I found myself slipping away.
I was in a relationship with a woman struggling with bipolar depression, and she was adamant that no one should know what was going on. I was keeping everything locked inside myself, until I realized that my fiancée’s illness had become my illness.
Bottling everything up was taking a physical and mental toll on me. I needed an outlet desperately. I was on the brink of a physical and nervous breakdown when something pulled me back from the ledge: writing.
Along with therapy and meditation, writing saved me. I feel fortunate that a strong urge to write is deeply ingrained in me and that I had writing to turn to, like a trusted and nonjudgmental friend, during a tumultuous time in my life.
Writing out my fears, frustrations and desires helped release some of the pent up emotions that were stuck inside me. Since I did not want to betray my fiancée’s trust by sharing our reality with another person, I put my heart down on paper, purging myself from some of the toxins I had been ingesting.
Right away, the story seemed to write itself. Words and emotions poured out of me. I felt others might benefit from what I wrote, that people could relate to at least some of what I was going through: living with chronic pain, anxiety and depression, heartbreaks, frustration.
What started as a personal diary evolved into something I wanted to share with others. When my relationship with the young woman ended, I took a leap of faith and published my story as a book on Amazon.
And the response was wonderful.
I underestimated how many others were fighting their own battles. Many people appreciated hearing from someone who finally saw some light after having lived so long in darkness.
I found that sharing my weaknesses made many of my relationships stronger. My first book also led to new relationships and opened doors. One such opportunity was a spur-of-the-moment road trip around the southeastern United States, which led to my second book. A friend and I combined a desire for fun, travel and philanthropy into one amazing adventure. We gave money to deserving people along the way, with the understanding that those people had to choose someone else to whom to give the money.
Through writing both of those books, I came to feel stronger than I had in years—and less alone. People I met or reconnected with reminded me that everyone is going through something. There’s always a struggle, yet many people choose (or feel forced) to keep them private.
If you are struggling in some way—especially if you internalize the pain—I urge you to write out your feelings. You don’t have to share this with anyone, but you will exorcise the demons, so to speak.
These days, my writing is meant to inspire others and to provide an antidote to the negativity and sensationalism we see in the news and on social media. In my third book, I looked for people who are lighthouses for the rest of us, and they were not hard to find. Extraordinary people are all around us!
I’m thankful to know that, and to know them. And I’m thankful for the life-saving gift of writing.
Writing has taken me out of myself and connected me to people in new ways. I’ve discovered more about who I was, who I am and who I want to be, all while learning about others in the process. Writing gave my life a renewed purpose. Writing saved me.
As a nine-year-old, John O’Leary accidentally started a fire in his garage that caused his house to explode. One hundred percent of John’s body was burned; eighty-seven percent were the worst-case third-degree burns. After being rescued by his older brother, young John was in so much pain that he begged his little sister to get a knife out of the kitchen and kill him. Doctors at a nearby hospital gave John a one percent chance of surviving the night.
John O’Leary’s uplifting and amazing story—the love of a family, support from special people, and John’s own courage—is just one of ten such tales in my upcoming book, (Extra)Ordinary: More Inspirational Stories of Everyday People, which will be released on October 10, 2017. To read John’s story, pre-order your paperback or ebook copy at http://kicamprojects.com/shop/extraordinary-more/.
My last book, (Extra)Ordinary: Inspirational Stories of Everyday People (www.amazon.com/Extra-Ordinary), tells seven uplifting stories of people I know personally. Two of the young women I wrote about ended up becoming flight attendants. When I started seeing their Facebook posts depicting all of the cool places they were traveling to, I began asking questions. They assured me I’d love working as a flight attendant.
Up to that point, I’d flown five times in my life, two of those being for work. Since I’d rarely been on planes, becoming a flight attendant was something I had never considered before.
Fortunately, through writing that book, as well as my next book, (Extra)Ordinary: More Inspirational Stories of Everyday People (kicamprojects.com/extraordinary-more), I had learned a valuable life lesson: True growth rarely occurs INSIDE your comfort zone. Rather, lasting and significant growth takes place when we are willing to stretch ourselves to unfamiliar situations, ones that invoke a little (or a lot of) fear. I have found this to be true for me personally, professionally, and creatively.
After four weeks of classroom training, I had in-air training on real flights with actual passengers. I flew more in the first two days (eight flights) than I had in my entire life to that point. I got to stay in nice hotels 3-4 nights a week, a new location every night. This was quite different than the typical 9-to-5 job, “an entirely new world” as my flight attendant friends had accurately forewarned me.
I grew up in a conservative area of a conservative city (Cincinnati) in a conservative region of the country (Midwest). We are known for either never leaving Cincinnati or for moving away for awhile and then coming back to raise a family. Seemingly everyone knows or is related to everyone else. We like familiar.
When people find out I am a flight attendant—whether I am at home or Anywhere, USA—over and over again people say they’d always wanted to do so also, but for one reason or another they never did. I flashed back to when I went on a pay-it-forward road trip, which I wrote about in my second book—every place we went, person after person confessed they had always wanted to go on a road trip around the country. But, again, no one ever had done it.
Most of my friends are now married with kids, content to stay in town the rest of their lives. There is nothing wrong with that. But as a single guy without children, I feel blessed with the present time to go out and see the world, to meet new people, to learn and grow. Much like with my road trip, if I don’t go for this now, I might never have the opportunity again.
Due to multiple requests, I will post updates, funny stories and more on this blog in the coming weeks, so you can hear about my adventures. (Do not be surprised if I end up writing a book about this new life, working title The Life and Times of a Straight, Male Flight Attendant). I don’t want to live with regret ten, twenty, God-willing fifty years from now.
I have already been on more than fifty flights. I am excited to take advantage of my free flight benefits to fly to San Diego in a few weeks, my first time in California. Stepping out into uncertainty takes courage, so I am proud to say I took a leap of faith, I am giving this a shot. There is so much out there I want to see and experience.