many of our lives.

Those negative thoughts dictate our feelings, which dictate our actions and, as such, silently steer our lives.

All of this is happening under the surface, like the small rudder that directs a giant ship.

This conversation happened almost a year ago now; and I’ve made a concerted effort to curb my negative thinking.

Life is not perfect. It never is. But I have seen dramatic and positive changes in my mood, my relationships, my career and my ability to deal with problems when they arise. Sometimes I’ll choose a thought to meditate on—like, “I am worthy of love”—and watch the following months as undeniably loving circumstances and people flood into my life.

In such a beautiful way, it makes me feel powerful and connected. It makes me feel like I have control and I have choices.

It feels like tiny little miracles unfolding all around me.

It’s true we don’t have total control over our lives.


But here’s what I’m learning: the most important thing we can control, the ONLY thing we can control, is our thoughts, which lead to emotions, which lead to actions.


But here’s what I’m learning: the most important thing we can control, the ONLY thing we can control, is our thoughts, which lead to emotions, which lead to actions.

This is the only fight we have to fight. It is the hardest fight we will ever fight.

No one else can fight it for us.

It matters so much how we tell our stories, especially to ourselves.

This blog post originally appeared on Storyline and was republished with permission. 

Scan

Randy McCoy with his daughter Caitlin (Photo source: Randy McCoy)

“We quietly snuck into the house. We had to step over him because he was passed out by the front door. He threatened to kill me with a butcher knife the night before, so my mom took us down the street and we ran into a stranger’s house to call the police. I never knew why my father wanted to kill me.”

This was a normal night for 10-year-old Randy McCoy. His father was an abusive alcoholic, dangerous, and suicidal. He also happened to be a pastor.

“His shirt was off and he was reaching for me. I curled up against the wall in the corner of the bed trying to get out of his reach. I was terrified. I honestly thought I was going to die that night.”

In 1962, Randy had three siblings, a loving mother, and a father that turned into a monster when he drank alcohol. The things Randy saw before the age of 12 altered his entire life.


The things Randy saw before the age of 12 altered his entire life.


Randy McCoy is my father.

To be honest, it’s really hard for me to hear the dark stories he has told me about his dad. However, it’s Father’s Day, and I have this strange, compelling feeling to tell you about my grandpa. It’s weird, I must say, to write about someone that casts them in a negative light. I’ve never done this before.

But I’m not writing this to tell you about how horrible of a man my grandpa was. Everyone has his or her struggles, and my grandpa’s fight with alcohol is not uncommon. I’m writing this to tell you how amazing my father is.

I’m writing this for the child who was abused. I’m writing this for the man whose afraid he’ll turn into his father, for the woman who thinks she’s incapable of loving a man because of her childhood, and for the families that think their future is doomed. I’m writing this so you can see that you can be better than your past and you upbringing. I’m writing this to honor the man that I admire most. I’m writing this for my dad.

He has given me permission to tell you that his father was mean, cruel, and manipulative. He is open to me telling you that he watched his father beat his sweet mother many times. And that his dad smashed the model car set he and his younger brother had been building and collecting for years when he was a child.

“I have no secrets, Caitlin, I’m an open book.”

I tell you all of this because it’s important for you to know before I tell you about my dad.

Looking at his childhood, you would expect him to struggle with relationships. It would not be surprising if he were abusive himself, just like his father. You probably expect him to have abandoned the faith his father talked about behind the pulpit, right before he popped a mouthful pills.

But none of those things are true. My father is an incredible example of unconditional love and will celebrate 40 years of marriage to my amazing mother this weekend. He has the kindest, sweetest soul. If he ever irrationally lost his temper with my siblings or me, he always sat us down and apologized. And he has followed Jesus since he was 11 years old.

He traveled to every basketball game, band competition, and track meet. He dressed up in ridiculous costumes just to make his four children giggle. He would intentionally kiss all over my mom in front of us as we said, “Ewww,” with big smiles on our faces. He has endless amounts of home-video footage.

He would turn the living room lights off every night and ask each of us to pray out loud. He would close with a heartfelt, beautiful, and lengthy prayer (which he may or may not have fallen asleep during a few times).

He is the king of encouragement, always equipped with a motivational speech to lift you out of the dumps. He and my mother have mentored young couples, sharing the entire truth of his childhood and the struggles of marriage.

I know some of you are reading this with a sad heart, because you didn’t have this experience with your father. Neither did he. In fact, I often find myself asking, “Where did he learn this?” It certainly wasn’t taught to him by his dad, and there really weren’t any other men that he looked up to.

His response?

“He was my role model. He showed me how to be an unloving, uncaring, disconnected father. I knew I could do better. I wanted to be the opposite of everything he was. I wanted my children to have the childhood I never had. I wanted my kids to know a father’s love.”


I know some of you are reading this with a sad heart, because you didn’t have this experience with your father. Neither did he.


If this is you, if you grew up in a dangerous, dysfunctional, disastrous home, if you never felt loved by your parents, be so encouraged by my dad.

You do not have to be your father or your mother. As someone that experienced absolute horror as a child, lost his mother to cancer when he was 27, and went on to raise a family that loves each other very much, he will tell you that you have a choice.

He will tell you that the best is yet to come. He will tell you to find the little things that make you happy and soak them up.

“I learned at a young age to be thankful for small things, to appreciate every good thing in my life,” he told me. “My mom, my siblings, my grandmother, playing sandlot baseball, riding my bike, climbing trees to the very top, and juicy hamburgers from the Burger Bar.

“I learned to not let my father’s problems become my problem,” he continued. “To not let his weaknesses and shortcomings define who I am or who I will become. Later in life I accepted that my dad didn’t hate us, he just didn’t know how to love us.”

I know that I am speaking for my entire family when I say that knowing what he experienced makes us appreciate his love for us so much more. I don’t know what our family would look like if he and my mother were not so passionate about fighting against his childhood.


His awful experience has actually been extremely useful in creating a very beautiful thing.


His awful experience has actually been extremely useful in creating a very beautiful thing. Forty years of marriage. Four children, each happily married. And a story of pain, a broken heart, and of restoration.

I love you, dad. Thank you for breaking the cycle and choosing to be different than what you were taught. You are an example of love for so many.

Happy Father’s Day.

(Photo source: Pexels.com)

(Photo source: Pexels.com)

I don’t know for sure if this is just a confession or also a cry for help. It’s probably both.

But I do know that I have a problem, a real problem, and I need to be open about it because it’s the things we do in secret, the things we try to solve on our own, that come to destroy us.

It would be easy to blame other things or other people for this problem, this growing addiction, this new hang-up that I have. But I know I bear responsibility too, because I’ve fed it. And I keep feeding it.

It started in middle school. I read a book excerpt about Queen Elizabeth I that talked about her having graphic sex with a man. It was my introduction to erotica and I was horrified. I went to bed and cried and promised God I would never so much as kiss a boy until I was engaged. I wanted nothing to do with this sex thing.

But that excerpt led to the fantasies, and the fantasies are what stuck with me.

I’ve been fantasizing about being kissed since I was in middle school; I’ve been dreaming about the day some boy would lock lips with me, my stomach would stutter then burst into flames, and my heart would leap and fireworks would explode behind my eyes.

The older I got, the more those fantasies grew out of control. And without anyone to kiss, I turned to TV, movies, and books to get my fix.

At first it was just kissing. I would re-read books that had those scenes. Actually, that’s a lie: I would re-read the kissing scenes in books and close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to kiss someone myself. I would put searches in Google for “best TV kisses,” “greatest kisses in literature,” “hottest movie kisses,” and I would watch or read the results avidly.

Until the day I didn’t search for “kiss,” I searched for “sex scene.”


Until the day I didn’t search for “kiss,” I searched for “sex scene.”


This past year has been interrupted with occasional searches. At first they were a few months apart, then a few weeks, then a few days.

I wouldn’t say I have a porn addiction, because I don’t watch porn, per se. I would say that I have a fascination with erotica, especially with literary erotica. I would say that I am addicted to the titillating, exciting written passages that describe a beautiful kiss or a sexual encounter.

I don’t know why I’m telling you this, because I don’t have an answer. I’m not writing this piece to tell you how to overcome an addiction or a fascination, or at the very least to explain how God stepped in and saved me from those desires.

I’m also not writing this piece to scream about porn, premarital sex, and how to avoid them. It’s not a prescription — it’s a confession.

That said…I’m struggling with why I’m writing it. I promised myself that I would only write pieces when I felt God compelling me to do so, when I felt like I had a bite-sized revelation to share that could help someone.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t write pieces where I espouse my opinion and doctrine and tell you how to live. I don’t have that right.

Yet here I am, writing this piece, and the only reason I have is because I felt compelled to. Because when I’m online reading about sex, I sense something’s off. It’s not God’s disapproval or anger, but maybe it’s His sorrow? I sense that He is sad because He gave me guidelines. Guidelines I accepted. Guidelines He set out because He wants what’s best for me. And I’m disregarding them.

I guess I’m also writing it because nothing on the internet is sacred, not even your Google searches, not even the articles you read.

So before anyone gets the chance to “out” me as a reader of porn — straight porn, lesbian porn, you-name-it-literary-porn — I’m going to out myself.


Before anyone gets the chance to “out” me as a reader of porn I’m going to out myself.


Hi, I’m Karis. I’ve written 10 articles for I Am Second. I volunteer at church. I have even led groups at church. But I strive to be vulnerable in all aspects, so here I am telling you just how completely imperfect I am, just how broken and sinful I am. I am not perfect. I am not even OK.

I want you to know this about me so you know that when I speak I speak from a place of turmoil, of brokenness, of screwed-up-ness. I’m sure some of you will discount all of my words because of this.

But I hope that maybe, just maybe, my confession will show you that it’s OK to confess things, to be open about where we fail and fall short, because if there’s one thing God loves, it’s using someone who’s useless on their own.

And I’m writing this because that way I can be held accountable. I can be kept from going back. Because the more others know about my struggle, the better they’ll be able to help me and encourage me.

So I’m writing this for you and I’m writing it for me. And I’m writing it for God. Even as I’m finishing this article I feel a whole heap of terror about putting this to the world, but I also feel a bit of peace because I’m following my convictions to be vulnerable. I feel like God has his hand on my shoulder and is telling me He’ll walk with me and it’s going to be OK. He’s got me. He’s got you.

And in the end, I want that more than the porn.

Karis is a grad student at NYU in New York City. Her writing has appeared online with Seventeen as well as Good Housekeeping. She blogs at karisrogerson.com. To stay informed about all her writing, sign up here.

girlhiker

(Photo source: Michelle Spencer via Unsplash.com)

I was walking yesterday at a local State Natural Area in Nashville – it was quiet and that full, early-summer green and smelled good.

This spot is a nature preserve—so you run across more sorts of creatures than you would on a walk in a neighborhood, and it seems many of the people who hike here have their eyes peeled for just such encounters.

A third or a fourth of the way in, I noticed a girl stopped ahead of me on the path—except she was coming from the other way.

She had stepped off to the side and was smiling as she looked toward the woods.

Because there’s wildlife out there—when you see someone paused and quiet, it usually means they’ve spotted something worth looking at and slowing down for—a deer, a wild turkey, a barred owl.

As I walked toward her I started trying to look backwards at a diagonal over my right shoulder—the direction she was looking—but I couldn’t see anything yet.

A couple was turning the corner from behind her, walking at a good pace until the woman, a few steps behind the man, got to the spot where the girl was and had almost her same perspective. Then she called for her husband to slow down, to come back, to turn around, to look.

Whatever they saw, it was important enough to cause now three people to stop.

As I was passing, I turned my head back again and, even though I mostly kept moving, I saw briefly what she saw—a young deer sipping water. I continued and turned this little almost-interaction over in my head.

It felt significant, even if I wasn’t sure how just yet.

I haven’t been able to put anything in writing lately, which makes me frantically scan every waking second of life for some clever, paradigm-shattering metaphor, most of which end up not, in fact, clever and don’t, in fact, benefit from my further expounding on them in a blank Word document.

Life is complicated.

By that I mean we aren’t individuals or communities made up of strictly fixed and tidy beliefs, values, identities, histories, influences, or even plain likes and dislikes. As much as it’s tempting to think so, and as much as it would be easier if it was so, this is just not the way life is.

Sometimes a metaphor helps us remember that the first step to handling all these differences with grace is, in fact, simple—even if how it gets worked out in the real world isn’t instantaneous or easy.


Sometimes you can’t see what your neighbor sees because you’re not standing where she is.


As I thought about the girl stopping to look at the deer, two metaphors floated up that I wanted to remember.

First, sometimes you can’t see what your neighbor sees because you’re not standing where she is.

Whether in the moment it was possible for any of the rest of us to see the view exactly in the way she was seeing it isn’t the point, at least not here, but rather it was a physical reminder that when two people are approaching the same reality from different vantage points, the scene they take in is not the same.

And maybe as good a starting point for humility as any is:

“From where I am, I can see that from where you are, you see something I can’t.”

This is confirmed each time I’ve walked up to someone’s door who lives across the street from me. It’s a difference of maybe fifteen feet from the familiar sidewalk on their side of the street, but somehow the whole scene, particularly my own home, looks different, even when the frame is shifted only ever so slightly.

Second, we’re better able to see the world from a new perspective when we are open to and even hoping to see something new.

When I walk into a situation knowing there are good things to behold—in a setting where I am willing to look side to side more than usual, where I know I’ll spot things that might make me wonder or think—I’m more likely to take extra time and patience to deepen my understanding of the world around me.

I know I’d benefit from taking one or both of these approaches more often than just when I’m within the boundaries of a nature preserve.

This blog post originally appeared on Storyline and was republished with permission. 

(Photo source: Green Chameleon via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Green Chameleon via Unsplash.com)

I returned from my honeymoon positive that my Aggie college ring was in a purse that I left at home. It wasn’t. I checked the tote I had with me at the church the day of my wedding. Not there either. The slow, quiet panic settled in.

“I’m sure my mom has it. And if not, then someone at the church has it. No big deal, you’ll find it sooner or later.” I was lying to myself, it was a big deal.

See, if you know what an Aggie ring is, then you totally understand. If you don’t, just know that it is an expensive sign of accomplishment and deep tradition. It’s more than a college ring, it’s a reminder that I was and still am a part of one of the largest families on earth (cue the eye-rolls from the Texas A&M haters). Most importantly, it was a special gift from my parents.

I sent out a few scattered texts to my bridesmaids, but there was no sight of the ring. So, the natural next step would be to ask my mom if she had it, or to ask the church if they had it. But I didn’t. In fact, I let a whole three weeks pass before I got serious about finding it.

Why would I wait so long to pursue something that meant so much to me?

I’ll tell you why: I was scared.

I was scared that when I did ask my mom, she would be upset that I lost it (yes, I’m 26 years old and still afraid of getting in trouble) and that it was lost forever. While I had convinced myself that she probably had it, I kind of knew she didn’t. So, instead of being proactive and calling the church or tearing my house apart, I shut it out.

I almost pretended like it wasn’t happening.

***

Unfortunately, I do this a lot. If there’s something that I need to do, but I’m not totally confident of the outcome, I push it off. I procrastinate. I belittle the situation and get busy doing other things. And while I’m still very aware of the looming task above my head, I try to act as if it’s not a big deal.

However, it’s not always as trivial as a missing college ring. Perhaps there’s a friendship that’s falling apart, and instead of being proactive, I mull it over in my brain and stress that it’s happening, but do nothing about it, hoping that the relationship will be magically restored.


I put it off week after week, afraid that I’ll fail.


Sometimes it’s a habit that I need to break. And while I know the steps to take to kill that habit, I put it off week after week, afraid that I’ll fail.

So, what do I tell myself to make myself feel better? “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Meanwhile, my heart becomes heavy any time I think about what I’m putting off. My anxiety increases, and in turn I become less productive in other areas of my life. My “not doing anything about it” is actually causing a great deal of unnecessary harm.

An old friend of mine, Benjamin Franklin, once said, “Do not put off until tomorrow what can be done today.”

While we can take this overused quote and point it towards our to-do lists at work and around the house, I want to take it deeper.

What conversations are you avoiding that need to happen? Who do you need to forgive that you keep putting off? What habit needs to be broken? What question do you need to get answered? What life do you want to start living?

Start today. You know why ol’ Benny’s quote is so vital to our lives?

Because we. aren’t. promised. tomorrow.

There is not a single person knows without a shadow of a doubt that they will be alive to see the sun rise again. I know that seems dark, but it’s true!


I think somewhere in the crevices of my mind, I have this idea that I’m invincible to time.


We all say, “Yeah, yeah I get it.” But do we? While I know I’m not promised to live tomorrow, I think somewhere in the crevices of my mind, I have this idea that I’m invincible to time. At least, it seems that way according to the list of important things I keep putting off until tomorrow.

The Bible describes us as a, “Mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

And when you really think about it, there could not be a better explanation of our short time on earth.

***

So, I’m sure you’re dying to know what happened to my Aggie ring. I finally brought it up to my mom. “What?! Why would I have your ring?! And why are you just now asking about it? Have you even called the church yet?”

Just like I had predicted.

I went home and searched every nook and cranny. My house turned into Tornado Alley. Boxes, clothes, and bags were flying everywhere. It took a while, but much to my surprise, there was that little gold ring in a tiny little box stuffed in a large bag which was at the bottom of a packed box. Relief.

I could have saved myself from all of that stress and silent panic if I had just committed myself to finding that ring right away.


Whatever it is that you’re putting off, do it today. You aren’t promised tomorrow.


What are you waiting on? Go after it. Call your friend, your brother, or your spouse. Kick the habit. Start your business. Write the letter. Whatever it is that you’re putting off, do it today. You aren’t promised tomorrow. It’s probably not as daunting as you think it is, and you just might find what you were looking for after all.

 

 

 

 

 

(Photo source: Jake Ingel via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Jake Ingel via Unsplash.com)

For most of my 20s I felt like a complete failure. I wanted to do big things, yet I couldn’t even handle the small.

I wanted to pursue my dreams, yet all my dreams felt like they were suffocating like a salmon on a summer sidewalk.

At one point I remember literally hoping that my email was broken because that would at least explain why I couldn’t get anyone to email me back.

I began to wonder if truly becoming an “adult” meant letting your dreams die.

It was cleaner that way.

Yet, my biggest dream of publishing a book to encourage our generation was a dream I couldn’t let die. No matter what reality was telling me. It was too important. I knew the pain and frustration of feeling all alone in this twentysomething struggle. I needed to help others find a way out, even if I didn’t fully know the escape route myself.

I just needed to learn new skills to survive on this journey.

So, here are the seven skills I learned the hard way in my 20s. I wish I would’ve worked on these skills starting at 21 years old instead of at 26.

This advice can definitely apply to anyone, yet your 20s are setting the direction for the rest of our lives. It’s crucial we point our boat in the right direction now or risk sailing around in circles in some New Jersey harbor.

  1. The Skill of Having a Long-View 

Our generation gets knocked for having big dreams.

Yet, I love our “unrealistic” dreams. You can’t stay realistic and create something new. If you’re going to create something new, by definition it’s not going to be real until you make it so.

As I write in 101 Secrets For Your Twenties: 

“It’s not our big dreams that are the problem. It’s our krizaaaazzzy timeline of how quickly we wanted those plans and dreams to be sitting on our doorstep with a big Christmas bow.”

Developing a long-view is a skill. It’s the ability to see beyond the immediate setbacks, failures, and successes.

You can’t let your dream always be do-or-die depending on the ebb and flow of the day.

Your twenties are an Ironman marathon, not a sprint.

When you develop a long-view you’re able to take the gritty steps towards your future, even when the present feels enveloped with sullen winter-gray.

When you develop a long-view of your dreams, failure becomes a slight detour, not a complete rock-slide blocking your path.

Success in your 20s is about consistency, humility, and many other unsexy words that won’t make the Twentysomething Hallmark Collection.

Don’t chase your dreams, grow them. It’s just like a farmer whose whole existence relies on one simple belief: If we plant something in good soil and consistently water it, God will spark life underground.

You might not see the fruit of your dreams for a while. Yet, you can’t stop planting seeds in the ground.

  1. Learning The Discipline of Yes or No 

Successful people have mastered self-control in the small. The skill of saying no and yes at the right time to the right things.

It’s not complex. It’s simply trusting your gut and having the strength and wisdom to follow its lead.

It could be as simple as consistently saying yes to going to bed at the right time.

Saying no to that next round of drinks. Saying yes to the lunch with a friend of your parents, even though it’s bound to be awkward. Saying no to the relationship that’s as healthy as sipping motor oil. Saying yes to reading and exercise. Saying no to office birthday cake.

We can’t consistently make bad decisions in our 20s and then expect things to magically become better.

  1. Knowing How to Leverage the Best of Who You Are

The most important thing to own in your twenties is yourself.

Like renting vs buying a house. When you rent, you don’t put in the time, effort, and money to make your place dramatically better. Why should you?

Yet, when you own your home you’re always looking for ways to improve it, to leverage what you have and make it better.

Same applies for you. It’s like you’re renting the best of who you are, instead of truly owning it and finding ways to make it better.

As Steven Pressfield writes in The War of Art:

“Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”

Self-awareness is a crucial, underrated skill.

No one can do what you do or be who you are. Own it. Leverage it. And watch the returns pour in for years to come.

So the question is – who are you? What are your key values, strengths, and pivotal plot points of your story that make you who you are?

  1. Knowing How to Invest Your Time with Purpose

One of the biggest advantages you have in your twenties is time.

No longer is your time tied up with homework and you might not yet have the time-sucking vacuum that is a house and kids.

And every day you have a choice – will I invest my time in things that build or things that destroy?

How wisely do you invest your time, energy, and creativity in things that will produce high returns?

Will you deposit your time in things that will produce value? Or will you continually make withdrawals of your time and spend it on things that will never pay it back?

How you leverage your time now will be the key to your success later.

  1. How to Mentor and be Mentored

Every twentysomething should have a mentor and be a mentor.

Twentysomethings should continually be learning to learn and learning to teach.

We can’t be smothered in Twentysomething. We need to sweeten our lives with some Generational Potpourri–a collection of
 age ranges with different backgrounds and experiences to spice our lives up.

I think many people in their 20s and 30s are frustrated that we can’t find support, yet we don’t take the steps to actually look for it.

Don’t expect a mentor to find you.

Maybe it’s pride or a lack of time that’s holding us back from seeking help, but I think the real obstacle is fear.

A fear of being rejected, a fear of commitment, and maybe a fear of someone shining a light on “all our stuff” and challenging us to do something about it.

  1. How to Strategically Work a Crappy Job

As I often say, “Crappy jobs are a twentysomething right of passage.”

Yet, sometimes we can learn the most in the jobs we like the least.

Every job, no matter how terrible, has something to teach. What skills can be gained NOW that you can leverage LATER? Even if you can just find one thing you like about your job. Hone in on that one skill and grow it.

  1. How to Fail Well

Growing up we received awards, gold stars, accolades, and most importantly, immediate feedback on how we were doing (most of which was overwhelmingly positive).

After college, immediate feedback is gone, trophies are packed away in your parent’s attic, and tangible success can feel like a fairytale of the past.

In your 20s you must learn to fail well – to fail without calling yourself a failure.

I’d love to hear from you within the comments on this article:

Which one of these skills are most difficult for you right now?


Paul Angone is the author of All Groan Up: Searching For Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job!101 Secrets For Your Twenties, and creator of AllGroanUp.com, a community for those asking “what now?” Follow him on Twitter @PaulAngone. 

This blog originally appeared on AllGroanUp.com and was republished with permission.

Chad and Kathy Robichaux (Photo source: Kathy Robichaux)

Chad and Kathy Robichaux (Photo source: Kathy Robichaux)

You’ve probably heard by now, but we recently released a new film featuring former Force Recon Marine, MMA champion and PTSD survivor Chad Robichaux. Besides the battle he fought in Afghanistan, Chad also fought personal battles at home.

Though, Chad will tell you that the person who fought the hardest for him and his family would not be himself, but his wife, Kathy. Chad’s struggle with PTSD is incredibly important for veterans to hear, though Kathy’s side of the story is equally significant.

We know there are thousands of wives, husbands, and families who have been impacted by their loved one’s fight with PTSD. I Am Second interviewed Kathy Robichaux to give a voice to those who are trying to hang on to their relationships.

Q: When and where did you and Chad meet?

Kathy Robichaux (Photo source: Kathy Robichaux)

Kathy Robichaux (Photo source: Kathy Robichaux)

Oh, this should be fun. I was 17 and a junior in high school. A friend of mine went into the Marine Corps and was in the same unit as Chad. He tried setting us up, but I thought

he was too short, so I wasn’t interested. Over the next month I heard many times, “Chad really wants to get to know you,” but it wasn’t until they were setting him up with another girl that I realized I was interested after all. To make a long story short, Chad invited me on his double date and his date, poor girl, was the fifth wheel! Ever since that summer night in 1994 we have been inseparable despite all of our hardships.

We were engaged not long after. I was finishing up my senior year and preparing for our wedding. It’s crazy to think that I was sending out graduation announcements and wedding invitations at the same time!

 

 

Q: How did your parents feel about you marrying Chad so early?

Well, my parents were divorced. My dad wasn’t excited, nor do I think he really cared. I know his thoughts were “let’s see how long this last” and “they will be divorced in a year.” My mother liked Chad and seemed to be happy for us, but I think she was just relieved someone else was going to provide for me.


I always craved their love and attention.


Growing up, I never felt important or wanted. My parents weren’t emotionally involved in my life. They provided a roof over my head and fed me, but I always craved their love and attention. So, when Chad came along, he was the first person that wanted and needed me! He loved to take me on adventures like hiking and camping. He was actually interested in being involved in my life and he never wanted to be apart.

We both knew that we wanted to be together for the rest of our lives and wanted to start a family right away. So, on July 15, 1996 we got married! And here we are 21 years later, still married, fighting for our marriage and we will never give up.

 

Q: You and Chad have definitely fought to stay together over the years. When did the struggle begin?

I honestly thought we were going to live happily ever after. However, pretty soon after we got married, I realized that might not be the case. It became obvious that he didn’t need me as much anymore. We started having kids very soon, and by the time I was 22 we had three children!

I was trying to learn how to be a mother, while Chad was very busy with the Marine Corps. After switching to the Marine Reserves, his career in law enforcement consumed him; I felt left behind. He was doing his thing and I was alone. I thought when you got married you did everything together. Instead, I felt… like I was just “there”. I even felt like I was being used at times.

 

Q: In his film, Chad mentions the time he was forced to make a difficult decision as a police officer. How did you handle the news of him killing someone?

I really didn’t know how to respond to the shooting. Of course I cared, but I didn’t know how to react. I thought that’s what cops do, “They kill bad guys.” I was only 21 at the time and trying to take care of two young babies! We were so young and bad at communicating; I didn’t think it bothered him as much as it did. It wasn’t until years later that I found out how much that event contributed to his PTSD.

 

Q: How did it make you feel when Chad left the family to go to Afghanistan time and time again?

It was hard to see him leave, but after him not giving me a choice in the matter, I began to mentally move on and do what I had to do to take care of my children and home. I was oblivious to what he was doing in Afghanistan. It was easier for me to accept his absence if I looked at it as if he was just in an office all day. Plus, with him gone we didn’t have to deal will some of the problems we were going through before he left. It was a temporary fix which would eventually come out in the years to follow.

 

Q: How did you try to love and take care of Chad after he was diagnosed with PTSD?

At first, I had sincere sympathy for Chad. It was sad seeing a tough guy like Chad be totally broken. I held him every night, wanting to nurture him as much as I could. He didn’t handle stress that well so trying to work on our own marriage problems was again put on the back burner.

I thought things would get better when he opened the martial arts gym, but it didn’t. Chad was becoming a totally different person. He struggled with anger before the PTSD, but this was so much worse. He was emotionally and verbally abusive to me and even our kids! His manipulation made me feel like was losing my mind! My kids and I became so afraid of him. I drifted away from the monster he was becoming and turned my back on him to protect my heart. I wanted to block the daggers he was firing at me.


He was using this lifestyle to help numb himself to his experiences in Afghanistan and the shooting years earlier… I had no clue.


He spent hours on the mats and booked every fight he could. He became involved with other women and stepped outside our marriage. The attention he was getting made him feel good, however it blinded him to the love I had for him and the lifestyle he was living. It was all a façade and, unfortunately, I carried the pain and suffered while he was living as if he was a single man.

I didn’t understand this until later, but he was using this lifestyle to help numb himself to his experiences in Afghanistan and the shooting years earlier… I had no clue. I could no longer stay in the marriage. I stayed once after infidelity and was not going to do it again.

We had to tell the kids that mommy and daddy were getting divorced. While Chad thought it was for the better and that the kids would be happier, I knew deep inside that it was all wrong, I wanted to knock him over the head with a 2×4 so that he could see what he was doing to his family.

 

Q: Chad talks about your decision to attend church during the separation. What was the driving factor of this decision?

I was to the point where I was completely desperate for comfort. I was hurting so bad, and I didn’t want my kids to experience the pain and anger that I experienced as young kid with my mom and dad. I was broken, lost and scared. I didn’t even have the energy to leave my house. I just wanted to lay in my bed and cry. I was desperate for protection and love.

So, I started praying that God would comfort my kids and me. I also knew that I needed to pray for my soon-to-be ex-husband. I had heard of the book Power of a Praying Wife, and thought the book would help guide me in praying for Chad. I looked in the table of contents and thought I should start in the chapters titled “His Integrity” and “His Choices.” I mean, that’s what he needed prayer for, right? Well, the first chapter in the book opened my eyes. It was titled, “His Wife.” I thought, “Chad shouldn’t be praying for me, I don’t need help! He’s the one who messed up and destroyed our family!”


I never trusted that He would walk me through whatever situation I was in, good or bad. 


Though, that’s when I realized there were areas where I had failed as a wife. I had never really prayed like this for Chad before. While I had found the Lord at the age of 11, I never had an intimate relationship with Him. I never trusted that He would walk me through whatever situation I was in, good or bad. I didn’t run to Him when Chad became weak to seek wisdom on how to support my husband through the hard times.

One thing I knew was that I didn’t want to live in un-forgiveness towards Chad for the rest of my life. I saw that un-forgiveness all my life with my parents and I didn’t want my kids to see that in me. I literally cried out to God seeking freedom in forgiveness.

When we decided to work on our marriage (total step of faith, I did it for God) I couldn’t just pretend that nothing happened. That’s not forgiveness. I would ask God every day,

“God, let me see Chad the way You see Chad, let me love Chad the way You love Chad, and help me to forgive him the way You forgave Chad. God please change my heart and make me Chad’s biggest cheerleader.”

That change didn’t happen over night. It was a full year of intensive prayer and not allowing my emotions to lead my decisions. It was a complete surrender every day and it was not easy. In fact, it was easier to build walls around my heart and be bitter. Being vulnerable with God and myself was hard, but it was totally worth it.

We have been married for almost 21 years and we’re stronger than ever and have a beautiful marriage. We are learning how to forgive each other and ourselves. Chad let’s me express my feelings, he’s very understanding, he cares about my emotions, and he doesn’t get defensive. It’s been a long journey, and our story is rough, but now God is using our story to help others.

God has used Mighty Oaks, our program that brings healing to veterans struggling with PTSD, to help me talk about my journey with other women that have experienced the same path as me.

 

Q: How would you encourage those dealing with similar marital issues?

It’s easy to want to give up. My mom would always say, “Just pack your stuff and leave.” But take it from me: Don’t give up, and don’t leave. If your safety isn’t on the line, lean in to your marriage. Put your faith and trust in Christ alone and He will help you through it.


You can’t give up on them. Fight with them and for them.


It’s also extremely important to educate yourself on PTSD and to be involved in the healing process. These men are looking for someone that will hold them and love them through their journey.

When they get angry, instead of saying things like “You’re being a jerk, you’re useless,” try to encourage them. They’ve already been cut off from what they’re good at. It’s all they know! You can’t give up on them. Fight with them and for them. Get involved and find a program. Be deliberate about getting the help they need.


Hear Chad’s side of the story in his new white chair film:

Thank you, Kathy, for sharing your story with I Am Second, and thank you to all the families that continue to serve our country by supporting their veteran spouse, parent, or child. Learn more about the Mighty Oaks Warrior Program.

(Photo source: Caroline Sleeper via Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Caroline Sleeper via Unsplash.com)

When my wife and I bought our first house a year-and-a-half ago, I remember gazing at the front lawn like Simba surveying his kingdom.

Everything the light touches is mine (as long as it’s in my property line), I thought, And it’s going to be beautiful. 

I was going to be the one on the block with the perfect lawn. Well-manicured, green, lush, and trimmed. Always trimmed. It was going to be picture-perfect. It was going to be done right. It was going to be suburbia.

For a year, that was the case. I mowed my yard every week. I watered it almost daily. I trimmed the hedges, pruned the trees, and laid new mulch. If my neighborhood had a “yard of the month,” I would have gotten it. My yard was a horticultural Kardashian.

Then came this summer. And my yard is now horrible.

I’m writing part of this post from home and I’m looking out at it right now. There’s one patch of crab grass that comes up to my belly button in the front. And the back? The grass is so high it would be considered a redwood jungle to the characters in “A Bug’s Life.” I’ve gone from “yard of the month” to disgrace of the month. It’s been bugging me. A lot.


A year ago, my incredible wife gave birth to that little girl, and this last year my priorities have shifted.


That was until this weekend when I got some perspective. It happened as my 1-year-old daughter ran around the front yard in nothing but a diaper while wielding a plastic baby spoon like a fly swatter. A smile on her face so innocently cheesy. That’s when I realized: My yard doesn’t matter. And believing I found my value in the color of my grass was a lie.

See, the reason I haven’t been able to keep up with my yard like I used to is because life happened. My daughter happened. A year ago, my incredible wife gave birth to that little girl, and this last year my priorities have shifted.

My daughter, one of the best things that ever happened to me, doesn’t care about my stupid yard. She cares about laughing, about being pushed in her Radio Flyer, and about playing peek-a-boo. She cares about a sippy cup full of milk. She cares about snuggling when it’s time for bed and reading “Llama Llama Nighty Night.” She cares about playing with her “friends” at church.


I’m going to look back on the moments that matter.


In the grand scheme of things — in the grand scheme of life — I’m not going to look back on this year and think, I’m awesome because my grass was green and a perfect 2-inches-high. No, I’m going to look back on this year and think about my wife’s amazing ability to juggle being a mom and owning her own business. I’m going to look back at watching my daughter learn to walk, and then turn that walk into a run. I’m going to look back on the moments that matter.

The grass can wait.