Mind Munches

The love child of word vomit & metaphors

What Prison Break Reminded Me About Myself, Wentworth Miller & Everyone Else

This past month I’ve been watching Prison Break for the first time which, if you’ve ever seen it, you know by “watching” I mean barely leaving my room to participate in society. I’ve been totally consumed by the storyline and the characters and have had ongoing battles of turning my “I need to help the guys from Fox River stay out of trouble” brain off and turning my “I need to focus at work so I can make rent” brain on. One such character that has left me daydreaming, who has undoubtedly left most of the world in a similar state of mind since the show was first released 12 years ago, is Michael Scofield.

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Portrayed by British-American actor Wentworth Miller, Michael Scofield is the heart of Prison Break. It is his mastermind scheme that gets him purposefully arrested and sent to Fox River penitentiary to breakout his brother Lincoln, who was wrongly accused of murder and set to receive the death penalty. Over the five-season story—which I’m only on season 3 of so far, so no spoilers!—we learn about the conspiracy behind Lincoln’s arrest, we watch the exquisite detail of Michael’s plan unfold, and we bite our nails as we watch the aftermath of both.

Whenever I get heavily involved in a television show, I like to look up the associated actors and actresses so I can get a better idea of where they came from. So you can imagine it took me all of about 20 seconds to want to know everything about Wentworth Miller. But what started as a joyful, heart-eyed exploration of my new TV crush, quickly turned into an eyebrow furrowing discovery of heart wrenching facts and fictions.

I found a post from 2016 on his Facebook page addressing a meme that had been created in light of a paparazzi photo captured of him hiking. I read through articles discussing his battle with depression, attempts at suicide, and the long road he took to come to terms with his sexuality. Comments flooded every post, many of them positive, praising Miller for his honesty and his activism. I sat teary eyed, reading through the words of strangers, wondering how much they would have helped Miller or any of the millions of others who have struggled with self-acceptance, during a time when they believed suicide was a viable option.

I thought of myself who, at the age of 14, while not struggling with thoughts of suicide, made a list of things I needed to change about myself in order to be attractive, well liked, and ultimately, happy. Little did I know, self-love is not intrinsic on a set of terms and conditions. You don’t have to look a certain way, you don’t have to hold a certain opinion, you don’t have to hide the things that make you different.

As I read up on Wentworth Miller and learned about everything he’s been through, all the successes and failures, triumphs and struggles, I began to appreciate and relate to him on an entirely new level. For it is what he’s gone through that made him the perfect person to portray Michael Scofield. It is who he is at his core that gave him the ability to make the character resonate with audiences for years to come. Without the true Wentworth Miller, Michael Scofield doesn’t exist.

We as human beings are all characters that make up this thing called life. And when we aren’t true to those characters, when we try to change them or prevent them from being exactly who they are meant to be, we rid the world of what they have to offer and the world is worse because of it.

In the simplest sense, a world without uniqueness and originality is a world without any of us. It is a world without color or beauty or wonder. It is a world without love or inspiration or compassion. It is a world without Wentworth Miller or Michael Scofield, and if there’s one thing I know for sure, I never want to live in that world.

5 Lessons I Learned from Hamilton & Lin-Manuel Miranda

Yesterday I saw Hamilton at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles and it’s safe to say my jaw has yet to stop hanging open. It lived up to all the hype and was somehow able to be better than I expected. For amongst the talent of the actors and actresses, the incredible music provided by the orchestra and the simple yet beautiful choreography and set design, the pure genius of the lyrics is what truly left me speechless. And while I could probably write an entire essay about the lessons I learned from the historical content of the play, I think that’s something you can only appreciate if you have the pleasure of seeing it in person. I did however walk away with a handful of lessons about the play itself, where it came from, what inspired it, and how it came to a city near me.

1) Consume Everything

Lin-Manuel Miranda first got the inspiration for Hamilton after picking up a copy of Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton titled, Alexander Hamilton. After reading it, he started to envision the story being told as a musical. Now, clearly this idea turned out, you know, decent. But just think what would have happened if Lin-Manuel Miranda never picked up a copy of that book. Or rather, think what wouldn’t have happened. All those critical accolades, all those sold out Broadway shows, even this very blog post wouldn’t exist if he hadn’t grabbed a copy of ole A. Ham at the airport. That being said, it’s important to consume as much of anything and everything as we can. You never know where you’re going to find a new inspiration or a new passion that could completely change your life. So read books, see movies, get out in the world and take in what it has to offer, then (preferably) write a kickass musical about what you find so I can have something to do on Tuesday nights.

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2) Pursue the Crazy

“Honestly, Lin, a musical about Alexander Hamilton?” I have no proof of anyone ever saying this to him, but I think it’s safe to assume that at least one person was on team doubt during this endeavor. But Lin-Manuel Miranda had an idea, a vision, and he pursued it, no matter how many people gave him the “Honestly, Lin” speech. And in the end, it didn’t matter how many people told him he was crazy, because that quickly became far outnumbered by the people telling him he was a genius, and probably overshadowed by a vast number of people asking him to sign their baby. Regardless, Team Doubt is looking pretty bad these days.

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3) Be Bold

In my post-show stalking of Lin-Manuel Miranda, I also learned that his first performance of what would eventually become the opening number of Hamilton, was at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music and the Spoken Word. You know, a casual venue…where he had been invited to perform a different song! At the time he was starring in the Broadway show In the Heights—which he also wrote the music and lyrics for, isn’t it a shame this guy has no talent?—and was invited to perform music from that show, but instead he showed up with a song about Alexander Hamilton, thus treating the White House stage as the birthing room for what would go on to become one of the most successful shows in Broadway history. The man doesn’t go halfway, people.

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4) Do it Your Way

“A musical about a key segment of American history, great! Wait—what do you mean it features a lot of hip hop music?” Again, I have no proof of this conversation taking place because I wasn’t in the room when it happened, but I’m just spitballing here. Lin-Manuel Miranda could have showed up with a very proper, classical musical with beautiful gowns and elaborate choreography and a few tangent storylines that were only included as people pleasers. Instead, he created this musical mastermind of a history lesson that somehow makes you want to dance and go back to 11th grade to pay closer attention at the same time. There is no recipe written anywhere that told him this would work, but he believed in it, and sometimes that’s the hardest part of any pursuit.

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5) Go Out and Do It!

Whatever it is. Whatever idea you have bouncing around in your head. Whatever you find yourself daydreaming about during the workday. Go after it! Write it down. Start taking the small steps. Put a plan into motion. Because just as Hamilton probably wouldn’t have existed if Lin-Manuel Miranda hadn’t grabbed that copy of Alexander Hamilton at the airport, it also wouldn’t exist if he didn’t dig deeper into the inspiration he found in its pages. So stop throwing away your shot. Stop letting those ideas and dreams simmer out. Believe in them, chase them, write a historical hip-hop monologue about them, you never know where it might take you.

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If You’re Willing to Start from the Ground, You Can Build Anything

Can I have a show of hands for anyone who has been personally victimized by country duo, Dan & Shay’s song “From the Ground Up?”

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Right, okay, that’s what I thought. Let it be known that my hand it also up.

In case you’re unfamiliar with this song, have a listen:

Or, if you want the short version: it’s a painfully adorable ballad about finding true love and building a life with someone.

The first verse of the song starts like this:

Grandma and grandpa painted a picture of sixty-five years
And one little house
More than a memory
More than saying I do
Kiss you goodnight’s and I love you’s
 

And then the chorus goes like this:

And we’ll build this love from the ground up
Now ’til forever it’s all of me, all of you
Just take my hand
And I’ll be the man your dad hoped that I’d be

It’s the kind of song that gives you all the feels and makes you yell at the ceiling of your car in the middle of traffic—or at least that’s what it does to me.

When I was little, I dreamed about finding the one. The person all the Disney movies and romantic comedies promised me. The person that would make everything make sense. Now, as I grew up, I figured out that you don’t actually need someone else to make your life make sense. I figured out you can do that all on your own. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t wish for someone to stand beside. Someone to laugh and cry and get all crotchety with. Someone who, when this song comes on the radio in the middle of dead stop traffic, you realize is so noticeably absent that it provokes you to yell at the aforementioned ceiling. BUT I DIGRESS.

The key point to note in this song is that the singer proposes he and his true love build their life together from the ground up. When he brings up the love story of his grandparents, he isn’t saying, “we have that,” or “it will be easy to have that,” rather he’s saying, “if we work hard, we could have that.”

In our lives, we will wish for a lot of things that will require us to build from the ground up. Be it a love story, a career, a legacy or a home. But no matter what we’re building or the various tools we’ll need to do so, every bout of architecture starts with a Day One. A commitment to the desire. And one of the marvels about life is that we often don’t know when that Day One will be.

You never know when you’re going to find your true passion. You never know when you’re going to meet that person the romantic comedies promised you. But isn’t it a wonder to know that every day you wake up with an open heart, every day you meet someone new or try something you never thought you would, it could be the start of something that changes your life forever?

So even though there may be songs or movies or coworkers or couples walking down the street that sometimes make you want to jealous road rage your way off the (literal or metaphorical) freeway, it’s important we don’t take advantage of these days. We never know what they might be teaching us, or the Day Ones they might be leading us towards.

And hey, you never know, Day 1 could be today.

Fighting Hate With Love

Female. White/Caucasian. Middle Class.

On any given form, this is how I would be identified. These are the statistics I would represent if I participated in a poll. These are the bubbles I filled in for every standardized test I took in school. But for anyone who’s ever met me, known me, or ever even seen me in passing, I’m obviously much more than that.

I’m curious. I’m quiet. I’m friendly and tough and a terrible liar. I love to write and read and be outside in the fresh air. I love sweet potatoes and hate peanut butter and will try to make anything into a quesadilla. I’m funny, or at least I try to be, and I’m smart, determined and constantly pushing myself to be better.

These are the things that forms don’t tell you. These are the things that statistics don’t tell you. These are the things that stereotypes, discrimination and bigotry don’t tell you. Not about me, or anyone else.

In the real world, where people are living, breathing things, checked boxes and filled bubbles don’t matter. They will never tell you about the morals of a person or whether or not you will relate to them, get along with them, like, or even love them. Only conversation can do that. Only time, patience and mutual respect can do that. But our world seems to have forgotten that.

Recently, it seems that people believe the only mediums of expression available to them are hate and violence. Aggression and disrespect. I watch and I’m not only hurt, but confused.

How? I want to ask. How can you feel this way?

No, I don’t want to know when you started feeling this way, I don’t want to know why you started feeling this way, and I don’t want to know who you believe made you feel it. I want to know how.

How in this world built by so many beautiful, unique, hardworking people. How in this world of deep oceans, vast forests, tall mountains and endless skies. How in this world of kindness, compassion and understanding. How can you possibly believe that hate offers you more than love? How can you believe that someone is less important, less valuable, or less worthy than you are? How can you live each day hating the statistic filled inside the bubbles and boxes, rather than taking the time to get to know the person doing the filling?

Don’t you know what a big world we live in? Don’t you understand how much life you deprive yourself of? How much beauty and depth and color? Can’t you hear the hate in your voice? Can’t you feel it killing you? Will you ever realize that you don’t have power, never will have power or anything close to it, not when love exists, and it always will?

Well, hear this. Know this. Understand this: I do not and will not meet your hate with hate. But I will not concede. I will not watch idly as you spread it day by day. I will fight, I will love, not to tear you down but to drown you out. Your voices will only make my voice louder. Your darkness will only make my light brighter. And your hate will only make my love stronger.

Wax On, Wax Off, Be Patient

This past Mother’s Day my brother got up in front of our church to talk about a lesson he learned from a rather unlikely source. He started out by relating to all of us, asking if we’d ever felt impatient when it came to getting the things we want out of life.

“Have you ever felt like you were ready for something, but no matter how hard you tried, you saw no forward progress?”

He didn’t ask us to raise our hands, but it felt almost impossible not to. I’ve grown all too familiar with that nagging impatience, this year more than ever. There’s so much I want to do, so much I want to accomplish, so much I want to become and I keep saying, keep praying, I’m ready. I’m ready now.

It’s not an uncommon feeling, and it’s not one I’m unfamiliar with. How many times throughout our lives have we thought, “okay, I’m here in my life but I’m ready to be there, and I’m ready right now! I’m done waiting.” But then how often do we get there or somewhere else we never imagined, and realize how little we had known before, and how much further we had to go to in order to truly appreciate where we ended up?

“Think of The Karate Kid,” my brother said. “Daniel Larusso, or Daniel-san as Mr. Miyagi calls him, shows up on his first day of training and pretty much says, ‘I’m ready to be a karate master now!’ and what does Mr. Miyagi do? He gives him a sponge and tells him to wax the floor. He gives him a brush and tells him to paint the fence.”

We all nod, having probably seen the movie more times than we could count. We knew what the sponge and the brush really stood for. We knew their disguise as household chores were actually training methods of their own. I thought back to the first time I saw the movie and how my mind was blown when Daniel figured out he’d learned exactly what he’d hoped to be taught, even if he hadn’t realized he’d been taught it in the first place.

“Recently I’ve started to think about those things in my life that seem like chores, or the things that are put in front of me that seem like nothing more than a waste of time. I’m starting to think they’re not.”

I sat back in my chair, letting the wisdom of my brother’s words sink in. We are all Daniels. We are all being challenged and trained to get where we’re intended to go, even if we don’t know it yet. The lessons we are learning with each day—even if they seem unrelated to anything we’re hoping to accomplish—could be exactly what we need to accomplish something even bigger.

“So we just need to keep it up,” my brother said in closing, “wax on, wax off.”

A Quick, Cheesy Metaphor About Fireworks

With yesterday being the 4th of July, I, as well as many others, found myself sitting in a lawn chair, looking up at the evening sky as it filled with fireworks. I was surrounded by my family, as well as hundreds of strangers, and we all “oohed” and “ahhed” in unison, shrieking and geeking over the mix of colors and sounds, even though we’ve all seen them many times before.

Oftentimes, in these moments of undeniable awe, my mind will wander. Searching for inspiration, wisdom or—more often than not—super cheesy metaphors. Last night, I got a heavy dose of cheese.

It was about halfway through the show, when the fireworks really started to pick up. Everywhere I looked they were booming and falling to the beat of a patriotic song. I watched as the small orange sparks snaked their way into the dark sky and then burst into magnificent displays of color and sound. Some were easy to follow from the ground up, others seemed to sneak by me, lighting up the sky in a radiant surprise.

It reminded me a lot of life. (Warning: cheese ahead!) How sometimes it can seem as though we spend forever looking up at a dark sky, waiting for something amazing to happen. Waiting, hoping, praying that any second it will come to life with all the colors we’ve worked so hard to find. And sometimes we’ll find them. Sometimes the sky will awaken in ways we never imagined and we’ll find ourselves drowning in gratitude and wonder. Other times however, the sky will stay dark. We’ll sit out there in our (now figurative) lawn chairs, waiting and waiting, and yet the colors will not come.

I’ve been there. Waiting. Craning my neck up at a dusky sky, expecting nightfall to bring something incredible. I’ve been there when there were fireworks and when there was silence. I’ve left awed and I’ve left disappointed. The important thing is to keep looking. To keep seeking. To keep parking your car over a mile away and hiking up to a spot you heard from a friend of a friend will provide a good view. Because no matter how long the sky stays dark, it will always come to life again. Sometimes in ways we expect. Sometimes in ways we don’t. Sometimes in big grand displays, sometimes in small, beautiful flashes.

Last night, after the show was over, my family and I packed up our things and made our way back down the hill and through the long crowded streets to our car. By the time we saw my mom’s Honda, we were all sweating and tired, ready for bed even though it meant the end of a long weekend. But even though our eyes grew heavy, we smiled, for the trek up and back had been worth it, as always. And as such, we knew we’d make the very same trip next year to do it all over again. In the meantime, we’ll work hard. We’ll be patient and kind and diligent as we seek other sources of color to light up our skies. Sometimes we’ll even find that we can be the long awaited color in the dark sky of another.

If we want to get really cheesy with it—which let’s face it, WE DO—we’ll say it like Katy Perry once (or perhaps 2000 times due to radio overplay) said it: baby, you’re a firework. Come on let your colors burst.

Let them light up your own sky, let them light up the sky of another. Let them remind you of the colors to be seen in the nights that follow those plagued by darkness. Because don’t you know that therrrre’s still a chance for youuuu, ‘cause there’s spark in youuu, you just gotta igniiite the lighhht and letttt it shiiine just owwnnn the niiiiight like the fourth of Julyyy, ‘cause baby you’re a—well you get it.

Calling All Humans, I Want Your Garbage

Calling all humans, I want your garbage.

No, not your actual garbage. Not your literal, tangible, probably rank garbage. I’m talking about your figurative garbage. More specifically: your morning garbage.

(How many times do I have to say garbage before it becomes a drinking game?) 

We’ve all had bad mornings. The nuclear, should have stayed in bed, can this seriously be happening type mornings. The garbage mornings, if you will. And since we’ve all had these, I thought there should be a place to talk about them. To laugh at them. To prove they are actually a thing that happened, even if it may seem impossible.

So, I’ve started This Terrible Morning. A blog dedicated to the horrible, awful and hilarious mornings that tend to haunt us every once in a while.

This is where your garbage comes in.

I want your stories, your pictures, your sarcastic turn of phrases. All of it. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a writer or a comedian or a photographer. The only credentials you need are an honest voice, a great story, and the willingness to share it.

So if you’ve ever had one of those mornings that started with a (maybe literal) bang and ended in a (hopefully figurative) fire, please do me and the Internet the honor of sharing it! And if you’re someone who secretly enjoys reading about those fires, please do me and the people brave enough to share theirs the honor of subscribing!

You can find the blog at www.thisterriblemorning.com

You can submit your stories/pictures/etc. to thisterriblemorning@gmail.com

Music Can Still Heal, Love Can Still Prevail

In yesterday’s blog post I talked about KROQ’s Weenie Roast & Fiesta, the concert I attended over the weekend. I talked about all of the different aspects of a concert or music festival and some tips on how to maximize your experience. Then, last night, I got word of the horrific attack in Manchester at an Ariana Grande concert, which killed 22 people and injured over 50. I had no words.

This morning, as I pored over a number of news articles and blog posts responding to the attack, I couldn’t help but tear up. I had just been a concert goer. I had just spent an evening with my own favorite artists, singing and dancing and being carefree. There was an eerie air above my head. I felt almost guilty.

Then, I remembered something.

At Weenie Roast on Saturday, in the 8 o’clock hour, Imagine Dragons was onstage, performing my favorite set of the day. After about their 3rd song Dan Reynolds, the lead singer, took a few moments to speak on hate. He mentioned a problem one of his young daughters was having at school with another student. She’d been pushed down and told her pigtails were stupid and came home crying. He was heartbroken and angry that she had experienced hate for the first time, and was solemn knowing she’d only experience more as her life went on. But then, he shifted gears. He looked out at the crowd and smiled. We were all quiet and flushed from the long, hot day, and he told us we were beautiful. That we were every color and size and shape and ethnicity. And we were all there, together, letting music heal us.

“Because that’s what music does,” he said, “music heals us. It saves us from ourselves and from the world. It brings us together.”

We all applauded, but not the kind that feels obligated or appropriate, the kind that happens naturally, because we understand, because we agreed. He then bowed his head and thanked us all for being there and encouraged us to take the love and acceptance we shared in the space of music and spread it out amongst the world.

This tragedy in Manchester is unfathomable. It has harmed the world and its people in more ways than one. But one thing it didn’t do, it couldn’t do; one thing that terrorism can never accomplish, is destroying our ability to heal. To love. To persevere.

So, as we walk slowly in the wake of such darkness, we must remember that we are all carrying light, and as we continue to let it shine, we are winning. As we continue to let ourselves heal and be healed, we are winning. And if continue to fight hate with love, we will win.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of What Other People Think We Need

Like the skills required to dissect a frog, there are many lessons from my K-12 education that I’ve found a way to forget. However, there are also those I can’t help but remember: Eli Whitney’s cotton gin, the symbol for silver on the periodic table, and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Often showcased in a pyramidal diagram, Maslow’s theory recognizes the 5 essential needs of the individual, starting at the bottom with the most essential: physiological (i.e. food and water), and working its way up to safety (i.e. health and home), love/belonging (i.e. friendship and intimacy), esteem (i.e. acceptance and self-respect), and self-actualization (i.e. the understanding and achieving of one’s full potential). The needs are ranked on importance, assuming an individual cannot obtain higher, more complex needs before first satisfying the most basic. For example, an individual with a consistent supply of food and water would focus on their need for health and home, and only after those needs were met would they worry about friendship and intimacy. Simply put: One only feels the need for something when they have the time and resources to realize they need it.

Learning about Maslow’s theory in high school fascinated me. It made such sense and seemed so obvious. However, I quickly came to learn how far people tend to stray from its logicality.

After I graduated college, every conversation I had was based on my future plans. Did I have a husband yet? Did I have a career path? Was I going to become successful?

There I was a well-fed, well housed, and well-loved human being, proud of myself for pursuing and completing a formal degree and beginning to consider my full potential. I was reaching the peak of Maslow’s pyramid, drowning in the plenty, and yet my peers only identified what I lacked. Granted, there is a large difference between motivation and criticism, and I know that many questions came with good intentions and genuine support. They wanted me to be hungry for more, and I was, I just didn’t know quite what I was craving.

In today’s society, with the constant presence of social media, the discovery of what one lacks is an everyday occurrence. Be it a job, a significant other, or a bikini body, individuals yearn for what they lack without realizing the wealth in what they have that allows them to do so.

We all impose our own hierarchies, both in our lives and those of others around us, setting standards for what we believe a person needs in order to be x. (x being successful, happy, of value, etc.) But who can truly determine a level of success and happiness besides the person in question? Who is a better gage of our wealth than we who live off of its riches?

Maslow’s theory works under the simple assumption that we are all humans with needs and some of us will thrive where others lack. And while time and self-growth will continue to morph our own hierarchies, it is important to look back at Maslow’s original 5, appreciating the most basic and essential needs we have met that allow us to focus on the deeper and more complex. For with a basis of gratefulness, we can create a healthy hunger for progression, not only in our own hierarchy but also in those around us.

 

Give Up Your Guilty Pleasures

When I was in high school, I spent a lot of time running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I wanted to be liked and accepted and I thought the only way to achieve that was to like and accept the “right” things. Be it the clothes I should wear, the movies I should like, the music I should listen to. I had no idea who I was, so I hoped everyone else would tell me.

But even as I started to learn the game, I was still well aware I was cheating. I didn’t wear everything I was supposed to wear, and even when I did, I wore it a bit differently. I didn’t like all the movies I was supposed to like, and I listened to a lot of music that lie far outside the lines which were drawn. Everybody has those quirks though. Those little secrets we keep from the masses. We call them guilty pleasures.

Like most teenagers, I lived off of guilty pleasures. After a long day of playing the game, I’d come home, relieved I could finally relax. My family didn’t care what I wore or what I liked, they loved me regardless. And although it took me sometime, I grew to learn than anyone worth having in your life will hold the same opinion. As a result, guilty pleasures began to lose value.

A few years ago, I heard a quote from Foo Fighters’ front man Dave Grohl:

“I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you f*cking like something, like it. That’s what’s wrong with our generation: that residual punk rock guilt, like, “You’re not supposed to like that. That’s not f*cking cool.” Don’t f*cking think it’s not cool to like Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” It is cool to like Britney Spears’ “Toxic”! Why the f*ck not? F*ck you! That’s who I am, damn it! That whole guilty pleasure thing is full of f*cking shit.”

Sure, it featured a few more f-bombs than the average life lesson, but it sunk in all the same. When we give into the game of guilty pleasures, we essentially admit to being ashamed of a part of ourselves. In doing so, we prevent ourselves from ever truly becoming ourselves. And to quote Dave Grohl, that’s not f*cking cool.

So I say ditch the guilty pleasures. Like what you like, without shame. It’s what makes you who are. And the world needs who you are. It’s what keeps it interesting.