Posts tagged ‘Health’

Welp, I’m 30.

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20-year-old Kyle takes a birthday photo!

Today, I turn 30. I’m not sure it’s hit me yet. Maybe it won’t. I mean it’s just a number, right?

I find myself trying to think about all the life lessons I’ve learned over the last decade. What I have yet to learn. Where my 20s started. Where they ended. How much has happened. How much has remained the same. How much will change over the next decade.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m in some sort of hyperdrive, where people decades older than me are recounting some life lesson they just learned and I’m thinking, “Um. Yeah. Of course that’s the case.” Typical know-it-all millennial, right? But other times, I’ve felt like I’m stopped or even in reverse, watching people my age pass by me. In some way, they’ve moved on and I haven’t.

But then I remember those lovely words of wisdom everyone loves to impart but not actually listen to themselves: We shouldn’t judge ourselves based on what others are doing. We shouldn’t care what they think, either.

As I think about things I’ve “lost” over the last decade, by far, my mother is the first thing that comes to mind. My immediate next thought is that 20-year-old Kyle would’ve been like, “It’s not like she was ever around in any meaningful way anyway.” Maybe not, 20-year-old Kyle. But the option was there. The chance that things might change was there, even if there was little hope they ever would. Now, it’s not possible. She’s gone.

As I think about what I’ve gained, the first thing that comes to mind is a fiancé. Like, what?! I mean 20-year-old Kyle may have expected to be at least engaged by 30, maybe, but I don’t know. I also find it fascinating that the first loss that comes to mind intersects with the first big “gain” that comes to mind. I would’ve loved for my mom to be able to meet him. I have to wonder if that would’ve been the same case if she were living. Would I have really cared?

I then of course think about how all of it — what I’ve lost and what I’ve gained — translates into growth, or at least change. And I think I’ve changed so much. I’m not even sure I can list the ways. It might be easiest to just say I’ve matured. Priorities have shifted. Thoughts and actions, words and deeds, have shifted. I’ve started paying attention more. Listening more. Being silent more. (Stop shaking your head in disbelief. I have!) Loving more, or trying to.

When I started this decade, I was still in college at the University of Florida. Since then, I’ve changed cities, changed careers, gained friends and lost friends. I spent most of the first year of my 20s single and ended my 20s engaged. Hell, I couldn’t have even gotten legally married back then had I wanted to! All anyone needs to do is just take a quick, contemplative look back to see the ebb and flow of life.

Society has changed so much, too. I mentioned marriage equality above, but it’s so much more than that. Technology has changed. Politics has changed. People have changed. Society has changed. And, honestly, it’s all kind of flown by, especially over the last few years. And yet there’s still so much more to do in the world. I suspect there always will be.

I’m a big fan of trying to be forward-thinking, so here’s what I hope for the next 10 years:

I hope to love more. 

I don’t just mean romantic love. I mean love in general. And love, for me, isn’t just something you feel. It’s something you do. I hope to do more for others. I hope to get to know them. I hope to better understand them. I hope to listen more. I hope to be a better servant leader.

I hope to listen more. 

Everyone knows I’m a talker. I always will be. But that doesn’t mean I can’t listen more. Like, actually listen. I find I enjoy listening and getting to know people. But also, I hope to listen to nature more. I hope to sit in silence more and just listen to what’s going on around me. There’s such serenity and peace in just listening in silence sometimes. Plus, it can help you think.

I hope to learn more.

I’m naturally a lifelong learner and I swear by it, so I definitely plan to keep that up. There’s just so much to learn that my challenge is often narrowing things down enough to focus on one thing at a time. Which reminds me — I should probably try to be more patient, too!

I hope to say “YES!” and get out of my comfort zone more. 

I’m a safe zone kind of guy. Sometimes, I’ll do enough to appear as if I’m going out of my comfort zone, but actually doing so is more rare than I think people think. I certainly talk more about it than I do it. I’d like to change that. I’d like to say “yes” more often to things that might prove to be fun or worthwhile in some way, even when they sound scary. Especially then, perhaps.

I hope to care for me more. 

I’ve worked pretty hard on this over the last few years, but I can certainly do more to improve self-care — mind, body and spirit. Again, I go back to just relaxing and sitting in silence to quiet the mind. Hopefully, I can meditate more and finally go to a damn yoga class. As for my body, well, that’s an easy solution — just start exercising and being more active. Sounds so simple. Ha! For my spirit, I think I’m doing pretty great at that lately, if I’m honest, but I hope to focus more on this in the future. I’m looking forward to it.

I hope to act more. 

Self-care is definitely important, but so is action. I want to sit on the sidelines less and do more. Whether it’s helping people in need, advocating for the rights of other people — I want to be there. I want to do more.

It’s been a great decade and I’m really looking forward to the next one. Even for all the shitty stuff I can think of that happened in my 20s, I can think of ways I learned from those experiences. While it’s admittedly a little weird to be 30, I don’t see it as “old” or anything like that. It does feel like a chapter has closed and a new one has opened, which is probably kind of silly because it’s just a number, right?

I think I’d be missing an opportunity, though, if I didn’t take this moment to think about the past and how it can help me be better in the future. I’m thankful that I have such wonderful loved ones to help me along the way and I look forward to helping them, too. So here’s to my 30s and beyond!

These Statistics Scare Me

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A friend of mine recently told me about the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System‘s national school-based survey. It measures lots of things, but I was particularly interested in national and local statistics related to lesbian, gay and bisexual high school students. (They explain here why data on transgender students is unavailable.) As with anything, I encourage you to look at these numbers for yourself. If you see any errors in what I’ve listed, please let me know! There is a lot of info, so it’s worth checking out yourself, but here are some things I found most interesting:

– 23.3% of LGB HS students in Duval County reported being physically forced to have sexual intercourse (nearly 1 in 4), compared to 9.7% of straight HS students.

– 26.1% of LGB HS students in Duval County reported experiencing physical dating violence, compared to 9.1% of straight HS students. This is the highest percentage of all “large urban school district surveys” included (which include many major U.S. cities).

– 24.6% of LGB HS students in Duval County reported experiencing sexual dating violence, compared to 11.7% of straight HS students.

– 20.6% of LGB HS students in Duval County reported being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property, compared to 7.4% of straight HS students. This is the highest percentage of all “large urban school district surveys” included.

– 37.6% of LGB HS students in Duval County reported being bullied on school property, compared to 16.7% of straight HS students. This is the highest percentage of all “large urban school district surveys” included. In fact, the next closest is Broward County at 30.8%.)

– 28.7% of LGB HS students in Duval County reported being electronically bullied, compared to 12.1% of straight HS students. This is the highest percentage of all “large urban school district surveys” included.

– 20.3% of LGB HS students in Duval County reported that they did not want to go to school because they felt unsafe there or on their way to or from school, compared to 10% of straight HS students. Duval is tied with Orange County, FL (the Orlando area) for the third highest in all of all “large urban school district surveys” included.

– 53% of LGB HS students in Duval County reported feeling sad or hopeless, compared to 27.6% of straight HS students.

– 41% of LGB HS students in Duval County reported that they seriously considered attempting suicide. 37.5% say they actually made a plan on how they’d do it. 32.5% actually attempted suicide. This is compared to 15.4%, 15.4% and 15.2% of straight HS students, respectively.

Nationally, LGB students have much higher percentages than straight HS students in every category I’ve listed. Nationally, 60.4% of LGB students report feeling sad or hopeless, compared to 26.4% of straight HS students. Nationally, 29.4% of LGB HS students report trying to commit suicide, compared to 6.4% of straight HS students. Naturally, even more of them make a plan to do it or at least think about it. in fact, more than 40% (42.8%) of LGB students across this nation seriously consider suicide. For straight HS students, it’s 14.8%.

I found these numbers particularly meaningful as our city debates providing equal protections to the LGBT community, especially because opponents repeatedly say that there is no proven discrimination against LGBT people in Jacksonville. They repeatedly say that Jacksonville is a welcoming place for all and it’s so loving and wonderful for everyone. Well, these statistics alone, while only about high school students, suggest otherwise.

Perhaps there’s an argument out there that lesbian, gay and bisexual teens are just being more honest and reporting their issues more often. But if they’re the ones being bullied, attacked, and trying to kill themselves the most, I struggle to think they’d be more comfortable with being honest in answering these questions than their straight classmates.

These are terrible statistics for all involved, but especially for lesbian, gay and bisexual kids. Certainly, we don’t want to see any young people being bullied, attacked, trying to commit suicide, etc. And there’s no one way to magically stop all of the negative things in the world from happening. But as widespread acceptance and community support grows, LGBT people gradually become safer and are treated more kindly. There are multiple ways to do this, but an LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination ordinance that provides equal protection is a great step in the right direction.

One thing is for sure: We need to treat all children with more love and support and understanding and equality — not less. For some, it’s a matter of life and death.

My “Giving Tuesday” Plans

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This year, I’ve been thinking about Giving Tuesday more than usual. I try to give whenever I can, whenever it’s needed, but I also like the idea of a concerted effort to encourage others to give charitably, especially in this season of receiving gifts, many of which we don’t truly need.

There are many, many causes I’d love to financially support, and I encourage everyone to donate some time or money throughout the year, if you’re able. That said, here’s who I’ll be helping on Giving Tuesday:

LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS

St. John’s Cathedral

I’m not technically a member of St. John’s Cathedral (or the Episcopal Church, for that matter), but its clergy, particularly Dean Kate Moorehead and Rev. David Erickson, are wonderful and have really helped me. They are also advocates for the marginalized in our community. St. John’s Cathedral’s outreach efforts include Volunteers in Medicine and the Clara White Mission.

Earlier this year, St. John’s Cathedral invited neighboring churches, businesses and nonprofits to discuss the future of its Downtown neighborhood “and how to return it to a thriving community.” The goal: “…sharing God’s love through urban revitalization,” not by “displacing the poor and the non-profits ministering to them,” but by “moving working class people, businesses, and students into the district, beautifying the area and slowing the traffic so that a true village is born.”

Sounds good to me.

An estimated 3,000 people are homeless in Jacksonville. The Sulzbacher Center is the area’s largest provider of comprehensive services for the homeless. Beyond food, shelter and healthcare, it also helps people find jobs, and offers children’s programs and life skills programs.

JASMYN

JASMYN has directly helped more than 20,000 local LGBTQ youth since it began in the early 90s, myself included. I’m particularly fond of JASMYN because of its focus on helping young people, especially in this community, where love and support for LGBTQ folks aren’t always felt.

JASMYN has a lot of programming and educational opportunities. There’s a support group, resources for people who want to start a gay straight alliance at their school, education on safe sex, and “drop-in” nights where young people can connect and just hang out in a safe, supportive environment. JASMYN also provides free HIV testing.

Jacksonville Coalition for Equality

Jacksonville is the largest American city without human rights protections for the LGBTQ community. The Jacksonville Coalition for Equality is all about getting our city’s existing Human Rights Ordinance updated to include protections for sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in employment, housing and public accommodations.

More than 600 local businesses and more than 150 faith leaders publicly support this change, yet the city’s mayor and some members of the City Council apparently still need to be convinced. That’s what JCE and the people behind it are trying to do.

Jacksonville Humane Society

While I didn’t find any of my pups through the Jacksonville Humane Society, both dogs I’ve had as an adult have used the JHS animal hospital. Lily hates the vet. In fact, “hates” might be an understatement. But the staff has always been patient and understanding, which I appreciate.

JHS cares for thousands of animals each year. It provides food, shelter, medical care, and of course the opportunity for people to adopt.

NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS & CAUSES

The Reformation Project

Gay Christian Matthew Vines is a great resource for LGBTQ Christians, particularly evangelicals. Vines created The Reformation Project, which works to promote the inclusion of LGBTQ people by reforming church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity. The goal is to see a global church that fully affirms our community. What I really love is that Vines and The Reformation Project don’t avoid the so-called “clobber verses” — they address them directly and do a great job of it.

The Reformation Project has regional training conferences and an annual “leadership development cohort,” an intensive program to train LGBTQ Christians to be leaders in their own local faith communities. They are also planning to create local Reformation Project chapters at some point. Awesome stuff. Also, if you’re interested, be sure to check out Matt Vines’ book, “God and the Gay Christian.”

The Trevor Project

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24. And the rate of suicide attempts is four times greater for lesbian, gay and bisexual youth and two times greater for questioning youth, compared to straight youth.

The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people. It also operates the only national 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention lifeline for LGBTQ young people and offers help through instant messaging and text messaging.

ACLU

Some of my friends might see this as a controversial choice, but I’m reminded of a quote I recently heard. I can’t recall it directly, but it was basically that some people don’t like the ACLU until they need it. The group has been around for almost a century, and has more than a half-million members, nearly 200 staff attorneys, thousands of volunteer attorneys and offices throughout the nation.

I’m a fan of equality, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to due process, etc., so I’m a fan of the ACLU.

Doctors Without Borders

Just like the ACLU, you’ve probably heard about Doctors Without Borders. In case you don’t know, though, these docs deliver emergency medical aid to people affected by conflict, epidemics and disasters.

For me, right now, this is all about Syria. There are certainly other ways to help with this issue, but there are now no open hospitals in Aleppo. None. Most, if not all, have serious damage from bombs and other fighting. The World Health Organization estimates that more than a quarter-million people are now without hospital care. Doctors Without Borders goes wherever there is need, including incredibly dangerous places like Syria.

Mni Wiconi Health Clinic Partnership at Standing Rock 

If you’re not familiar with the situation at Standing Rock, here’s a good summary. Like Syria, there are various ways to support the folks at Standing Rock and there are many websites that have aggregated some of the options, so if you’re interested, be sure to look into it.

The Mni Wiconi (Water is Life) Health Clinic is a free clinic proposed as a partnership with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe traditional healers, UCSF and others to provide free care to all people in the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, including supporters who have gathered as “water protectors.”

This effort has already met its financial goal, so now all donations will be used to directly support immediate health needs at the Standing Rock protest camp.

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There are many great causes and organizations to support. If you’re able, I encourage you to find opportunities that work for you, whether in your own community or national/international causes. If you’re worried about how much of your money will actually support the programs you want to support, sites like Charity Navigator can help.

I hope Giving Tuesday is just the beginning. So many places could use volunteers and financial contributions throughout the year. I plan to work harder to be more involved, and I hope you will, too.

Struggle & Strength

Ten years ago, I sat my dad down at the dining room table before heading off to college and came out to him. The realization was all still very new to me, but I knew I definitely wasn’t straight and had finally come to terms with it.

He had lots of things to say, all understandable and none bad. Naturally, there was some confusion, but more importantly, there was unwavering support and love. But there’s one thing that currently stands out in my mind more than anything else.

Dad told me he was worried because my life would be more difficult and dangerous as an openly gay man.

It was a reality I was already aware of and I’m sure I agreed with him, while maintaining my truth. But it’s a reality that I don’t think I fully grasped until Sunday.

Sure, I’ve dealt with my unfair share of haters. I’ve heard all the names and the rhetoric. I’ve been an “issue to be dealt with” and not a person to be loved. Every day, it seems like there’s a new version of “coming out” we have to encounter. And you know what? Some days, in some fleeting moments, it’s easier to say “roommate” than deal with the potential fallout of saying “boyfriend.” Perhaps that’s a terrible thing to admit, but it’s true.

But this — this is different. This is life and death, literally life and death. And sure, we all deal with life and death and our own issues. But this is people wanting to kill us for simply existing or showing any form of affection to someone we love.

Over the last few days, I’ve read and heard more times than I care to count that there will always be people with hate or evil in their hearts. Maybe that’s true. But should we not at least try to erase the hate and replace it with love? Should we not at least try to eliminate the evil and replace it with good? Is it not worth at least an attempt?

My dad was right. Our lives are filled with different and sometimes greater challenges for being different. But I wouldn’t trade this for the world because I am also stronger and smarter because of it. I have met some of the kindest, most beautiful people I have ever known, and will ever know, because of who I am. And I have learned from them.

We are fighters. We are fierce. We love because we all too often feel the sting of hate as a result of fear. We understand the importance and value of diversity and celebrate it. We support each other because sometimes it feels like no one else will.

So while my dad’s point was right, it was not the full story. Thank God it wasn’t the full story.

One of my favorite quotes lately has been one from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross:

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

We. Are. Beautiful.

I’m Losing It.

I haven’t publicized it much, but one of my biggest priorities in 2016 is to get my health in order. From not having yearly wellness visits with physicians to gaining back most of the weight I’d lost, I’ve let myself slip. Until now.

Now, it’s time to make this change happen.

Now, it’s time to make this change permanent.

I realize we are only a month in, but I’ve been doing great so far and can just feel that I’m in a different place with life — a great place to focus on my health.

Fortunately, my coworkers and I are also participating in a weight loss challenge over the next few months. As I was researching that, I discovered another challenge that I thought would help me stick to my longterm plan of losing the weight I need to lose. Here’s how it works:

  • Choose how much weight you want to lose as part of the challenge.
  • Choose how much time you think it’ll take to do it.
  • Choose how much money you’d be willing to “bet” each month (or all at once) that you’d lose the weight.

If you meet the goal, you win the wager.

So, after weeks of consideration, I pulled the trigger and placed my “bet.” If I win, I’ll earn more than double what I wagered. I put “bet” in quotes because it’s not really the gambling we’re all used to. At the end of the day, I control the outcome. I figure if I’m going to lose the weight anyway, I might as well get paid for it. And as dedicated as I already was to lose it, an added financial incentive doesn’t hurt.

I encourage you to do two things:

  1. Encourage me. This journey won’t be perfect, but that won’t change the overall trend of being healthier.
  2. Set your own goals. If you are truly committed to losing weight, do it. If you’re like me and you’d be willing to “bet” on yourself to make your change a reality, do it. It definitely takes a financial commitment up front, but if you can do it and you’re determined, it seems like it’d pay off.

Click here if you’d like to learn more about what I’m doing and see if you’d like to place a “bet” yourself. There are plenty of options. Personally, I gave myself some breathing room because I know life happens and there will probably be tough times ahead. But I’m excited and ready to work!

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