Whenever I get too down on myself, it’s mostly because I’ve become too caught up in my everyday life. Work, bills, laundry, taxes, dishes, etc. No matter what I do to try to remedy the “everyday blues” – it can be hard to pull myself from the oppressive black hole of the mundane.

At that point, I try to take stock of my surroundings. I remember that ultimately it’s the things I choose to do, the things I’ve been courageous enough to try, the things I partake in to set off the constant edge I feel. Those things are all more important to me in the long run than the momentary stresses and anxiety of the day-to-day.

I’m no musician, but I’ve spent a lot of time being in a band. We were known only as Tyler. Matt. Joe – and the only thing that mattered was that we had fun and made music. It didn’t matter that ultimately the band never went anywhere, and it doesn’t matter that I’m still not a real musician to this day. What matters is that I felt comfortable enough with myself, and my friends felt comfortable enough with my abilities to let me just try it out. It was something I gave myself fully to at the time. It was an experience, and it was positive in a time of real darkness in my life.

I’m no actor, but I’ve been in my fair share of productions. I’ve been in commercials, in a music video, and in some short films (one of them even won an award). Though I rarely ever use it any more, I also have my own YouTube channel – complete with videos I created to be silly and also of me lip-syncing. For me, looking at even this small body of work – I am amazed at how far I’ve come, especially growing up with severe anxiety. What drove me into this particular arena was a combination of wanting to fully defeat my own anxiety, to challenge myself, and most of all – to have fun. It worked.

I’m no dancer, but I dance whenever I can. I’ve never been formally trained, and I can still be very self-conscious at times. But I have fun. I had to force myself out of my shell, and a lot of my friends think of me (wrongly) as a great dancer. But really, I just have fun, and that’s sometimes the most important part of dancing – to have fun and not care what others think. It’s hard to do, and I still struggle with it because the darkness is always present within my thoughts – but I feel the beat. I’ve danced on stage at multiple concerts now, and on my aforementioned videos for all to see, and that has led to people looking for me to liven things up at parties and get-togethers, which is really weird to me considering how introverted I once was.

I’m no cook, but I cook a lot. I taught myself, aside from what little I learned back in home economics in grade school. I grew up on Ramen cooked in coffee makers, on pan-fried bologna, on government cheese and powdered eggs. I work hard for my money, and I use that money (most of the time) to buy what I consider healthy food. I prepare many of my own meals, and I experiment. I am a king of leftovers. I work on dishes until I get them right. This is a challenge for me, and yet I have been moderately successful. Ask me to make my scrambled eggs for you sometime, or my Chicken Gruyere, or my succotash, or my Lemon Chicken. Baking is another story, but try a steak I’ve prepared and tell me it’s bad.

I dress up like characters from pop culture and I entertain people, mostly children – and it’s the funnest and most rewarding thing in the world. I worked on a comic book that a childhood hero of mine worked on as well. I hunt ghosts. I walk old battlefields looking for inspiration. I try to create art. I review films and books. I explore. These are all small ways in which I combat the darkness in my own world.

But what I do most is I write. Writing enables me to frame some of the more mundane events in my life in a new context. And when I see that some of you read these things regularly, these work stories and little anecdotes – and you actually appreciate them – it makes those mundane times seem less mundane and more part of the journey. It turns the darkness into an illuminated space that feels like home. Thank you all for being a part of that, and especially for reading what I write here.