Friday, September 9, 2016

Don't run from adversity

Thursday night, I had the chance to speak with a very successful, powerful, and influential leader.  She is an out lesbian.  I have had the privilege of knowing her for almost 10 years.  She has done many great things in her career.   Being gay has not been a central part of her story.

She mentioned that someone on her staff talked about my story with her.  If you follow this blog, chances are you know that I was married recently.  Just after our marriage, we were outed in the press in Nigeria.  It was a painful few weeks as we were attacked via social media, on our cell phones, and via every avenue you can imagine.  People who are hateful will find a way to get to throw vitriol at you from every angle if they can.

I bring this up because this respected mentor of mind asked me one simple question:

"Did you ever think of just unplugging from all of your social media so that they wouldn't get to you?"

I listened to her question and thought about it for a minute.  Yes, over and over again during that first week of texts, whatsap messages, Facebook posts and messages, evil emails, and disgusting comments on our blogs and other social media, I thought I wanted to crawl under a rock and just not let anyone find me ever again.  I wanted to change my email address, my phone number, delete this blog, eliminate my Facebook, twitter, instagram, and other social media accounts and start from scratch.  

As I watched the love of my life pace, cry, not eat, and come to terms with the entire thing, I wanted to do anything in my power to fix it. 

Running from adversity lets the haters win.  We cannot let them win in their hate.  We must stand up against it. 

I chose to not run.  I chose to face the bullies.  I remember facing bullies in elementary school and in high school.  Just because I'm gay doesn't mean I can't fight.  To me, it means I fight smarter and harder because I have more to lose.  

I chose to respond with love or neutrality.  I didn't let the hateful people receive hate in return.  I asked my friends and family who were also being attacked to only respond in love.  If we choose to respond to someone's hate with our own hate, we are as bad if not worse than we are.  I am going to love, love, love, love, love.

Jesus said that when someone hits you, you should turn the other cheek so they can hit that too.  That has always been very tough for me to do.  What I do try to do is to respond in a calm and loving way. It isn't easy.  I don't always succeed.  Sometimes my temper takes over and I lash out.  

When I do succeed at responding in love, I feel a happiness, a warmth, a feeling I can't describe come over me. I'm proud of myself.  I'm reminded that some people don't know why they are treating you badly.  In rare cases, the haters don't know how to react and stop hurting you.  If someone is full of evil, they will continue to try to hurt you.  That's when I choose to back off.  I don't run away.  I don't hide from them.  I retreat to a safe place and send my love and positivity out from there.  You don't have to stay close to it to get hurt.  I can mentally, spiritually, and physically move myself to a safe place to respond.  

May God grant me the love, the blessings, the peace, and the ability to always respond in love.  May hate never win. 

Love rules. 

We danced to this at our wedding.  I'm not going to let anyone take that love away.

Monday, September 5, 2016

How to mess up a gay party!

Last night, David and I went out to a party at a club.  There was a big party that a friend was throwing.  I won't go into details about that friend or the name of the party, but I felt like it was a disaster.

This party had the following going for it:
1.) Great advertising on social media
2.) A handsome and organized promoter
3.) A location that was easy to find (and close to home so we could uber over)
4.) Hot gogo boys dancing at the bar
5.) A really great DJ mixing music from all over the world including Nigerian dance music that made David really happy.
6.) A packed club full of good looking and polite people.
7.) Clearly marked exits (I get a little paranoid after the massacre at Pulse Night Club).

Here is where they failed:
1.) They had a cover that was too high for what they offered.  We paid $20 each.

2.) They only accepted cash at the door and the atm at the bar had a $100 maximum.  That means that if you were having a few drinks, you needed to go twice to that atm and pay them $3 each time.  Not cool.

3.) Bartenders that didn't know how to mix drinks.  This is a 95% gay audience.  We are not generally beer drinkers.  David and I throughout the night ordered the following with associated results:
      a.) 3 Margaritas - one of the only things that they did just ok on.  They ran out of lime juice by 2:00 a.m. for a party scheduled until 4:00 a.m. (Lime juice is a key ingredient for many very popular mixed drinks including margaritas and cosmopolitans).  A good club knows this and has plenty on hand.
      b.) Vodka peach sour - listed as one of their specialty drinks.  It tasted like chemicals and was undrinkable
      c.) Vodka Pineapple - All vodka and no pineapple also made this undrinkable
      d.) Rum and coke - They RAN OUT OF RUM by 1:30 a.m.  Seriously.  This is a gay carnival event celebrating the islands and you run out of rum?  All rums...from the well to the most expensive.  What kind of bar runs out of rum any way.  Seriously?  Even straight bars must serve quite a few rum drinks.  They didn't even tell me they were out of rum and served me a vodka coke - yuck
      e.) Scotch and ginger ale - I was very clearly stating this.  They gave me Jack and ginger.  Jack is not scotch.  They taste very different.
      f.) Sex on the Beach - only other drink they didn't mess up that night.

4.) Four staff spent quite a bit of time trying to get the cash register opened.  They finally had to leave it open all night.

5.) Not enough bartenders and a really bad bar tender structure - The lines were long and the bartenders kept running into each other and spilling drinks. I think they only had three and then grabbed some friends to  help causing a problem.

6.) Not making sure their equipment was ready for a crowd - The soda "gun" at one end of the bar kept losing the nozzle and spraying everyone around it.  We saw this happen at least three times.

7.) Serving food - They continued to serve food in a super crowded bar at midnight.  The poor staff trying to navigate hundreds of dancing people with plates of food?  Poor decision.  The bar was not set up to both serve food and to host a dance party at the same time.

David and I still enjoyed drinking and dancing at the event.  I just wish they would have had their act together.  The promoter/organizer said he told them what to expect, but they didn't listen to him and believe him.  The bar itself trusted their own experience with parties instead.  The promoter said we should give them another shot.  I'm not sure it's worth it for me.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Giving Birth - moving somewhere new

It takes about 9 months for the sadness, despair, loneliness, frustration, and confusion to settle into your soul.  That's been my experience at least, when I've had to move to a new city.  In the past five years, I've lived in six different cities.

A post on Facebook last night reminded me just how tough it is to move to a new place.  A young friend of mine is going through it all in Vegas at the 9 month mark.  For me, each time I moved to a new city, that nine month period was when I was super depressed.  Sleeping way too much, not wanting to leave my bed, having no appetite, crying a lot, feeling lethargic and useless and contemplating suicide.  It's no joke, this feeling.

The first move that many of us make out of our home is to go to College.  This one, although not easy, pales in comparison to other moves in life.  Here, though, for me was the key to succeeding at a move to a new place.  What happens when you go to college?  For me at Hartwick College, it all started with an orientation program.

At Hartwick, you are automatically thrown into a social situation with hundreds of other people your age also new at the entire thing.  You are all going to go through a convocation and pick classes, and move into a massive living space with a large group of other people.  You are surrounded by clubs and organizations that want you to join them.  There is a place that serves meals filled with people like you who also are eating at the same time.  You have groups of people taking the same classes that you are and a social life is there for the taking if you are a social person.  This is a happy time and place for an extrovert like me.  It isn't easy for everyone, but was so much easier than the move after college for me.  

Then comes your first move.  If you are like me, your first move is to a small town in the middle of no-where and you live in your first real apartment alone.  You no longer have a dining hall to eat your meals or easy clubs and groups to join.  Work is a bunch of people of all ages with all different interests.  You have to learn again how to do this, but WITHOUT THE STRUCTURE COLLEGE PROVIDES.  It's scary.  Some people move back home and go back to their high school friends.  Some people never left their home town.  

That's not me.  I took a job in Kent, Connecticut.  I was only there a year, but found it tough for me socially.  I was lucky, too, though, that a sister of one of my fraternity brothers was also new at the school where I was working.  She became my sanity and my happiness, the little that I could find.  

That first year, I also learned a few things that brought me some modicum of a social life.  

1.) I joined a choir.  I love to sing and even though at 21, I was the only one of the 50 men that was under the age of 65 other than the conductor, at least it gave me something fun to do outside work.
2.) I frequented the local pub and learned (not very well) to play pool and darts.  This may have lead to me drinking more than I should have that first year and gaining weight, but was a lesson learned. 

After a year in this small town, I took a job in Rochester, New York.  

In Rochester, I feel like I finally found a city that I could call home.  

So if you are moving somewhere new, whether it be your first move after college, your first move away from home at all, or your 4th move as a consultant or military family, please think about the following advice. 

1.) Embrace and be one with that feeling
It is perfectly normal to be depressed and feel like life sucks, you miss your friends, you miss your family, you can't find a freakin doctor, you hate the haircut you just got, and you just want to crawl under your blankets and never come out again.  In order for this to not have long lasting damage on you emotionally and psychologically, I feel like it is essential for you to accept the feeling.

"I feel like shit.  I am not happy here right now. I miss the people from my old place.  I can't seem to make this work right now.  I am not feeling like this is a good fit for me."

Say it, embrace it, and be one with it.  THEN MAKE A PLAN TO FIX THE DANG PROBLEM!!

2.) Make a list of the things you love about your old home.
For me the list included singing with a choir or a cappella group, church, and theater.  Later in life I discovered that I also loved running and the gym.  

3.) Find the closest thing to that in your new town and find out how to be a part of it.  
In Kent, I joined the SPEBSQSA (barbershop choir) and the local Episcopal church choir.  In Rochester, my first move was to join the Rochester Gay Men's Chorus.  They were my first friends and I still support them.  A few years later, I found a church that I love called Lake Avenue Baptist Church, the now defunct gym called The Downtown Fitness Club, and the super awesome running community through Fleet Feet Rochester.  Each time I joined a group, I grew my social network and my professional network.  I was in Rochester for 12 years and still feel like a part of many of the groups in that community.  In fact, that's why I chose to get married there among other reasons.  

These moves led me to also join running clubs, gyms, churches, and choirs in NYC, Chicago, DC, Oneonta, and now in Brooklyn.  I'm not saying that these things will work for you, but find a group or club that you might like and check it out.  One great resource in most cities is meet-up groups.

4.) Visit home and stay in contact with those old friends and familySkype, Facetime, google chat and each of the video chat platforms saved me when they were developed.  I could see and hear my friends and family when I was down.  We encouraged each other when they were in new places too. 

5.) Find a restaurant or bar or coffee shop to be a regularIn Rochester, I was a regular at a local coffee shop.  I did the same thing in DC, Chicago, and Oneonta, but have yet to do it here in Brooklyn.  Being a regular means that you meet other regulars who also may be lonely.  I didn't make friends with many people, but it was nice to get out of my apartment and be in the same space as others.  I would bring a book, play on Facebook on my laptop, write post cards to family and friends, or go to the game nights and play games.  

6.) Cook
Learn to cook or learn where to buy great take out.  Meet people for a take out party or invite them to your place.  Sharing food with new friends can be an amazing experience.  Breaking bread with someone really is a sign of hospitality that is rarely forgotten.  For me, learning to cook was full of disasters and hilarious mistakes.  I still make them on occasion, but now know to order pizza or make pbj sandwiches when I fail big time instead of crying over it.  Not everyone loves cooking, but most people love eating. 

7.) Find a gym or a trainer
Trust me that being in good shape helps you with your state of mind.  When I could afford it, I hired a personal trainer.  I had one in Chicago and one in Oneonta and they are still two of my closest friends. When money was tighter, I found the cheapest gym I could and joined.  I tried to go at the same time every day or at least three days a week.  I met other people there like me (especially doing classes like kick boxing and zumba) that became my friends.  

8.) Try Something new
You may hate it.  I hated running and the gym for years.  I don't drink coffee and thought coffee shops were a waste of money.  Now I love gyms, running, and coffee shops (tea and hot chocolate for me).  You might not like what you tried, but you may love it. 

That's my extroverts guide to moving to a new city.  I found that if I did these things as soon as I moved in that the 9 month mark was no longer as tough.  I still cried and felt depressed at 9 months, but these things gave me hope each time that things were going to get better.