Rose Colored Lives

There is a new social media challenge going around. It’s a challenge where people post a photo from years past alongside a recent photo. What I’ve found the most entertaining about this challenge is the use of filters on all the new pics. I myself did the challenge and (although it was an ugly filter) I also had a filter on my recent photo. I think it’s so interesting because it truly mirrors our lives and how we conduct ourselves on social media now.

The filter I’ve used in the picture with this post is a very popular one. It’s from Snapchat and it takes away wrinkles, thins our faces, brightens our smiles, and adds a rose-like tint to the picture. Some may call it Sepia, but for the purpose of this post and keeping in line with my title, we shall say rose colored.

My generation and younger are all about a good selfie. We have filters, light rings, face-editing apps, and selfie sticks to help us get the perfect photo. We post and bask in the incredible feeling of likes and compliments we get, until the moment passes and we have to create another like-worthy picture for our friends.

This is because we are the most insecure and self-loathing generation ever in my opinion. If you look closely, you will find people who are overweight and unhappy with themselves, only posting photos from the neck up. You find people whose profiles only have photos of their pets or children because they are unhappy with their appearance. I have scrolled through so many instagrams that were full of only selfies, but not a single one without a filter. This is all a product of being told we have to fit a certain mold or represent ourselves in the best possible light we can.

I am a product of this mindset as well. But, I decided long ago that I would love every picture of myself, with or without a filter. Not only that, but I would never want to meet someone in person and not be recognizable because they only saw the filtered version of myself. I love a good filter as much as anyone else, but I also love all of my wrinkles and the things on my face that remind me of my dad and my grandpa.

I am challenging myself this year to not only use less filters, but to also stop filtering my life. The lives we show the world on social media are just like that rose colored filter, we edit and delete all the problems we wish weren’t there. I have been on a journey for a long time to become as transparent as I can to those around me. I want my friends and family to know and understand my struggles as well as my triumphs.

I think we could all benefit from being a bit more honest with each other and ourselves if we dropped the filters and truly saw life, with good and bad. No matter what color it ends up being, at least it’s real. Right?

Confidently Insecure

I recently dyed my hair black. My hair changes periodically but generally stays in the pink or brown range. Now that the color has had a few washes and looks less like I dipped my head in an oil pan, people are starting to compliment the change. I always confidently say “Thank you!” Followed by some reason or validation as if they are already condemning my choice in their head. Similar to when people compliment my weight loss and I feel the need to say “thanks, I’m still working on it.”

We have created this bubble around ourselves that cannot accept positivity without always acknowledging the negative as well. I am the most guilty of this the older I get. Which, to me, is so strange. With my age I have become more confident and authentic, but it seems that I cannot be those things without also allowing more room for insecurity and double-guessing as well.

I even posted to my Facebook today about people who comment on my political posts with positivity while still feeling the need to defend their entire belief systems in the same statement. We won’t let ourselves say “I love that idea” without “but I don’t agree with everything else.”

In my experience in retail, we are trained to coach our teams and co-workers. We are encouraged to always focus on what people are doing well when they are struggling to first learn the job. We are not trained to constantly remind the employee of their shortcomings. (Although I have worked in places where this is the norm)

I get it, we live in a place and time where every opinion and statement is scrutinized. It’s a need we have to qualify ourselves at every conversation and with every choice we make. I am guilty of it myself, just admitting my guilt in itself is doing the exact thing I’m talking about. I am just now opening my eyes to the fact that, myself and so many around me do this.

I see it and recognize that I think it’s unnecessary, so I am going to make an effort moving forward to own myself and my views. I will take compliments with pride, I will love people and things that don’t align with my own personal agenda, I will stop trying to make the world understand every aspect of my being. I will try.

That’s all any of else can really do, is try.

Life of a lazy Millennial

I’ve worked in retail for 10+ years. The majority of my employers have promoted me within the first 3 months of my employment. I always get good reviews on my evaluations and my assessments. I’m often commended on my work ethic, customer service, and people skills. Every company is the same format, so once I figure out what the terminology is for a particular brand, it’s fairly simple to adapt to be the employee they need.

I recently left my job to pursue more Zumba and a costuming business. I have technically been “unemployed” for a few months and now, due to being “financially unsuccessful,” I’m reluctantly rejoining the workforce. I say reluctantly because of everything I have experienced working for corporations and different brands.

You see, every company I’ve worked for has loved me and promoted me until they stop and look at who I am. What they see at first is a smart and hardworking man, someone older than the 18-22 year olds they tend to hire. Someone who listens, absorbs, and applies their policies and practices. Then they give me more responsibility, they are always impressed how quickly I pick up on things like scheduling, inventory, and payroll. They are less impressed when they look closer and see that I am an advocate for employees. I learn the company policies and procedures and they love that until I turn the critical eyes towards them.

What companies truly want is someone to recite a script of equality and acceptance in the workplace, but they don’t want someone who tries to uphold that standard.

Living in Lufkin, there are so many employers who choose to run things differently than the company standard because we are so far from the district managers that our stores rarely get visits. When visits do happen, everyone is prepped on what to do and say for that short period of time.

I don’t want to be a part of that system any longer. It kills me inside to hear the way other managers talk about their employees and to see the way they treat them is even more terrible. I make mistakes myself, I don’t always handle situations in the best way, but I always strive to grow and get better. That is not encouraged behavior in my experience.

I say all of this because I have made a choice to not stand for this anymore. I am direct and open about my experiences and I refuse to go on lying for the sake of finding a job. Since I have been unemployed for so long and I’ve had to move back with my parents, I am labeled a lazy millennial. People are now telling me that I am entitled and whiny. I’ve been called a victim and accused of wanting everything without working for it, au contraire my friends.

You have to stop belittling my generation for wanting more. We will work hard, we do want to be successful in what we do. But not on your terms, not at your price, and certainly not by your measure of success.

Verbalizing thoughts

I had lunch with an old friend today and we talked for hours. We caught up on each other’s lives, gossiped a bit about people we went to school with, and talked about our mental health and goals. I found, I was saying things that surprised myself. Things that I know I’ve thought and felt, but when it came from my mouth, it somehow felt knew and different to me. Then after lunch I starting thinking about that. I think it happens way more often than I realize, speaking truth to what has not been real to me before. Don’t get me wrong, I express myself a lot, and I’m comfortable being very self-aware. This was just different. I’ve been isolating myself so much lately, that I’ve forgotten to communicate with me! When words are spoken out loud, they carry so much more meaning and depth. Hearing myself speak opinions and aspirations that I’ve only thought in my mind, that was extremely powerful. I came home feeling motivated to create and push myself. I think it’s not necessary to only dream and plan, but we need people in our lives to listen (without judgement) as we speak our truth and hear it for ourselves. There is progress in having to put together your thoughts coherently enough to be understood by another person, it’s almost a forced progress, but progress nonetheless. This week I am challenging myself to think about my goals, come up with a plan, then speak the words so I can hear myself and claim what will become of me this year. Words have power. Dream big, take chances, and speak your truth to whoever will listen! 💚 #LoveAndLight

A little less pain

Today I woke up not sad. I spent some time with my niece and helped her with some vocabulary. We discussed what synonyms were and I gave her some examples, then I told her words and asked her to think of synonyms for those words on her own. She did a great, fantastic, and excellent job! I however, can’t identify with any synonyms for happy so I have to simply find triumph in feeling “not sad.”! Now I know what you’re thinking, I’m being very glass half empty and I need to change my mindset, don’t focus on the negative, get out and fake it til I make it, pray about it. These are all things people advise me to do, and I’ve advised others to do too. The problem is, from those perspectives, “not sad” is being seen as a failure rather than a success. But my mindset is to grow and be better every day, I am the most glass half full person I’ve ever been, I constantly focus on the positive, my fake smile is on point, and I pray all the time. It doesn’t matter what I do or say, to people who have never felt this way, the comprehension of being “not sad” is difficult for them.

What people fail to realize is that I started at suicidal, crawled my way back to self-loathing, fought myself to get back to depressed, and settled into a feeling of emptiness. So, waking up today and looking in the mirror to say to myself, “I am not sad,” was actually such a victory.

Please celebrate people’s victories with them, even when you don’t understand. It may be the best day they’ve had in a very long time.

A morning of depression

I have anxiety. This causes panic attacks and sometimes is the worst enemy of my depression. I try my best not to post to social media too much about the depression side of things for fear of it being “too real” and causing people to be overly worried about me. I stay in bed and scroll through my social accounts trying to find uplifting stories and things that help me see the light in the world. Often times, this does not work. The result is sometimes anger, I find myself being angry about how happy and well my friends lives look. It’s the facade of Facebook. I then get more angry with myself for having ill thoughts towards my friends. I begin to tear myself apart for being human and having these thoughts and emotions. Life is abundant and grand and I’m choosing to stay in bed with resentment, anger, and judgement. What’s wrong with me? Why am I like this? I just need to go back to sleep, I’ll feel better when I wake up. So I sleep. I wake up and try the day again, this time I decide to pretend. I pretend to be happy for my friends who can’t handle my emotional baggage in addition to their own. I pretend I am happy for people on Facebook and make a conscious effort to “like” as much as I can to keep up appearances. I pretend that I don’t feel like I’m drowning with every smile. I don’t want to pretend, I don’t want to be angry, but I don’t want to smile. Maybe I’ll just take a nap . . .

Introduction

My name is Justin Walker. I am a 32 year old gay man, Zumba Instructor, and am perpetually poor and depressed. I wouldn’t call myself a creative writer, but I do pride myself on my transparency with my weight loss journey and my struggles with depression/anxiety. I lost 100 lbs doing Zumba over the last 6 years. It’s been an amazing journey of self-discovery that I hesitantly discovered through fitness. I am currently at a middle weight, as I like to call it, between what I used to weigh and what I weighed at my thinnest. The uphill battle of weight loss/gain has had a tremendous impact on my mental health, not always in the best way unfortunately. I’m not much of a blogger, I do a lot of videos for my clients and share what’s happening in my life to help spread awareness for mental and physical health. I hope this turns out to be another great avenue for me to pursue. Maybe some people will enjoy reading it along the way as well! 💚