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A Work in Progress (2015)
- I would rather have one amazing best friend than a hundred decent regular friends. It's not about quantity, it's about quality.
True friendship is counted in memories, experiences, and troubles shared; it's a bond built up over time in person, not a virtual tally on the Internet. It finds you; you don't find it. A relationship forms, you discover common interests, and you realize this bond is the closest thing to romance that is possible. Yes, that's it: true friendship is a relationship without sex or attraction. It doesn't judge, gossip, flake, and get envious. It stands by you through thick and thin. It supports you at your lowest ebb and celebrates with you at your highest point. It allows you to be yourself, good and bad. And it's a two-way street: you give and take equally.
Whether it's the friends who have walked with you or the friends who await you in the future, the value of true friendship is golden.
- Chapter 7, "Levels of friendship". p.51, 52 [page numbers per the 2015 Atria Paperback]
- There have been instances when I've spent more time worrying that I'm missing out on something than actually enjoying what's right in front of me. And there, my friends, is the lesson to be learned.
Life should be more about living in the moment than fearing what's happening outside it. It's about honoring what you want to do at any given time, regardless of what everyone else is doing.
- Chapter 8, "Missing out". p.60
- This is what happens in high school. We're exposed to what's not familiar while trying to work out who we are. We explore, make bad decisions, and learn from them.
That's what high school is about: finding yourself, figuring out what makes you tick. Oh, the joys of being a complicated human.
- Chapter 9, "High school is weird". p.67; / Chapter 10, "An anxious boy and his plastic crown". p.79
- All that pressure you feel when you're growing up - especially self-imposed pressure - is not fun. It's no walk in the park to feel as if all eyes are on you, even when 99 percent of the time they're actually not.
- Chapter 9, "High school is weird". p.71
- Parents don't understand cool. Never have. Never will.
- Chapter 11, "The voice within". p.82
- Know what you want and follow your gut.
It's hard to truly know what you want and who you are. It's even harder to attune yourself to that inner voice that tells you what your heart is saying. You know it when something feels off, when you bristle, when you hear one big, fat screaming "NO!" in your head.
Whatever the personal decision - in conversation, friendship, dating, career - pay attention to what your gut says, and not necessarily what you're told and what you think you should think (because then you'll overthink it). I always stick with my gut decision.
- Chapter 11, "The voice within". p.83, 84
- In life, you need to allow yourself the room to do what you want to do with the precious time you're given. Give yourself permission. You then have to actually do it. Allow yourself to go there and add your splash of color to the world.
- Chapter 13, "Creativity". p.100
- In my experience, if you let your scars own you, they will. Don't give them that power. Don't let them stunt your growth and progress.
- Chapter 15, "The fault in our scars". p.108
- Social media is the most warped mirror to look into. You risk measuring your self-worth by the number of likes you receive. Here's the bottom line: if you're truly confident, you don't need to seek the likes of others. And if you're not so confident, then fuel your self-esteem with the love of your friends and family.
- Chapter 17, "Numb to the numbers". p.120, 121
- Relationships are fire - they're about chemistry. No spark, no go. Once you find someone you find visually pleasing, you pursue him or her. If you discover that you also enjoy this person's personality, interests, and company and the feeling is mutual, you move to dating. If you're lucky enough for that to go well, you take it a step further and make it official. Congratulations! You're in a relationship with a real person! NICE!
These three basic steps may sound simple and easy, but if you've ever made a real attempt at them, you'll find otherwise. Love is hard. Really hard!
Love is about sitting in silence and enjoying every second of it simply because your partner is sharing it with you. Love is about reading another person's mind and finishing his or her sentences - because you know that person that well. Love is about wanting to be as physically close as possible because you can't get enough of the other's smell, feel, or mere presence. Love is about putting another person before yourself because, quite simply, when that person is happy, you're happy. Love is about staying in on the weekend, ordering Indian food, and putting on a new documentary because you wouldn't want to be with anyone else. [...] Love is love - an energy that fuses souls.
[...] That love is out there. It exists and finds us all. And I hope you all find that one person who makes you want to ignore your phone and get lost in his or her company. That person is waiting for you (or maybe you have already found him or her).
- Chapter 20, "A person worth ignoring your phone for". p.140, 142, 143
- Take it from someone who has changed his mindset: you can make "now" the place you want to be. Rub your eyes, focus, and see what's right in front of you: the gift of life. What you do with that gift is up to you.
Every decision you take today is a building block for the future that awaits you.
- Chapter 21, "Live now, worry later". p.148
- Finding yourself is a lifelong journey.
Everyone's path to self-discovery is bound to be different.
- Chapter 22, "The long road to me". p.151
- I don't know what sparked it in my mind, but I happened to be staring at myself, dead in the eyes, in the bathroom mirror. "I'm gay," I told my reflection.
What happened next surprised even me: I smiled. Through all the pain, I actually smiled, feeling a sudden rush of relief, as if being freed from a choking grip.
I knew this was just the beginning of a breakthrough. Next, I needed to tell someone.
[...] My friend's acceptance was liberating. I was free. I was the real me.
From that point on, it was the case of finding the courage, and the right time, to tell more and more people.
Each of them said the same thing: "It's okay, Con. I still love you."
They were all so great that I wished I'd told them earlier. Love trumps fear every time.
My journey, and the evolving process of staying true to myself, won't stop there. I am, like everyone else, still figuring myself out on a daily basis. But this path I've been walking is clearer than it has ever been. The fog has lifted, and the possibilities are endless.
This story isn't about sexuality. It's about overcoming our biggest fears. It's about seriously examining whatever it is that may be holding us back.
- Chapter 22, "The long road to me". p.156, 158, 159, 160
- Today, little things make me happy, like going for a walk, getting coffee with a friend, or creating something original. Really, I find happiness in everything now.
We all go through grim times. But instead of resisting the struggle like I did, embrace it, accept it, and give the matter time to figure itself out.
- Chapter 23, "It gets better. Really.". p.167
- Hard choices are never easy and nearly always stressful, especially when they affect the trajectory of the rest of your life.
Growing up is full of many little steps, hops, and big leaps, none of them easy.
Pushing myself to move out of my comfort zone was the best decision I've ever made.
There are many bites to take out of this big wide world, and the opportunities are endless. The only thing holding you back from experiencing them is yourself and the false limitations you've imposed on yourself. Just you. No one else.
Big leaps take time.
Sometimes you just have to leap and have faith in yourself.
I headed to LA and placed all my bets on this one trip, believing it would open a new chapter in my life. That was all I could hope for.
- Chapter 25, "The decision that changed everything". p.176 / ** Chapter 26, "Leap of faith". p.186, 187
- The feeling of loneliness is temporary. It can easily be replaced by another feeling or action. Now, when I'm feeling down, I pick up the phone and call a friend for a chat or to meet. How can you be lonely if there is always someone to reach out to or spend time with? Loneliness really is a state of mind.
A thought is only as strong as you allow it to be.
- Chapter 27, "Getting to know myself". p.192-193
- The world is filled with things that need fixing.
All it takes to make a difference is an idea, a little initiative, and the determination to make it happen.
- Chapter 29, "Charity". p.200, 201 [On raising $230,000 inside 30 days for clean drinking water in Africa]
- Don't allow yourself to settle for just anything in your life.
Strive to obtain your every want and desire, as long as you're not harming others.
- Chapter 30, "Life doesn't wait". p.204-205
- life waits for no one
eventually is not okay
why tomorrow when there is today?
- (from poem on p.208)
- The future is as bright as you let it shine. Don't be tricked into seeing it dimly. Don't be fooled into believing that this, where you are right now, is all you get. Your potential is endless. Just act. Act now. Right now. Leap. Live. Love. What are you waiting for? Go. Get started.
You're a special bunch and are going to do great things in the world.
- Chapter 30, "Life doesn't wait". p.209 / Acknowledgements, p.212
Note to Self (2017)
- As I grow older, I wish for more of these snapshots of joy, to be able to string them together into a long line of happiness. To remember how life should feel. […] I left enriched with a memory.
[…] Let's never forget our good days; we should string them together like pearls on a necklace, to be treasured and remembered whenever days don't make us feel as good.
- Chapter 1, "Welcome to my happy place", p.15, 16 (on visiting to see the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset); Chapter 11, "An unmemorable day made memorable", p.123
- Once the innocence was wiped clean from my eyes, I saw life for what it is: complicated.
- Chapter 3, "To my dearest past", p.27-28 (At age twelve.)
- Everyone thinks their monsters are visible to the world, but they're not - they're figments of our overblown imaginations, warped projections of our own self-image. Once you stop seeing them, they'll fully disappear. Yes, it's that easy.
- Chapter 3, "To my dearest past", p.32 (From a fictional letter from older self to younger self at age twelve and onward.)
- You're a bud covered in snow in the garden of your mind. Just wait for spring.
- Chapter 3, "To my dearest past", p.33 (From the same hypothetical letter)
- And all of this is unfolding before my very eyes on an average day, begging the question: WHY. IS. EVERYONE. IN. SUCH. A. DAMN. HURRY? Why the constant rush?
- Chapter 5, "A mindful mind", p.54
- It's crazy what you'll see, hear, and feel if you stop and let the world continue to move around you for even just a minute. […] Basically I'm trying to pay attention. I mean, I have to force myself to do it through fits of angst, but the fire has been lit and here I am: trying to be mindful of my surroundings and the people around me. Noting the detail. […] I invite you to give it a try right now […] and be in the moment with yourself for a few minutes Try it.
- Chapter 5, "A mindful mind", p.56, 57
- I can't pinpoint the exact moment in time when I realised I was falling in love, but my move to California had a lot to do with it. Once immersed in an openly gay environment, I quickly understood that men loving men (and women loving women) was normal. It was BEAUTIFUL, in fact. […] And let's just say in West Hollywood, you see a lot of gay people. They're everywhere, unashamedly being true to who they are, and who they love. It was the single most refreshing thing to witness. […] Those couples became a symbol of hope to me, and to see them firsthand made me think it was possible for me to be like them. To love. To be happy. It was actually possible to dream of the future. The future I wanted to have.
- Chapter 8, "I was in love", p.79, 80
- People don't realise the daily power they have to make others happy. All it takes is a few kind words, delivered without expectation. It's not much, honestly. Giving someone a compliment or slight encouragement is the one thing any of us can do, at any time. It's free, it's easy, and, boy, can it do the world wonders.
- Chapter 10, "Her peach sunglasses", p.109
- In a world that appears to indulge in negativity, I find we need to do our best to share the good. Too many shows, blogs, and newspapers spew pessimism, seemingly dedicated to tearing people down and picking them apart, piece by piece until there's nothing left. This horribly judgmental trend has no point, save for spite and harm. […] Rarely does anyone have anything nice to say anymore. It's a playground of sore shut-ins bitching and gossiping, where people drag others down for their own twisted entertainment. Thankfully […] goodness and kindness remain in abundance out there. Good people do exist, even if most of them are not known to the wider public and live their lives under the radar.
[…] We need to spread love, kindness, and empathy to the masses. […] Pause for a second and think of something nice to say instead of indulging in pointless negativity. […] And you watch: the more you do it, the more the kindness will spread out like a ripple.
- Chapter 10, "Her peach sunglasses", p.111-112
- The only way to crack a real problem is to face it. Look your issues dead in the eye and sort out the beef between you.
- Chapter 13, "Runaway", p.148
- It's strange to think we're brought up in a world that judges us for putting ourselves first. Somehow, to think of ourselves first and others second has come to sound so incredibly selfish - and that just makes my stomach churn and my teeth grind. How unfair! How misguided! Because here's what I've learned (and what no one seems to teach us in life): you have to make YOU a priority and think in terms of what's good for yourself and your higher interests.
[…] Instead of thinking of an action as selfish, with all the negative connotations that this word carries, I view it more positively as "looking after myself."
- Chapter 15, "All of me", p.166, 168
- You have control over your thoughts; thoughts do not have control over you. They're like little dirt specks on the windshield of life that you simply need to wipe away. […] We give dark thoughts our power. Why would we ever think that mere thoughts are stronger than us? They're not. We can outwit them. Rule them. Survive them. They represent internal stormy weather ... and all storms pass. [...] You know that positivity exists - you only have to sift through the rubble a bit.
- Chapter 17, "The pages I hope you never have to read", p.189, 190
- I refuse
to let this world
- (from poem, "A bitter pulp", on page 193)
- Knowing what I know now, there are a few things I would love to tell my younger self: have faith in yourself and what you're doing, keep on trekking, and trust that everything will fall into place. It's okay not to know where you're headed, so long as you keep moving forward. Just pick up the pieces along the way, accrue knowledge, keep learning, and keep going. [...] Eventually, you'll reach a place in your life where you'll stop, glance over your shoulder, see the completed circle, and finally understand the reason why your journey took you down a strange path.
- Chapter 19, "Full circle", p.210
our love was like a wildfire
it blazed and blazed and took down everything in its path
but eventually every flame must go out
- (poem on page 218)
- The initial shock of coming out was strange and a bit uncomfortable. But after a few weeks, everything got so much better. The best way to describe it is that I simply felt light, free of a burdensome secret that was weighing on not only my mind but my entire being. After I was able to utter the words "I am gay" to other people, I was overcome with relief, as if saying those words purged built-in toxins from my body. I felt alive again. Healed from the inside. Renewed. Empowered.
- Chapter 21, "The other side of the closet", p.236
- […] I'm not sure what flipped that switch, but once it was turned on, I had the powerful realisation that I could do anything and be anyone I wanted to be. […]
Confidence is something we can all wear. Take it from me, it can be learned and acquired over time. Confident people were not born confident. […]
The more we work on a trait that we wish to develop, the stronger it gets, like a muscle. The more we believe something about ourselves, the more we reprogram our thinking. The more we dwell on the positive, the less the negative can touch us.
None of us are stuck with the hand we are dealt. We can shuffle the deck and deal the cards out again. No one can tell you who you should be. You need to be the person you want to be.
- Chapter 24, "You are who you want to be", p.272, 273
- The mind seeks clarity, but our souls prefer to wander into ambiguity. It's OKAY to not know your future. It's acceptable to have no idea what you want to do. Don't let anyone trick you into thinking otherwise.
An offer, opportunity, breakthrough, or brain wave could happen at any moment and change the trajectory of your life. Surely the key to life is being open to such a possibility.
Let none of us be fooled into thinking we need to know what the future holds. Everyone's been brainwashed into thinking they know or should know. We'll be alright if we simply keep moving forward. At least, that's what I keep telling myself. So next time someone asks about your five-year plan, maybe shrug your shoulders and admit, "I don't know - I'm happy to see where life takes me."
- Chapter 25, "The five-year plan", p.278, 279
- imbued with the power to change
you reclaim yourself
- (from poem, "Build and rebuild", on page 280)
- Politeness often blocks honesty. That seems to be the way of the world. Nobody wants to be the one who tells a person some uncomfortable, perhaps unflattering, home truths.
- Chapter 27, "Avoiding a cliché has proven difficult here", p.295
- Renowned psychotherapist Carl Jung once said, "The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are." Think about that for a second: imagine being the unfiltered, no-pretend, don't-care-what-others-think, authentic version of you. Imagine that.
Personally, I'm chasing that privilege that Carl Jung referred to: a true understanding of myself. I'm learning more about who I am on a daily basis. It's a constant search, but I'm lured by the promise of the discovery of gold nuggets, especially as I face some of life's most difficult questions, moments, and situations.
- Chapter 27, "Avoiding a cliché has proven difficult here", p.293, 295
- Nothing is permanent.
- Chapter 28, "To my dearest future", p.301