Timepieces and the Art of Goodbye

A speech given at my going away party on 18 March 2016 at the Hotel Donaldson. I am posting it today for those who were not able to attend and wanted to see it. Thank you to Robert Jones and Richard Pallay for putting the party together for me, it was an unforgettable experience, and thank you to everyone that attended.

Photography by Louis R. Zurn Photography: View the Album


 

 I’ve garnered a reputation over the last few years of my life of being a man endowed with the gift of words. It’s a gift I’ve learned to cherish and it’s a paradigm that I’ve come to accept. I judge people very carefully on the words they choose to use, and I try to be precise in the words I use and how I put them together. With discretion in mind, I am by no means a scholar of letters, a toastmaster of accord, or a thespian, I am simply a young man who has been lucky enough to have been able to say the right things at the right time. Some of those words come with practice, with the development of a proper theme, and with the application of those themes in debate, public speech, or simple interaction; nevertheless, I’ve managed to be lucky more times than not, so perhaps it’s just better to say that I tend to get lucky with the English language, but with that in mind, there is something I’ve never been able to manage, and that is the art of a proper goodbye.

 The truth of the matter is that all my life, I have been terrible at goodbyes. I hate them. They tear at me, they awaken my inner child nagging at me and piercing my thoughts. They frighten me, they always have. Anyone that knows me well, knows I have a fascination with time, and saying goodbye sometimes means that my time with you will come to an end, definitive or temporary, and that scares the hell out of me. Even the fleeting passage of just a few chapters in a much larger story of life is almost paralyzing to me, a stunning reminder of the passage of time from a living, breathing moment to something far more beautiful and terrifying, a memory.

 I took up the hobby a few years ago of repairing watches and clocks. I love timepieces, and I am equally fascinated with them as I am with the idea of time itself. There is a beautiful art to a proper timepiece, and each piece, though varying in it’s complexity and design, all share the common purpose of measuring time. It’s a beautiful over-complication of watching the same seconds turn into hours, and although the medium doesn’t change, the seconds don’t get longer just as the hours don’t really get shorter; artists have their own interpretation of how it will be done. There is a craft to putting a proper timepiece together, but the end result doesn’t change, the seconds crawl forward and time progresses, and in that consistency there is still beauty and complexity, but most of all, there’s consistency. I’ve come to love the consistency of the craft, it’s something that I can wrap my brain around, knowing that whatever the individual piece in the back of the timepiece is, I know what it’s function is and how to work on it, and even if the piece is beyond repair or my fat fingers screw it up, the watch may stop but time does not. The thing about goodbyes though is that they are an absolute juxtaposition of this consistency.

 Its as if my life were a watch. My jewelry box is full of watches old and new, some of them don’t work anymore for various reasons, broken tooling or dead batteries, or something of the like. You may wonder why I keep them if they don’t function, but to me, they are frozen moments in time. I can remember how I feel when I wore them, when they were fresh and new, the adventures and trials they saw. There is a simple beauty in opening the backs and seeing the pieces just as I remember them. Remembering how they ticked and turned, and remembering how I felt when I wore them, and while I could fix them all, they will never be quite the same to me, new watches have come to take their place, but I keep them all the same, because I love them. All different, but somehow still the same

 I can revel in the workings of my life intertwining with all of you who make up the passing of time just like the pieces of a watch, the slow measure of a life well lived, but like all things, there will come a time when it is spent. Lives change, people change, and while I may not be there to sit and watch it on the dial, it will keep moving without me. The narratives of your own lives will take their turns and they will grow and take new paths, and the selfish part of me wants to be there for every tick, but the reality is that is not the way it can be. This is why I struggle with goodbyes, because at the core of it, I’m selfish. In life, I’ve tried to go where I thought I was needed most, and now I’m being told that I’m needed elsewhere, not forever, but long enough to make an impact, and when we meet again, we will be just like a brand new watch, and when I open up the back, I’ll see a brand new thing, The pieces, while similar to all the others, will not look quite as I remember, they will be brand new but somehow, still the same. I wish I could take the battery out, and just look at the pieces frozen in time just as they are now, because I love how they are, how they fit, how they work, but unfortunately that’s not the way goodbyes work.

 A proper goodbye should be fulfilling, it should capture the way I feel about each and every one of you, but the reality is that no matter how lucky I have been with words, tonight luck is not on my side. I don’t have the words to do it properly. The English language is rich, but not rich enough to adequately explain my love for each and every one of you, and time is not so kind as to stop for me so that I might find the right words to say. I hope that while I’m away, you find peace, that your life might be blessed and that you continue to move forward, onward and upward so that when I come back, it will be just like coming back to my old jewelry box. Tonight, I don’t want to think about what’s to come, what will be, or what the future. I don’t want to think about what’s new, and if you do anything for me let it be this:

 Tonight, I want to be completely selfish, so if you’ll indulge me, let me look at all of you just like a fine timepiece. Tonight, we’ll tell old stories, share old laughs, and love those same old memories, because just like my favorite watches, I want to see those pieces of my life all over again just as I remember them. Young, perhaps young forever, beautiful, each filling an individual space, ticking and ever moving yet consistent, making my life something worth watching, something wonderful, and even though I know I will have to close the lid on that jewelry box and put these memories away for a while, I know that when I open again, I’ll find you all there just as I remember you. I’ll remember how you made me feel, the trials and adventures we faced together, all the things that make all of you who you are and why I love you. All different, but somehow all the same.

 May God bless and keep you, I love you all, and until we meet again,

Thanks for everything….

 

 

 

 

 

An Exercise in Feminism

be360356-cc31-4f16-8776-705c6e1d7851

I would like to dedicate this post to the members of the Anita Bender Women’s Center, who through continued dialogue and acceptance have transformed my outlook on the world I am living in; furthermore, I would like to give special consideration to Chandler Esslinger, a leader and badass feminist goddess who challenges my assumptions every time we speak, and does not give herself nearly enough credit.

I tore into this clown like a dog on a bone.

His defense of his management style was disgusting. I already hated the term “servant leadership”, but he took it to a whole new level, steeping his pumped up management qualifications and cheap suit and swirling them around terrible practice and gender bias that it stung my mouth like instant coffee, lukewarm and bitter. Over the last year, I found myself engaged in an education that I didn’t ask for, I didn’t understand, but I desperately needed. That education was manifesting itself in a full force verbal assault in this moment. My final words before I slid back into my chair were, “You’re part of the problem”. I settled into my chair and felt a smirk creep across my lips as he brushed off my youthful ignorance. I felt like a feminist for the first time in my life, and that was all right by me. I realized I was in the middle of a journey I didn’t even really mean to begin, but looking back, I am so very glad I did…


Rewind to Fall 2014:

I didn’t really know what to expect from our first meeting. I was a green student body president, she, the president of the Campus Feminist Organization. I was nervous to the say the least. I’ll be the first to admit, I had my biases. I’m a walking poster boy of the patriarchy. I’m white, I’m straight, I’ve been a part of more than one fraternity, I’m a politician, I served in the military, the list goes on. From my understanding, I was everything she hated in the world, and we hadn’t even met yet. I suffered from a culturally conditioned fear of the “F-Word”. She had reached out to me, a move that surprised me, as I knew that the relationship between CFO and the Senate had been tense, if not combative, for quite a while. I had no idea what to expect really. What I found surprised me. She was friendly, charming even, intelligent, and open to collaboration. She felt, and cared deeply, that was immediately evident in all she had to say. I was impressed; though there were a lot of things I didn’t understand about her and the organization she represented. Her organization didn’t operate within a hierarchy, something completely foreign to me. How did they get anything done? How do you run anything like that? I had a lot of questions, but after some conversation, I felt comfortable that they would be answered in their due time. She asked if she could come back at another time, and bring some other members of the center. I thought that would be just fine, and some further discussion would be good. Their safe space was being challenged, and potentially moved. I didn’t have answers for them, but I was willing to do some digging.

A few weeks later, and a few meetings later, I found myself neck deep in their organization. I started hearing from others in the organization, I even found myself in the Women’s Center for one meeting, following blogs, meeting up with different members to talk about what was going on, not just with the space, but with diversity overall. What started as a corner piece started becoming a full puzzle, and I soon found myself in a meeting with the administration and members of the Women’s Center regarding their space. I wasn’t sure what my role in that meeting would be, but they had asked me to be there, so I decided to show. They were fired up, and the meeting was tense. I attempted to be the middle ground between the two groups, and felt the scornful stare of a few members during the meeting. My fears had been realized. They hated me.

I stayed after to arrange a follow-up with a few of the staff and admins, and when I walked back to my office, I could see three faces through the window. After the meeting, a few of the members of the center had gone back to my office to wait to talk to me. This was it, the big confrontation.

They were fired up about the meeting, and blood was still running hot, but they eventually moved on to less controversial topics after plenty of coffee and a few tense laughs. I took a shallow breath, they don’t hate me. Before leaving, a member named Melissa, looked at me and said something that I won’t soon forget, “Thanks for being an advocate.” She could’ve just punched me in the nose; I think the shock factor would have been considerably less. An advocate? I don’t know the first thing about feminism, let alone, the value of the Women’s Center, or really what I was advocating for. I was just trying to do what I thought was the right thing to do in my situation. I struggled with identifying with that word. I almost felt fake. What did I know of feminism, and who am I to even think about it?

In its due course, I found myself getting more and more involved. What started as a simple conversation had grown into multiple relationships, and began as a massive catalyst for self-exploration. Around every turn, I heard “Well that’s awful privileged of you to say.” and after a while, it stopped being a matter of offense, and even when it was, it was because I knew they were right. There are years of patriarchal thinking built into my subconscious that I didn’t even realize were there, and to boot, I didn’t realize how much of an effect those thoughts had on other people. Even when they weren’t vocalized, those thoughts were toxic, and thoughts become things. My job became to identify those thoughts, to understand them, and in time, to systematically eradicate them. Feminist practice started sneaking it’s way into my everyday life. From reading blog posts, to feminist journals, to actually taking a WGS class, it started sneaking it’s way into the way I thought and engaged with the world. What once started as once in a while meetings turned into social visits, grabbing drinks after work, what started as a student consultation bloomed into real relationships. They weren’t just “the feminists”, they became my friends.


It was in these friendships that I began to learn a lot about myself and feminist perspective, and after a lot of insight, a lot of debate, and a lot of correction, I have come to a conclusion.

Feminism is like Exercise.

It’s over simplistic, and it truly doesn’t do the discipline justice, but in the hopes of reaching a male audience that might be reading this in a way that could educate them, I would like to explain my perspective in a way that could be flexible and understandable.

Feminism, just like exercise, takes work. It is constant, and no matter how much you practice it, you will make mistakes, you will fall short. Just like any sort of exercise, you have to keep doing it, every single day. I realized this when my WGS professor admitted to the class that she makes mistakes all the time. This shocked me, given that she is not only a lifelong scholar of feminism and gender studies, but she is a professional in them. Even the best make mistakes, and no matter how educated you get, you need to keep practicing it every day. Feminism makes you a healthier man. It takes areas of you that need improvement, and it gives you the tools to systematically reduce and reshape areas where there have been years of neglect, and even in areas where you haven’t neglected, it improves them. It’s easy to talk about, to read about, but it takes consistent practice. It’s easy to pick up and read a book, journal, or blog post on feminism, just as it is on exercise, but to truly see results, you need to put it into practice every day.

Feminism is hard. It isn’t meant to be easy, and it means a fundamental reprogramming of the way you look at everything. Just as with exercise, there isn’t one component to overall success and health, there isn’t one overall approach to feminism. Diet, exercise, recovery are just as interchangeable and fundamental as social construct, income gaps, racial inequality and more. It is a big picture, and feminism is meant to identify, address, and combat that larger picture.

Feminism hurts. It’s not meant to be comfortable, and as a white, privileged male, it stings. Pain is part of growth, just like exercise. There are going to be conversations, dialogues, and social constructs that you don’t identify with. “That’s not me…. I’m not like that.” Only to realize, yeah, I am a part of that system. That realization is going to hurt. Get over it. You’re part of a system, and you are responsible for the maintaining or dismantling of that system. Understand that your words and actions shape the future. Being a relatively decent white man doesn’t alter the fact that we share ancestors that oppressed women, people of color, drove native people from their homelands, destroyed their culture, or assimilated it and changed it forever if only to make ourselves more comfortable, among so many other things in the name of “progress”. Accept it, because these things are still happening everyday, and people have to live in these realities everyday. Not seeing something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t acknowledge it.  Take the bitter, because in your hands and in your mind exists the possibility to create a better world for everyone, and part of that process is addressing the evil done. It’s going to sting. You are going to lift that weight, you’re going to look yourself in the mirror and not like what you see. It’s part of the transformation, and it’s not going to happen overnight.

Feminism is a lifestyle. It permeates every choice you make after you begin to embrace it. Just as post-workout, you are going to think twice about that donut or that greasy fast food, you are going to think twice about the things you say, the media you consume, and the choices that you make. It won’t just happen though; it is a consistent effort you need to make every single day. You won’t watch a talk on YouTube and magically transform your life. It’s a constant effort, it is a constant learning experience, and it is a constant effort.

“Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: ‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgments. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being molded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.”

-From “The Golden Notebook” by Doris Lessing

Gentleman, you need to educate yourselves. The future of the world depends on it. I am not speaking to you from some enlightened city on the hill. I am not that intelligent, and I am in no position to teach or preach on feminism. What I do know is how this last year has been an educational experience for me, and how continued dialogue has shaped and transformed the way I lead, the way I look at the world, and the way I carry my position in it. My introduction to feminism was not intentional. It took seeing the anger, the hurt, the tears, and the painful reality of people living in different narratives and different positions on the spectrum than I to truly realize that this isn’t something I should learn about, it is something I need to learn about and live about everyday. It needs to become a priority for all men. In The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House, Audre Lorde gives a quote that has stuck with me through this entire journey…

Women of today are still being called upon to stretch across the gap of male ignorance and to educated men as to our existence and our needs.

This speaks truly to the point of this post. Men, you need to educate yourselves. It is no ones responsibility but your own to educate yourselves. At your fingertips lies access to all the information known to humankind, and you can have it all at a fraction on a second. Read the journals, watch the films, make it a priority everyday to expand your consciousness in feminist narratives, you will be amazed at what you learn. It’s your responsibility.

I won’t for a second say I am a decent one, an enlightened one, or a qualified one, but every single day I get a little bit better than I was before:

My name is Cody Meyer, and I am a Feminist.


The Audition of Life

Picture captured from UltimateClassicRock.com. All rights reserved.

Picture captured from UltimateClassicRock.com. All rights reserved.

“On behalf of the group and ourselves, I hope we pass the audition”

-John Lennon

On January 30th, 1969, these were the last words that would be said on that rooftop. From that point forward, The Beatles were over…

As per my morning ritual, I spent some time this morning listening to music that makes me feel good. The music that makes me happy. Today’s selection was watching the Beatles play on that London rooftop years ago. There’s something tragically magical about the entire scene. A band that had shaped rock and roll history forever, that had spent so many years together, grew up together and eventually changed the world together, playing one last hurrah before they would eventually crash into flames. The band had been on the brink of collapse for sometime, and it was in the recording of the album Let It Be that the band finally started caving to resentments that had been building up for years. You can attribute it to any number of factors, they certainly did, but at the end of the day, The Beatles weren’t the The Beatles anymore, you can see it on all of their faces. If you were to watch that concert without sound, it might all seem a very drab affair.

To watch that concert is to see the last flicker of the light of their creative process, and it is something beautiful. The motivation for the concert was a disruption of their pattern. They were tired of being in such close proximity to each other, working on the album, and decided to move it to the rooftop for an abrupt performance. The entire thing was born out of resentment, and from it, came one of the most beloved and historic performances in music history.

After watching it, I took some time to reflect on it. I wonder what that must have felt like; looking down and seeing London come to a stop for you. People stopping in the street, getting out of cars, climbing rooftops and fire escapes just to get a little closer to you, just to hear you, to see you. The entire concert was an act of resentment, but it was a part of the creative process and an act of disruption, and act of defiance even. After watching the concert through, I started to think about my own life, and in particular, the last year. My entire professional existence has been about disruption. I harbor a lot of bad feelings towards people and towards myself. The reality of my situation is that I have made a habit of disruption in all that I do. I would argue it’s the only thing that really matters, and for that, I have a lot of people in my life and in my professional circles that really don’t like me very much. It’s not easy, I want to be liked. I want to be popular, and I want to feel like my superiors and subordinates admire me. As I reflect on the rooftop concert though, I can’t help but feel a certain air of defiance and resentment for that attitude. I shouldn’t be liked, and you know what, that’s okay.

This year has been a journey in self-acceptance for me. A journey in reaffirming who I am after I spent so much time trying to change that person. The reality of my narrative is that I don’t know how to change that person, and even if I did, I don’t know that I would want to. I am not a complacent person, and perhaps my drive gets me into trouble, but out of it, I have seen great things created; I believe that those things are the things that matter. The creative energies that were born out of disdain, out of hope, out of pure anger, those are the energies that not only have defined my own existence, but the evolution of the human experience. I have felt that creative energy drained as of late, and after some reflection, I realize that I have been letting other people take it away from me. I have been trying to be someone that I am not. Someone other than the person that has brought me this far in life, someone other than who has placed me in the roles I hold today. If you’re reading this, I hope that you learn to realize that in yourself. I lose track of myself often, I think we all do, but the important part is to learn to be self-aware when that is happening. Other people will kill your creativity if you let them, and it’s easy to let them, in fact, it’s too easy to let them. In the rat race of wanting to be accepted, you find yourself on someone else’s timeline, in their narrative, living your life in a way that is unauthentic to you but comfortable to them. We call this expectation. This is not to say that expectations are bad, but some are certainly better than others. I have made a habit, whether purposefully or not, of breaking expectations. When I assumed my role of student body president, I broke a lot of expectations. People expected me to act and think in a very specific way, a status quo that had been established for a long time. It was comfortable, it made people feel secure, that things were going in the right direction. In some areas, that was okay. I can accept that. Sometimes you have to let a sleeping dog lay, but there were other areas where I couldn’t, where I asked questions, where I put my foot down, and where I fought. For those reasons, I got a label. That label is difficult. I heard people who I had a lot of respect for saying I was unruly, that I was combative, or my personal favorite, that I “just don’t get it”. At the end of the day, I am difficult, I am unruly, combative, and in a lot of ways absolutely crazy. I’m zealous, and a lot of people have a hard time dealing with that. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s because my name isn’t followed by a few letters, maybe it’s even my pay grade, but the reality is that I will never leave this university with roses at my feet. When high-level decision makers eagerly ask my team when my term is up, that should be a sign. For some, it’s a sign that you failed, that the gig is up, the goose is cooked, and that for all intensive purposes, you are not worthy. I’m here to tell you that is not the case. It’s okay to be a square peg in a round hole. It’s not easy, life never is. I want to be liked, and I want those same decision makers to look at me and think, “He was really great. I will miss him when he is gone.” but that would be inauthentic to who I am and what I want to accomplish. I want to leave this place in a better place then when I discovered it, and that means breaking the mold sometimes. It means turning down a different road, asking the hard questions, and going toe to toe with people that you care about or want to impress. Sometimes you will stumble and sometimes you will make mistakes, I could write a book on the mistakes I have made just this year, but at the end of the day, I can confidently say I have fought for what I believe is right, and that is what really matters.

“The biggest divide in this country is not between Democrats and Republicans, it’s between people who care and people who don’t care.”

-Rachel Maddow

A friend of mine introduced me to that quote, and I think it’s wonderful; however, I think it needs to be taken a step further. It’s not enough just to care. I care about a lot of things. It’s action on those things that encapsulates the human experience and drives progress. There is an even finer line within that definition. There are people that care in this world, and I believe there are a lot of them. Humans are not naturally apathetic creatures, that attitude is taught and reinforced by society. The idea that the problem is too big, that you are too small, you don’t have the right credentials or enough money. These ideas are indoctrinated in us right out of the womb, and we come to accept them as a reality. This accepted reality draws an even finer line in the distinction. The even bigger divide in this country is not between people who care and people who don’t, it’s between people who care and people who care enough to do something about it. Taking action is hard. It’s scary and a lot of times it hurts, but if you want to live a truly outstanding life, you have to take action. Maybe that’s in yourself, or outward into the world, but you have to take action. Life is truly an audition, a chance to make the cut, and nobody ever got a call back by doing nothing. I’m not saying you have to go out in the streets and start a protest (unless that’s your thing) but do something. Write, speak, sing and dance, contribute something to the world. It won’t be easy, and a lot of people won’t understand; however, the people that do may be inspired by your divine disruption to disrupt the world around them. That to me is human progress, and it is the only thing that matters in society. Do something unique, do something vulnerable, and do something that pisses people off. Some people will love you, some people will hate you, some people may even stand in the streets to watch you, but nevertheless, you have created an idea. Ideas are dangerous, and ideas change the world. Every moment is your audition, make it count.

Stay hungry kids.

In Which Chrissy Needs Reminding and Pooh Reminds Her:

Oh Pumpkin,

I couldn’t help but come across your words today, and since you love to put yourself out into the world, a trait that so many of us have come to admire about you, I thought it was about time someone played you at your own game. So this is it:

A Letter for You.

So off we go. It doesn’t hurt to be reminded of things sometimes. We all forget things, it’s human nature. Through many bedtime readings, I came to love Winnie the Pooh, and he had a lot to say on a great many things, but most of all, he talked a lot about remembering that you are loved, so I am going to help you remember with the help of an old friend.

“I’m not lost for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.”

Between the long hours, the deadlines and the assignments, the events, the planning, and the hours on the clock, it’s natural to get lost. Some days you’ll feel like you are drowning, others you’ll feel like you have all of your ducks  in a row, only to watch them scatter before you at the first drop of rain. There will be days like this Pumpkin, but they don’t define you. They don’t make you who you are, but rather show the world what you are made of. It’s been a very long journey for you, and I know it’s had its ups and downs, but you kept walking, and that’s what is important. It’s okay to feel defeated once in a while, those days will come pumpkin, but while those days may feel like your reality, they’re not, it’s just a bump in the road that we call life, a short detour on your much larger journey.

“I don’t feel very much like Pooh today,” said Pooh.”There there,” said Piglet. “I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.”

You said it best, you don’t live 75% in, you live 100% in, and sometimes that means living 100% in whatever troubles are surrounding you at that moment. You may be afraid of what the next chapter holds, and that’s perfectly okay; however, in the time that we have been friends, with all the walks, heart to hearts, late night tea and talking to squirrels, I have never known a soul so bright and full of life and love. You helped me cope and come back in touch with myself, reminding me that the world’s expectations of me do not have to define who I am as a person, and you would do well to remember your own lessons. The next step is scary, but you have a hundred and one people behind you cheering. You have touched so many lives with your boundless optimism, your positivity, your laughs, and your light. You had the courage to take that light and spread it to people you don’t know and may never meet through your blog, and though they may not reach out to you or at times it feels like no one is listening, those people are learning to show their own light through you, and someday they will. There was a time where revealing your true self to the world scared you to death too. But you learned, and so will they in due time and with a little bit of faith. I, again, think Pooh said it best:

“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”

Chrissy, you are more than enough. You always have been. What you have done here at MSUM will not be forgotten, because what you do doesn’t live in brick, or paper, or dusty bindings. It lives in the hearts of all the people who have been lucky enough to call you a friend, a mentor. You touch lives Chrissy, and that is more important in my eyes than any thesis, any award, or any piece of paper to be framed. You are Wonder Woman, zooming through campus spreading smiles and laughter, and you are my favorite excuse to pop into the OSA (sorry Steve, it’s the truth). While this chapter may come to a close, you may remember a time that you first came here. This chapter of your life didn’t happen to you, you created it. You took chances, you put yourself out there, and the universe rewarded you with a lifetime of memories, and with all of that in mind, if you can do it here then you can do it anywhere. I know it’s scary, but that’s the universe’s way of telling you that something new is on the way, and just like I remember you telling me, holding a red gel pen and telling me that it’s okay to fall in love again, I’ll throw your own words back at you: I know it’s scary, but what comes next will be beautiful. Even Dirty Dancing had a sequel, this isn’t the end. This is the Breakfast Club, and you are walking away with your fist in the air triumphantly, all of these memories are an earring from someone and something you love, and the music is playing. So dance. Sing your song and walk off into the sunset, it’s going to be okay sweetheart. If, for a little while, you have to oversleep and eat junk food, than do it. The only thing you have to be ashamed of is not sharing any with me, even Pooh Bear had those days:

 “Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.“

These days will pass, and these feelings will fade. Things that once frightened you will be silly memories eventually. The universe may have temporarily dented you, but it will not break you. I have never known you to break, you are stronger than you know. So in case you have forgotten, let me remind you:

You are loved, you are valued, and you are more than enough.

I love you pumpkin, so many of us do, things will get better.

Keep the faith.

On Being You:

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:

Acceptance

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.