The Difference You Wish to See in the World

“Be the difference you wish to see in the world.”

I’ve heard everyone’s favorite adage plenty of times.

I say no.

I say there is one word that does not belong.

The verb must be replaced.

“Define;” “Own;” “Live;” “Make” the difference you wish to see in the world. Do not subject (or restrict) yourself to becoming the entire embodiment of the change.

Define the Difference

In this instance, a difference is defined as a planned change of a large scale. As with anything that is planned, a difference is therefore a goal (or a mission). Regardless the desired effect, all goals share certain qualifications. They must be not only attainable and meaningful, but have clearly distinguished timelines and end results. Anything worth changing is worth the work; and chaos, (however appealing it may be at times) is never a better alternative to structure. Make a skeleton for your vision to stand upon and a path for it to follow.

Own the Difference

Going along with defining a difference or change, owning that action is a preliminary act that confirms the willingness to work for what you believe in. Owning a vision has three immediate consequences-and they aren’t bad ones. Firstly, by committing to a course of action, you show both yourself and others that it really is worth fighting for and creates the pressure needed to ensure further action. Expanding on that, you must know what you are gaining possession of, and therefore owning a change forces a return to my first point-that a difference must be defined. Finally, the momentum and definition given to a movement by setting on this path provides the opportunity for external groups and individuals to learn about your cause and begin offering their own support. An essential part to any team (and that is what those in your movement will become: a team) is a leader, and you are naturally the most qualified to take this position as the one that knows the most about your goal.

Live the Difference

Returning to the original quote, recall that the popular demand is to “BE the difference you wish to see.” Living out a vision is very similar to “being” that difference in that you are required to embody the action you plan on enforcing. Beginning with yourself is naturally a perfect place to kick-start a change, because, as is so often proclaimed, every action must be pursued from the inside out. The minor differences in verbiage, however, lead to very different endings if brought to their conclusions. By accepting that you will “be” a certain thing, you become mutually exclusive with the object or idea. Neither you nor what you represent can exist without the other. By definition, this then becomes a one-time vow that loses meaning as it is later pushed to the background. Everyone expects you to be a certain way, but they don’t think about it. And when you are no longer here to act that way? If you die or move away? The idea is removed with you. By living a certain way, however, you introduce an organic element to the agreement. By living out an action, every day becomes a battle against your mind. By choosing to live out a mission, you accept that you will continually search for ways to keep your beliefs at the forefront–you will search for ways to further your commitment, you will show that you are loyal, and you will not allow yourself to become status-quo. By doing this, you will make it impossible to ignore your allegiances, and others will begin to recognize them as well, furthering your purpose beyond your own life.

Make the Difference

If you’ll remember the past references to getting others involved, this is where it all comes together. If you vow to make a difference, you vow to find support and make a lasting impact. You do not vow to become the sole proponent of a firm stance as you would if you were to “be the difference.” You vow to lead a change, not to overwhelm yourself with its vastness. If the end goal of your action is too make a difference, following the previously stated steps: defining, owning, and living out your change, it is inevitable that others will notice and some will join you. Keep working with those and soon your cause will grow. Anything worth hope is worth seeing through. Making a difference is certainly life-changing, but it does NOT have to be stressful and life-ending. So go out there and find your passion. And while you’re at it, see it through and make a positive impact on the world!

Yours in Life with a Purpose,


Write, Type, Draw, Inspire

The pads of my feet dance across the magical floor spread before me. Tiles dip and pop as they respond to the gentle pressure where the intangible becomes more real than the earth that calls itself a home and more immortal than the fire, wind, and seas that give the world its life. Yet, just moments before, my very essence flew on its own, inhabiting the multi-purposed appendage of my host, marking my ideals on the very palms that now sweat as I fly across my stage, leaping and striking with a grace unrivaled by the smoothest models and a determination unmatched by even the most starved of beasts. I ruthlessly emulate those that have gone before me as the fruits of my labor are preserved in the memories of minds and files that never decay.

The eloquence of my performance has taken years to master, yet perfection still hides its timid face behind many more horizons than I have time to count. One-two-three. One-two-three. One-two-three-four-five. The rhythm of the day marches behind my thoughts as the years flood back over my ever-growing focus.

From the day I first met the vessel I inhabit, I began leaving evidence of my work on everything I touched. The halls I roamed, homes I invaded, and playthings I abused in boundless amusement all tell tales of the great capers I engraved in their histories. As I grew with my host-body, I met a new way to interact with those like me. I found books and endless collections of papers that had been so carefully crafted by my predecessors. I wore my mark into their pages, absorbing splatter after splatter of ink long before my own black splotches joined those of past minds. They wrote for me, and I wrote my thanks in the only way I could: sacrificial oils and toils left in place of borrowed knowledge.

Eventually, the ignorance I had fled without success left my maturing mentality for younger, weaker targets. The strokes I had admired on every occasion finally followed me as I laid the binding down and reached for my own portal to expression. The white slab before me bent in the wind and tore at any agitation, but in it, I saw in it greater potential than I had been shown in any of its relatives held slave to covers and symmetrical stamping. With the help of my newfound friends, the stark plain began to take shape into a beautiful masterpiece that resembled a red tornado with the points and curves of my first letters jutting at odd angles just below it. My inaugural message made its way out at last and the brain I had called out to for years finally threw its doors open as the mouth it had bonded with spewed any secrets hidden behind the partially comprehensible work.

After my introduction to the world around me, many new hands began writing their own stories across mine as they guided me to take my own actions and develop patterns that every brain had learned to recognize. My skin became familiar with the touch of many new utensils as I was ambushed around every corner with a new pencil, pen, marker, crayon, brush, or knife that could spell anything I thought of. I tried writing from different points of view: recreating my patterns upside-down, using my host’s other hand, and learning his name so I could mark countless surfaces with Stephen, Michael, Naylor, or anything else off a list of numerous other labels for the creations I represented. The round edges I had been introduced to changed as well as my impatience beat the precision Stephen’s body was capable of and a new language of letters was introduced to my continually expanding vocabulary. The smooth, flowing cursive fit the page perfectly, but the looping garnishes that distinguished the style marred my efforts to stream from the hand to the page quickly, and I hastily ran from the script as soon as I could.

It was shortly before I escaped the festive trappings of the flowing print that I first wandered out on the dance floor and began to tango with mechanical print. The keyboards that I learned to play reacted to my every command and required no twirling of too-long sticks with too-short erasers when my body jumbled my messages. They knew exactly what I wanted to say, even when I didn’t have the words myself, and they remembered every thought that crossed my mind, no matter how long had passed since I dwelled on an idea. The computers that my newfound accomplice always dragged along found their use too, as they augmented the abilities of my stage and recorded my performance for large audiences to see.

Because I began to gain popularity as I moved past symbols on a page, and into messages dreamt up by imaginations that I helped spark, I began looking for even more outlets. I stumbled across an ancestral tradition from Stephen’s familial roots, and began once again to seek more knowledge. The French language met me where I was at, and we quickly became great friends, though I do still struggle at times to keep up with the pampered tongue’s demands.

I cannot deny my own demands, however, as I tax the memory I have obtained, searching for inspiration and meaning. For every change in the way I presented myself, there were many more changes in the way I was composed. I recorded my history and emotion for all to see if they looked hard enough, leaving a small piece of myself everywhere I went. I wrote phrases and essays to prove a point–to gain merit and make my voice stronger. And I crafted painting, sculpture, poem, and story, all to convey just what I’ve learned, from love to hate, from joy to sorrow, and from excitement to frustration.

Through it all, my ideal state serves me well, allowing me to observe, analyze, create, and portray as I live out the search for wisdom. I look forward each day to approaching the new and familiar faces, brains, works, and lives, putting myself out on the line to create something physical. But most of all, I anticipate the life my work takes on as it embeds itself in the deepest part of a being, undetected until it spurs inspiration out of once barren fields.


Recently, the psychology classes at school have been making posters on various mental disorders. Some disappeared today, so I’m wondering if the recognition is coming to an end, but I have a couple of stories to tell.

I’ve always considered myself bipolar to some extent. I don’t fully recognize the manic and depressive stages, but I often feel like a pregnant woman, always craving one activity or another to the exclusion of all else. It wasn’t until I learned the true definition a short while ago that I began classifying myself in different ways, though I still don’t have an answer. Generally, I don’t find problems in my obsessions because they are productive in their natures, but recently the frequency with which they have been interrupted has increased. These interruptions–often cast forcefully by an arbitrary decision of societal forces–are one of the few things that create vehement conflict, which is why I’ve chosen to pursue liberating jobs since the end of last school year.

Last year, my junior year of high school, migraines were thrown into the mix of swings I’d learned to accept. I’d had headaches like any other teen, but by a few weeks into the school year they began assaulting me nearly non-stop. My cross country season came to an early, abrupt halt for the third year in a row and I began missing tons of school either to stay at home or visit an ever-growing list of doctors and specialists. No one could find anything physically wrong. I was given a few different medications to try treating the headaches, but none worked. People began to point to stress. My mom hopped on the boat and sailed past the horizon. I didn’t care. Nothing I said changed anyone’s mind, but I was getting out of the stifling environments of the school classrooms under teachers that denied the presence of any subject but their own. By missing class, I was escaping the reach of dictators appointed for their experience, but acting as though their knowledge and wisdom were their true, unrivaled qualities. I was also able to share my ideas and learn more about why so many of society’s vices are in place, despite widespread opposition.

Eventually, I ended up in two offices at least once a week. One of the school counselors began working with me after I opened up to my favorite teacher. The first time she called me in after the dam broke, she told me quite simply that, though I might be “fine” when I was out in the halls, while talking to her, it was evident that there was something deeper, so I needed to share it. She also informed me that she would not call me out of class, but that I could come to her at any point and expect an ear. I visited her multiple times because she had offered exactly what I needed: someone to talk to on my time and on my terms. She did, however, always do a wonderful job of bringing her own angles into discussion, keeping me rooted in reality. The other office was one my mother found. We went in to a psychologist every week, at whatever time worked best for my mom and the psychologist. Every session ended with an invitation back that everyone new was nothing but a verbal contract that was binding even without my express agreement. There were certainly times that I got in a good vent, but I always had a timer ticking away to the non-negotiable time limit. Other times I came in on perfect days and was told that only the bad days counted there, so I had to recall them and pry their secrets out, into the light that they quickly consumed. Everything quickly became “the problem with me” and “the reason I couldn’t take care of myself.” I couldn’t take care of myself–at least not if I couldn’t be trusted with the free will I was naturally given. Figures removed in time, age, location, and understanding dictated what I needed to have done for what every child is told is their first job: school. I stopped visiting the psychologist after my mom was exposed to a relatively normal conversation between myself and the “doctor.”

In a final effort to stop the headaches I already noticed improving, my mom connected with a psychiatrist and had me visit her. By the time I made it in, I was tired of being pulled around. As I’ve grown fond of saying lately, “my life is a social experiment that I both oversee and take a part in.” I don’t always control all the variables, but I’ve become pretty reliable when it comes to analyzing what I observe. I chose to take an active role in the experiment when I went in to see the psychiatrist for the first, and only, time. I had started to grow my hair out and it was a mess, so I crafted my visual composure to reflect what people perceive as moodiness and gloom. I entered the room and began conveying my backstory with my mom. The psychiatrist had my mom leave so she could talk to me on more intimate level. She asked me to rate my conditions on a scale of 1-10. In her words, 10 was to mean that I felt I was handsome, smart, happy, successful, etc. while 1 meant I was ugly, dumb, worthless, wanted to kill myself, etc. Conveying the confident, intelligent internal personality I had held the entire meeting, I told her that the scale rated both my self-worth and my emotional standards without distinction, so I proposed a new set of standards and gave myself high values of self-worth, but average values of emotional stability. She rejected my response and said I couldn’t be higher than a 2 on her scale. The discussion ended, my mother was summoned, and I was prescribed heavy dosages of anti-depressants. As I said, we never returned. We never got the medicine either.

Everywhere we look, we’re told it’s a big deal to go to a “shrink” for help. What we have to remind ourselves is that any doctors are just as much a person as the rest of us. However, this acts as a double-bladed sword: a “patient” is really just finding someone that is willing to listen, while the “doctor” is just as susceptible to the stigma as the rest of us. In my search, I only found one psychological professional that I could talk to without being judged by the very person trying to “help.” The friends that I have found, however, tend to listen much better, as long as I’m willing to open up. Therefore, I will close with a question and a challenge. Why do we seek a commercialized solution to what everyone refers to as a “personal problem?” Telling someone already facing a struggle that they are not welcome in our natural space forces emotions to bottle up until they burst, then opens the door so reflection can scatter the remains as soon as they have been recollected. I invite everyone to join me in offering kind ears and loving arms whenever and wherever they are needed. Bring mental health back out to the masses and away from hidden offices.


Into the Minds of Students

As I marched up the stairs, ready to chew Mr. Janus out, my thoughts rattled around my motoring brain. Why couldn’t he excuse me from the stupid lab? I had just gotten back from a science camp I had applied and gotten into on a full ride. Having missed the first two days after Christmas Break, I figured catching up wouldn’t be a problem, but with an unexpected lab from the world’s biggest stickler, my new teacher, and worst of all, my girlfriend’s helicopter father, I found out just how difficult it could actually be.

Dodging my way through the hallway, I shot glances up at the rest of the students, my new classmates. None of them were within two years of age from me. They looked around at each other, some nearly as lost as myself, but many falling into the same routines they’d developed over the last few years, as if middle school were nothing new. I, on the other hand, felt completely lost after moving across the country for my dad’s job and bypassing my final year in elementary school. It was the second one my mother had taken from me, against my wishes.

What am I doing here? Summer is still raging and all my friends still have weeks upon weeks before they head back, moving on to college, but I’m back sitting in a high school classroom. Me, the natural born leader, the straight-A student, the nationally ranked athlete. I earned my way all the way to the national championships and lost only because my calf was ripped in two by the spike on the shoe behind me, but none of that means anything to the counselors. I kept in contact with all my teachers and completed some form of every assignment that was assigned, but that doesn’t matter either. I missed more days than the school board feels an average student should miss and now I’m back in classes I aced before their credits were erased from my records with a cold decision from a distant committee.

Staring across the hall, across the fluorescent dresses and sharp tuxes, across the bubbling mass of dancing bodies and flapping hair, across the thick atmosphere of live and lust and teen spirit, my eyes meet those that I’ve never forgotten. Six years, three months, and fourteen days of solitude among the small city of students I’ve coexisted with and my rickety human memory could do nothing to shake the perfect hues and textures that reflect the soft hazelnut that reverberates through her entire being. I recognize myself in those eyes and see what those 76 months have done.

*None of the characters contained here embody any individuals. They are crafted to reflect traits, details, and personalities found in myself and those around me, but contain no equivalents that I have met.

Why do You Write?

Why do I write?

I write to find understanding

From myself and others
For myself and others
Both now and forever

I write to seek knowledge

Opposite of fear
Teaching myself
Then sharing with peers

I write to show emotion

Life’s common thread
Pour out my own
Help others instead

I write for the peace

Calm my own soul
Share all life’s secrets
Strengthen us all

I write to find understanding

Both within and without
Until eternity ends
Beginning right now

Why do you write?

Qualifications No One Can Give

The Laws of Physics. The Laws of Morality. The Laws of the Nation.

Everyday, people everywhere look to each other for support, for opinions, for the rights to think or do what they want. They look to people they know or to society as a whole to set rules and laws. They look for others to allow them to act certain ways and prevent others from acting differently. They look for others to define what can and cannot happen in the universe. And they, themselves, enforce these codes on those people they come across. When the majority opinion shifts, so do the laws of the universe. Sometimes the shift comes with new knowledge and brings society closer to the truth. Other times, this simply does not hold true. Anything we, as humans, do to quantify or qualify our surroundings can never reach the true truth and will always fall short of true reality. There’s a saying: “If the mind were simple enough to be understood, it could not understand.” The universe is the same way–any new piece of data we receive leads to far more questions than it answers. This is not to say that we cannot try to understand. This is not even to say that we shouldn’t try to come as close to full comprehension as possible. The point is that sometimes acceptance is the solution to a problem. Sometimes words cannot describe a feeling. Sometimes a picture cannot portray the magnificence of an event. We need to learn how to believe and act, even when logic fails.

In class the other day, we were given a list of emotions with obscure names no one recognizes. These ranged from the fatigue caused by senseless violence to various forms of loneliness to some other extreme metaphysical sensations. Everyone feels them, yet no one can describe them without difficulty. Later, while reading a friend’s blog, I came across another example: the need to express thoughts through actions rather than words. Everyone feels far more than they can express, and words (including onomatopoeia) can convey only a small fraction of these transferable impressions.

Yet we continue to sympathize and empathize on very deep levels.

The current topic up at youth group is relationships (both romantic and non) between people. After being asked to list different qualities needed for a strong relationship, the Pope’s words were shared and Forgiveness and Empathy were named the two most important aspects in a relationship. Forgiveness is the ability to move beyond past wrongs committed by both oneself and another person. Everyone has heard of it’s importance and struggles to live in it to some degree. Empathy, however, is addressed much less in society. By drawing from personal experience, we are all capable of trans-locating ourselves into another person’s shoes fairly well. The difficulty is truly making ourselves accept what we see and feel while outside our own beings. The near impossibility then comes when we are given the chance to act on our new findings.

The moment we are called to action is when logic begins to fail. We are all taught that a kind word can heal any wound. What is often left out is the very idea that makes feeling empathy difficult: our inability to use the language we have chosen. Empathy is felt most strongly, and therefore expressed most frequently, with those who have done wrong or have been wronged. As a result, it relates very closely to both forgiveness and sympathy, yet any verbal attempts at its expression usually come across as sympathy, which can do more harm than good in many situations. Despite any eloquence that may be backing a supportive speech, logic leaves the building under grief, stress, euphoria, and other strong emotions. Sympathy places one person in a superior place to another person or group when the “inferior” group is at its lowest–it is perceived as a kick to a man who is down. We are all equal, and just as we cannot qualify life, we are not qualified to place anyone in a superior position to anyone else.

The sole difference between sympathy and empathy is that empathy supports two people fighting together on the same ground. In order to bring ourselves to the same levels as everyone else, however, we must recognize the same faults in ourselves as those we see in everyone around us. At the same time, it is essential to hold onto the hope that we can be as pristine as we originally appeared to ourselves in our jaded mirrors. One more funny drift from logic: hope is one of the most abstract ideas in life, yet it is always regarded as the most universal. And it is our job to spread the most universal theme in life to everyone we meet, regardless what position they’re in.

Give someone a hug and let them feel comforted and secure where they are before you judge them and try to drag them into your “enlightened” lifestyle.

What’s in a number?

Age is but a number. What is a number?

Take a stab in the dark at the age of the featured male.

Stab taken?

How well did you do? He is eighteen. For those that haven’t seen, that is me. I am a teenager. I am not 27; I am not 35; I am not 84. I walked into work today and I was told I had a “daddy” look. Cara, the coworker asking, thought I was in my mid to late twenties. She almost turned the café upside-down when she found out I’m only 18. Similarly, at my uncle’s 50th birthday party, I had a guest come up to me and try directing me into a conversation with his son because I “looked about his age.” The individual in question here reminded me of one of my middle school cross country coaches: big, buff, balding, and around thirty. I will admit though, I’ve had times I’ve had myself fooled. There is a picture of my brother and I on top of Mt. Baldy in Philmont in which I feel as though I could be my brother’s uncle with the shadowing and wind-whipped hair aging me. Finally, to address the 84, I have been put through a couple of age-approximation programs and a few of my pictures have spun out results putting me in my upper 70s or 80s.

I’m not the only one though. I have a friend that used to play guitar or bass at her church every weekend and there were multiple occasions that she’d complain about college guys trying to hit on her because she looked their age. She was a high-school underclassman at the time. Another friend is told, and admits to feeling as though she looks twelve – a couple of twelve year olds at a park even came up to us and, thinking we were dating, said I was too old for her because I was eighteen and she was twelve (We were both seventeen at the time).

In addition to physical maturity, there is definitely a deviation among mental maturities (and absolutely no standard for that either). There are times that I act as though I’m “fully grown up” and that I “have it all together,” but there are other times that I behave like a “third grader” (I’ve been told that one specifically a couple times). I try to act maturely in the right situations, but it can be difficult. Then again, a third grader can try to act maturely too. Maybe the measure of maturity should be how often a person can act the age they need to be in a moment, whether that be a middle-aged executive or a carefree kindergartner.

Of course, applying an aging scale independent of physical age is nigh on impossible, but I’d like to issue the challenge of imagining a world in which is does work. What would it look like?