Disclaimer: This post contains some personal narrative and strong language, okay, lots of strong language. Adjust your sails appropriately. If strong language makes you uncomfortable, here are some puppies. Enjoy.
It’s 5:00am. I didn’t sleep much, though I rarely do, and the smell of patchouli from last night still lingers just enough, though more dry smoke than incense, to tickle the nose as I start to become aware of everything around me. I take a few moments to get my barring, and for a second consider reaching for my IPad to start looking at all the meetings, appointments, and to-do’s of the day. I decide against it and flop down on my pillow. It’s moments like this that I seem to do my best thinking. Those quiet moments when I know my world is at rest. I have been having more and more of these moments since December. I decide to roll over and read a few pages from one of my favorite books to try to claim some clarity. (Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk, if you are not following @GaryVee, you are wrong. Do it now.) It’s these little moments of clarity that seem to bring my world back to center these days. I can say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, 2014 was the worst year of my entire life. I went through two big breakups, lost several friends to the grave, had some severe money problems, have had my intelligence, sincerity, and leadership questioned at so many turns, I saw sickness and heartbreak in so many people who I love, and I struggled to keep 100 plates in the air while keeping some semblance of sanity and personal dignity, though I question how well I did that even. In summary, it really fucking sucked. It did have it moments though, and for that I am thankful.
The reality of my current narrative is that for a while I found myself doubting who I really was as a man. I tried to do what I truly believed was right in many situations, and consistently found myself being questioned, judged, disappointed, and let down. I felt broken, alone, and for the first time in a long time, scared. Not of what was going on around me, but the person who I was seeing in the mirror. After my last break-up (they happen people, she’s a wonderful person, but life isn’t always beautiful and sometimes things don’t work.) I found myself at the literal bottom. I felt that I really had lost the last thing that was there for me. Was this true? Not at all, but we’ll get to that later.
It took a long time for me to really pull my head out of my ass, and for the first time in a long time, I’m seeing the sun with open eyes. The reality is that a heartbreak was the best thing that could have happened to me. It took this whole bottle of emotions that I had kept hidden away for so long and threw them against the wall. I found myself searching for something I never knew I lost, I was looking for myself. I retreated from the world, threw myself into my work, got burnt out, and found myself sitting on the couch binge watching SOA trying to justify a third bowl of Fruity Pebbles to myself. (Spoiler: I went head first into that third bowl, and it was fucking glorious.) I floundered into all kinds of music and literature. I played more guitar, I took more walks, I gave love to others even if I didn’t feel any for myself, I practiced gratitude, I wrote a lot of poetry among other things,I practiced patience, I stayed out late and made some childish and reckless decisions, and all in all, rekindled the fire that is me through friends, good music, good books, and good practice and faith.
As I closed the book, I found myself staring at the ceiling. My mind centered around one word that had become the mantra of my new year:
I have come to an ultimate decision. It’s okay to be me, and if you are reading this, I want you to know that its okay to be you. There is no universal standard of person that you or I need to be. We are conditioned to think this way by society, by popular media, and most toxic sometimes, social media. We are conditioned to believe that we are not good enough, that we are not smart enough, that we just can’t do what we want to do or be who we want to be. We as humans love to compare ourselves to others, we are social creatures, and can’t help but over think. “If I just looked like him/her, if I had more money, if I had better clothes, if I were smarter or had that job, then I would be happy.” The reality is that happiness is a choice between two forces. Pain and Pleasure. Either you accept pleasure for who you are, or who you are pains you to make a change or to wallow in defeat. I have wallowed in defeat for too long, and in the last month and a half, I have come to accept myself for who I am, and you know, it feels pretty damn good. So without further ado, allow me to introduce myself…
My name is Cody Nathaniel Meyer. I am a voracious trouble maker, a lover of blues, and a man of very strong convictions. I love to cook, I love to sing, and I think the Fender Telecaster is one of the greatest inventions ever created (S/O to Leo Fender, you’re the real MVP). I love poetry, and am proudly a card-carrying member of the Dante Society of America. I love too much sometimes, but my love is my own to give, and I accept the consequences of that. I am physical person, and would rather greet those I love with a hug, a kiss, a handshake, or a pat on the back. There are things I care about, and things I don’t, and I have a zeal unmatched for what I do care about, much to the disdain of others at times.
I have a reputation for being a nightmare to work with. I’m strong-willed, difficult, and I ask a lot of difficult questions.I’m not afraid to put myself out there or question the status quo. I used to think that was a bad thing, and at one point I tried to change that; however, the reality is that I am a passionate person. People have a hard time wrapping their heads around me and my passions sometimes, and if you feel the same way, don’t let people tear you down, tell you that you’re wrong. If you care about something, put your full heart into it, because while it may not seem worth it more often than not, even if you lose people in your life, the things you get out of it will color your life and shape you as a person. I was privileged to be a founding father of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity at my university. I wish I could say there was some divine narrative behind that conviction, but the reality is that someone told me that I couldn’t do it, and that really pissed me off. It started as an idea in a cold, brick dorm room and today it stand’s as the first fraternity on this campus in a decade. They have done hundreds of hours of service to each other, their community, their country, and to this university. I watched how they have picked up each other and carried each other when one of them has no strength, and watched them give everything they have to see one of their own succeed. I truly love those men to death, and they are as much family as my own flesh and blood, and now I am beginning to see them get married, begin their lives, and even have children. To have played even a minor role in their lives is a beautiful and treasured gift, and all because one day I got pissed off and had an idea that I followed through with. Passion is worth it people, it separates those who are living from those who are truly living from those who are just going through the motions. I currently am involved with higher education, and for those unfamiliar, this can be one of the most frustrating and stressful fields of work in the world. I have led in a way that is unconventional to the status quo, and have had my leadership, intelligence, and process questioned at every turn, and that’s okay. The reality is that I am not everyone else, I am me. I get fired up, and I care about students. I care about my institution and all the people who call it home. Passion matters, folks. It is easy to get uncomfortable in this position. I wake up while it is still dark, I don’t get paid much and I don’t get benefits, I try to keep 100 other plates in the air while maintaining and innovating a team, I spend countless hours of time on all kinds of policy, inquiry, and change, people don’t know who I am, they don’t really care. and at the end of the day, no matter how much I accomplish, people will never know. But you know what, that’s okay, I do it because I care, because I care a lot more than a lot of other people, and if in the process I make one persons life a little easier, than I can walk away with my head held high.I get a lot of flack, and it’s hard for people to wrap their head around why I get so fired up about issues in my institution and in the higher education system. But the reality is “If not me, than who?” Just accept what you believe in, and if you get negative feedback, drive on, because crazy people change the world. Accept your song, don’t just sing it from a rooftop, scream it from a fucking mountain, because it’s never about the merits you receive, the dollars you make, or the robes you wear, it’s about the lives you touch. People matter. Invest in them.
I joined the Army about as soon as I was eligible to sign the papers. I joined because I was running away from my problems, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and in that, I found some of the greatest adventure, profound lessons, and best damn stories I could walk away with. Folks, do reckless things, because sometimes they turn out really cool. I ran from my problems, and somewhere between having my identity taken away and being herded like cattle here, there, and everywhere, I became something brand new, and with that being said, I had way too much fun doing it. Contrary to popular belief, it’s okay to run away sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes. Sometimes it’s okay to pack your bags, throw on some Springsteen (if you’re not a fan of the Boss, stop reading now because you’re dead to me), and ride off into the sunset. If you have to run, then run, but not because you are afraid of what is around you, but because you are in love with what is yet to be. I live with a perpetual sense of wonder. I’m homesick for places that I have never been. If you feel the same way, embrace it. Sometimes you have to run. In running, I found some of the best friends I have ever known, and some other curious characters who would color my view of the world forever. Sometimes you just have to go where the call takes you.
I am fortunate to be raised in a very loving family. I have a mother who had built her world around me, even when her’s was falling apart. My parents raised me (which oh by the way, was fucking perfect) to embrace family, because at the end of the day, that’s all you really get. Having a mom is like having a prized casserole recipe, everyone thinks theirs is the best, but I will shout it from a fucking mountain, I have the best mom in the world. No matter how good of a cook I ever become, nothing will bring me home faster than Momma’s cooking, and everything I learned, I learned from her apron strings, from her hands, and from her heart. She is one of the most compassionate and driven women I have ever known in my life, and when it came to learning how to be a man, the lessons from the men in my life were equaled and excelled by my mother. She is smart and funny, and can lighten up a room just by walking in. She has always accepted me for who I am. She is soft as rain until you cross her, then she can unleash a torrent that will cut you down smaller than a fresh blade of grass, and if you thought I was a hand full, I learned from the best. She never settles, and doesn’t ever let anyone step on or over her, especially when it comes to her family, and she does it all while keeping a stressful and demanding full-time job, battling terminal illness, volunteering, and through all of that, still makes it to Church on Sunday. She worries about me everyday, but as much as she hates them sometimes, she never second guesses my decisions, because she knows at the end of the day I am just going to do whatever the hell I want anyway. If you still have your mother in your life, love and cherish her, because you only get her love one time around.
If you are a man reading this, regardless of your age, you need to pay respect to your father. I never understood my Dad growing up, and I suspect he never really understood me. We smack heads, particularly during my teen years, and after all this time I realize he was always right about everything. If you are a young man reading this, just accept that Dad is right. The sooner you come to that, the better off you will be, but sometimes a boy just has to piss on the electric fence, and I was that kid. Some of my most cherished memories of my Dad are the ones that as a kid, I hated the most. Growing up, we had a wood stove that heated the home. There was electric heat in the house, but we rarely used it, which I never understood. I hated cutting wood. As a kid, we did it in all seasons, nearly every weekend. It was hours of felling a tree, chopping it up, moving brush, splitting and stacking, and stockpiling the wood in which there never seemed to be enough. We chop it, we move it, and inevitably we would get into an argument about something, mostly because I was kind of a shit head, and we would spend entire weekends in the fall, the cold winter, the spring, and naturally the coveted summer vacation out in the woods. What I never realized until I came of age was that the woods was my fathers classroom, his Senate, his colosseum. There he would teach me about work, about a Man’s life, about the mystery and beauty of all of God’s creation. He would teach me to hunt, to live from the land, to admire and respect the natural order of things and all the glory that Man has seemed to forgotten over the years. I have been privileged to receive an education and to hear great minds speak in wide halls and auditoriums, but I’ll be damned if they could hold a candle to the lessons my Dad taught, covered in sawdust, talking about life and God in the middle of those Wisconsin woodland. All of this he did while working two jobs, waking up at 5:00am and rarely coming home before 10pm. He loves his family, and taught me that a man will do anything for his family, never in words but always in deed. His actions always spoke louder than anything he ever did, and I learned more about being a man watching him then I think i ever did listening, and Dad, if you’re reading this, I always did listen. Lesson Learned: If you still have your father in your life, cherish and love him too, and if you haven’t made right with him, do it. I don’t care how old you are. That means your heavenly father as well, and if you are not a person of faith, make right with the world. Go out and breathe in that air, and realize that you are a small piece of something much bigger. The universe, the world, a universal conscience, the human experience.
I am the middle son of six siblings, two brothers and three sisters, and that is one of the greatest gifts I could ever ask for. My older brother was my hero, and always had the coolest music, and I learned a lot watching him grow up. The same could be said for my two older sisters as well. I got to experience the other side of the coin watching my younger brother and sister grow up. I’ve had some cool jobs, and gotten to see some pretty cool things, but nothing compares to being a big brother. It is truly a gift, and if you share that gift with me, than be a part of their lives. Watching them grow up has been one of the greatest experiences of my life, and makes me reflect on my own life with more conviction. Remember always, they are watching and they need you, so be there, because they are learning from you.
I have struggled all my life with my image of my own body. I never thought it was adequate. I was too chubby, too hairy, or too tall, my hair wasn’t cool enough, my abs weren’t flat enough (though I don’t remember a time they have ever been flat, S/O to Arbys, Ben and Jerry’s, real mexican food, and the makers of Cinnabon, I ain’t even mad about it. You all are the real MVPs). All in all, I was never content with it, and there was a period of my life that I made a lot of irresponsible decisions to try to make my body into something it wasn’t, someone else’s. It’s okay to make a healthy change in yourself, better diet, more exercise, but do it for you. I wasn’t doing it for me, and for that, I paid a price. We love to blame others for it, society and popular media, but the reality is that at the end of the day, I made a choice to not love myself for the way I look. Let the record show, I’m over it. I accept that I am pale as shit, that I have a few extra pounds hanging just below my hairy chest, and you know what, it’s beautiful. My body may be a Prius in a magazine Maserati world, but you know what, this bad boy is 34 miles to the gallon of pure sex on wheels. I love it, and you should love your body too. (My Mom just snorted reading that, and then snorted because I called her out from 1,000 miles away, we’ve probably moved on to the squeak/snort now, so anyone in her immediate vicinity, I truly apologize for the disruption.)
Diet Peach Tea Snapple is one of the greatest things in the world, no real context there, it’s just really fucking good. Drink it.
If you are lucky enough to have some positive role models in your life, thank them. Gratitude is something that we all need to practice more. Be grateful for the people in your life, because they are truly the most valuable things in the world. I have been blessed to have some really incredible people in my life, and I owe them all a world of gratitude. My grandparents are a prime example of that. My grandparents have been an immovable part of the foundation of my life, always wanting to help, always watching, sending money even if I don’t want them to, and always believing in me, even when they don’t understand my reality, my narrative, or the choices I make. My grandmother is one of the funniest people I have ever known, and she can always make me laugh, and she is also so caring, always expressing that care with her own signature delivery (Sometimes that’s an I Love You, other times it’s some curse words on my voicemail, everyday is a new adventure.). My grandfather to this very day stands as the greatest man I have ever known. He is strong, grounded, and groomed me to be a good man when I was knee-high to a grasshopper. He believes in me, and he has taught me so much, and if I live to be half the man he is, then I think I will have done all right. In starting Kappa Sigma, I met one of the most incredible women I have ever known, and she has changed my life in a million ways that I will never be able to repay her for. There are some incredible people in this world, be there for them, and remind them. Because more often than not, they are there for you, and sometimes they will need you to be there for them. I know I’m beating a dead horse, but people matter. Invest in them.
The end all be all of acceptance is one simple thing: Love yourself, because no one like can love you like you love you. Be unapologetically you. Stay hungry, be reckless, stay curious and love openly, make hard choices, and never look back. There is so much to love in this world, so do it. The amazing anomaly of the human experience is that we never really learn how to live until it’s time for us to die. I don’t know a lot, but I think we make life a lot harder than it really needs to be. Don’t let life pass you by, because you only get one. Go out there and conquer things, move mountains and create yourself, leave you mark on the world, be daring and different, be unconventional, make friends and fear no enemy, be irresponsible,and above all, remember that you are loved, you are valued, and your more than enough. Don’t for a second ever live in fear. Fear engulfs and encapsulates the human experience if you let it. Live instead in love. Don’t ever make your choices out of fear, because fear is but a masquerade of perceived practicality, wrapped up our own vision of our self-worth. Either love shines through, or it doesn’t, that is your choice.
I close with one of my favorite quotes in the world:
“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.”
-Sir Cecil Beaton
I turned myself and brought my feet to the cold wood floor. I took a deep breath, checked the clock,and stood up. I looked out my window and watched the sun rise, and thought to myself, “I have shit to do.”
Stay hungry kids.