A Love That Binds

It’s been months since I’ve written anything and posted here on WordPress,  I apologize for that. I’ve been back in Germany exactly 1 month, and not only have things changed here, but I have also changed. I had an amazing time living in Tel Aviv from August-December 2017 with my boyfriend. 4 months I was living outside of Germany, 4 months I lived in Israel. 

Germany has been for the past 9 years my home.  I have worked hard to become as German as possible, and it’s paid off. I successfully finished my apprenticeship in the hotel business back in 2013. In 2014 I switched career paths and starting working in a fashion boutique as a salesman. I loved my job, my colleagues and the challenges I had to conquer to prove myself to my boss. I worked there for almost 3 full years, up until I quit my job to move to Tel Aviv. Moving to Tel Aviv was a big decision, giving up my steady and safe job in Germany to move to a country where I can’t speak the language all because I love my boyfriend. Our relationship has been for the most part long distance, and we manage. The past 4 months together brought us closer, we experienced what it’s like to live together, which was incredible.  We haven’t fought yet, and overall we are both very compatible and easy to live with.  I was there for him when he needed me during the difficult time he has gone through in his career and personally. Meeting his family and falling in love with them too has been been amazing.  For the first time in a long time I was surrounded by the love of family. Despite everything we are currently going through, we are there for each other.  In 4 months I was able to experience and learn how to adapt to the city and the culture. 

My wish that evening was, that everything turns out the way it’s meant to, with as little pain as possible and lots of laughter. Roni says “We make plans, and God laughs at them”, my boyfriend is a genius, at least that statement is genius anyway.  It’s true, almost everything we had planned has not been in our favor.  I was only supposed to be in Tel Aviv until November, then we were going to move together to Berlin. We both planned on finding jobs we love, our dreams would start coming true, we could help his family out, and we can travel to the USA to see my family. Plans were forced to change, moving to Berlin is now put on hold for at least a year and a half. I’m literally “stuck” here in Germany, trying to find a job and get enough money to go back, get us a small apartment, get a work visa and just be where I need to be. Being back here at “home” has made me realize that my heart is no longer here in Germany with me, the only thing that is here is my body and that’s without energy.  I didn’t know how much energy Roni gave me, just being near him made our situation bearable. 

Now sitting here without him has shown me just how much I need him. I thought I was the one who was giving him the strength, love and support he needed to get through the depressing and difficult challenges he was going through, and that’s what I love. I love to be the person he can hold onto, the person who is there at the end of the day to give him a hug, the man who cuddles him in bed at night. He did exactly the same things for me, and half the time I didn’t realize it. I am thankful that he is in my life and has changed my life for the better. 

These next few months will be even more difficult, and in order to be together soon, we are going to have to be strong, focused on our goal and understanding of each other. I don’t know how quickly we will earn the money needed to help us get back on our feet, but we will. We’ve got this! The understanding that this situation we are in is only temporary and the hope that we will be together soon, is the love that holds us together. 

Memories and the next generation. 

History is a part of ever persons existence, we wake up in the morning with the DNA of our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and so on running through our bodies. Standing in front of the mirror trying to get my hair styled, looking at every wrinkle and spot on my face, I see marks and similarities to my ancestors before me. Not only is the physical influenced by each persons history, but also our psychological traits and thinking patterns have been influenced by the bloodline that has lived before us. We have the ability to learn from the past, and we need to pave the way for future generations.  Our world now has been shaped, the world for the next 20years is being shaped now, but the world my nephew Justins children will live in has not. Justin just turned 1 year old on September 3rd, and looking at him makes me want to make a positive impact in the world he will grow up in and start a family in. His children’s world has not been decides yet, and it’s our job now to make sure that it is better than the world we live in now. 

My nephew Justin Z. at his 1st birthday party September 3rd, 2017.

Justin has the most beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen, and he is most if the time smiling. My sister says he is a very happy baby. When I look at him, I see a bit of his father in him, very little of my sister in him, some expressions he makes are the same expressions I used to make as a baby. He has a very strong bloodline, full of hard working immigrants and determined ancestors running through his little veins. Justin is named after my grandpa Justin Cochran, I was the only grandchild who met my grandpa. I was 2 years old when he died of a heartattack in 1993. I used to remember some things about him, but through the years all the memories I now have of him are the stories my dad and his sisters would tell me. Justins mom, my sister was born about 4 months after grandpa passed away. He knew she was on her way, but he never had the chance to meet her. Grandpa would love his great-grandbaby Justin. 

Grandpa Cochran and I sometime in 1991.

My grandpa was a godly christian man, honest, hard working, a marine veteran, a police officer, a deacon at church, a friend that is always willing to help, a caring son, a loving husband, a loving father and loving grandfather. He would keep a notebook or diary about events that happened in his life, he also kept track of what bible passages he read that day. When he finished reading the bible, he would start reading it again.  That is what he was doing when he died, he had just finished mowing the lawn and sat down on a stump (his prayer stump) in the backyard and started listen to the bible in cassette tape. When grandma saw him laying on the ground, she rushed out to see what was wrong and even though she was a trained nurse the CPR didn’t help. Grandpa had already passed. 

My Grandparents, Justin and Edith Cochran.

After grandpa died, grandma bought a house in Freeport, Illinois, my aunt Susie moved in to help her, grandma had diabetes and the effects were starting to take their toll on her physical health. After my aunt Susie married my uncle Bill (who then also moved into the house) they had a pool installed in the backyard. My grandma was amazing, growing up I thought she was a queen, or at least filthy rich….that was far from the case. She had a pool in her backyard, 2 bathrooms in the house, 3 bedrooms and a finished basement with a big screen TV.  Ok the big screen TV was because she was going blind and could hardly see anything, but I don’t really know that as a kid. She loved her kids, and her grandkids. She was a night owl and could stay awake until early in the morning watching TV. She loved TV shopping on QVC, which is why everyone often got things we really didn’t need. I did get a robotic dog one Christmas which was cool! She was also very thoughtful and had told my father that when I graduate college to give me the bible my grandpa had bought with his retirement money. 

This is what was written in the bible cover for me.

I received the bible when I turned 12, back in 2002. Grandmas health wasn’t good and she wanted to see me get the bible. On my birthday we were camping and we celebrated at the campground, when my dad gave me the bible. My sister Christi also received a set of pearls grandma had bought her. Grandma lived long enough to meet all but 2 of her grandchildren (Rachel and Andi who were adopted later). My sister Anna was almost 2 when grandma was taken to the hospital about a week before Christmas 2002. It was very clear that grandma wouldn’t make it out of the hospital, my uncle Grant and his family flew from Alaska to Illinois to be with us all. Grandma went off all medication except morphine on a Monday, yet she held on until Wednesday when Grant and family arrived. I am the oldest Cochran grandchild, I was 12 at the time, Christi was 9 and Anna 1. My cousins were all, I remember us colouring and destroying the magazines in the waiting room. Mom drove us home that night, dad and his siblings stayed at the hospital that Christmas eve. On Christmas day, I remember waking up, waking mom and Christi up and going g downstairs, dad was laying asleep on the couch. Seeing him there meant that grandma had passed, she died Christmas morning 2002. Mom took us to her families side (the Barthel side) for Christmas celebrations. Somehow Christmas 2002 and the funeral will always be a bitter sweet Christmas memory, it was sad and there was a lot of crying, but also my dad and his siblings opened up and reminisced a lot. The whole family was there, the love was there. That was the last time the whole Cochran clan was together at 1 time, which is why it was a great Christmas.  

Great-grandma Schoonhoven and us kids Christmas 2002.
My Grandparents tombstone.

The legacy that my grandparents left us was one of love. They loved each other and through all the ups and downs they held onto each other. God was the center of their relationship, and in all they did they tried to honour God.  My grandparents closest friends were the Schuberts, Gary and Lorraine which were after the death of my grandpa, honorary grandparents to us. The Schuberts were neighbours of my grandparents , and went to the Lena Baptist Church where my grandparents went. They were close friends for well over 20 years. My parents actually met through this friendship, when my moms sister married into the Schubert family. Back in the day my grandparents swapped houses with the Schuberts once or twice, they basically moved houses just for fun. One story I remember well is when grandma and Lorraine were on a road trip or driving somewhere, and because they needed to use the restroom they stopped at a gas station. Either they went in the men’s bathroom or it was just 1 bathroom, anyway, there was a toilet and a urinal.  Urinals must have been new at that time or my grandma wasn’t thinking, she was just so excited that finally someone invented a place to put your purse instead of on the dirty floor. Yes, she put her purse in the urinal. At least that’s how the story goes. 

Just In Time BBQ.

My grandfathers legacy also lives on through my father, and uncle Bill, my sister Anna and everyone else who works at Just In Time BBQ. Just In Time was the name of the small farm my grandpa had, a few goats and stuff, nothing major and more hobby. He liked that play on words with his name. My father, a professional chef started Just In Time BBQ about 5 years ago. He and my Uncle started off by going to BBQ shows and challenges, then they started catering to parties and family gatherings. Now they run a small restaurant in Cedarville, Illinois. It was always my father’s dream to own his own restaurant, and when my nephew was born, My dad decided to quit his job and make this restaurant thing happen. My grandpa and grandma would be proud of how far we all have come, all of us grandkids are now adults, except Anna who is 16. Our own lives are starting, we are settling, or at least trying. The next generation to take the Cochran name will be arriving anyday now, my cousin and his wife are awaiting the birth of Theodore Cochran. Life goes on.

Tel Aviv, my move and new challenges..

Moving includes a lot of planning, decisions and courage.  I moved from the USA to Europe February 14th, 2009, and that seemed pretty easy. Yes, it took a lot of courage, but I was 18, naive and happy to be in Europe. I grew as a person during my 8 years in Germany, I learned German, successfully finished my apprenticeship as a Hotelfachmann  (Hotel Industry Expert), I had a few relationships, loved and was loved, and I also made a lot of great friends! Do I regret anything? No, when I make a decision, I know that at the end of the day whether the decision was good or bad, it was my choice and I have to live with the outcome. If it was a “bad” decision, then so be it. My responsibility is to find a way to make the best out of a bad situation and work even harder to better myself as a person in the process. Life is full of lessons, and if you love learning, then you might learn a few more lessons than most.  I try my hardest not to let my thoughts run wild, and overthinking is not something I do either. Whatever is meant to be will be, que sera sera. 

On August 7th of this year, I turned 27 years old. There are a few things that I know for certain:

  1. I am not the skinny 18 year old boy I was back in 2009 when I first arrived in Germany. (I am no longer skinny, the German beer and bread is just too good).
  2. The challenges I have faced in the past 8 years where hard, and with the help of friends and relationships, I have overcome those challenges. 
  3. The boyfriends I have had, all have made some impact on my life, my character. For better or for worse I am who I am because of my ex boyfriends, the relationship with my family and the influence of my friends. 
  4. Life goes on. No matter how difficult things were at times, that includes one full-time job and a part-time job (both in Frankfurt) and I could only afford spaghetti noodles and ketchup, life goes on. I survived, and had I not survived I would be dead, so it’s a win win situation. As long as we are not dead, we are alive and we need to live! 
  5. Money isn’t everything. Honestly, money and “status” has always been important to me in a relationship. The hopeless romantic I am and growing up on Disney movies, I have waited and waited for my “prince” to come. That is not important to me anymore, living and being happy with myself is important to me now.
  6. Follow your heart. At the end of my life, whenever that may be, it is my desire to be able to say “I lived, and I lived my way.”.

    27 is not old, I know that, even though the grey hair is slowly becoming noticeable, but is 27 too old to be 18 and naive? Moving to Israel, is it too crazy? Too irresponsible? When I told my friends that I was moving to Tel Aviv, their overall reaction was surprise.  They know me and know how I think, so once the shock wore off they were supportive. There were some ex boyfriends who think I’m crazy, but I guess I’m just too hard to get over. Moving was not as difficult as I thought it would be, sorting out my health insurance, quiting my job, getting my little yorkie all the shots he needed to travel, and saying goodbye to my work collegues and my friends. The hardest part was really just saying goodbye to friends. 

    The move took place on August 9th, 2017. I boarded a El Al plane with my dog in Frankfurt, Germany and flew to Tel Aviv, Israel. My fantastic boyfriend Roni was there to pick us up. We hadn’t seen each other for over 2 months and the wait was finally over! The “waiting” for him was worth it, that night was phenomenal and the sex amazing! Just knowing he is near me is enough to make me smile. His beautiful brown puppy dog eyes that can stare right through me, those eyes I can look into for hours. Roni makes me laugh, his humour is great, I laugh and smile more than I have in a very long time. It’s paradise here, or at least that is my opinion, but what Do I want to achieve here? Do I have a job here in Tel Aviv? No. Financially stable? No. So how could I be so naive??? How could I quit a job in the fashion industry, which I love, a job I had for almost 3 years? Why did I leave the life I have spent so many years building up in Germany? Could anyone be worth me leaving so much of my life behind? Is anyone so amazing that I should give up my securities and walk blindly into the unknown? Yes… me!

    When I was visiting Roni in June, I came to Tel Aviv to see him for a week, due to certain circumstances (which are staying private) our plans for moving to Berlin were put on hold. Family is extremely important to Roni, and that is one thing I admire about him. He has a great relationship with his family, a relationship I can hardly dream to have with parents. A long distance relationship is ok, it takes a lot of honesty and dedication, but for how long can a long distance relationship last? I asked him if he would be ok with me moving to Tel Aviv, he said yes! 2 months later and I am sitting in the apartment, in hot Tel Aviv.  Did I move here for Roni? Yes, and no. 

    In Germany I was at a standstill, my job as a fashion stylist was a lot of fun, but I was not moving forward. There were no new challenges, things were getting easy and I was getting bored. I love learning, experiencing new things and that is why I am here. I moved for myself, to grow as person, to live and to love. Being near Roni, sleeping in bed with him at night is fantastic, it’s a dream come true. He feels like home, and home is where my heart is. I am here, because I want to be home. This new change in my life will have an impact on my future, and whether it be a good or bad change, life will go on and it’s my job to keep living. 

    Week 3 in Tel Aviv has just begun, I will keep you all updated on what happens next. 

    Fashion faux pas and style blunders to avoid. 

    No one is perfect, and everyone has at one time made a questionable fashion choice. Not necessarily the greatest fashion sin in my opinion, wearing socks with sandals, but every once in while a slip up happens.  I work in a high end fashion boutique on the Wilhelmstrasse in Wiesbaden, Germany. The Wilhelmstrasse in its glory days, over a hundred years ago and again in the 40s-80s, was the high street and it can be compared to the Maximilianstrasse in Munich or a much smaller version of 5th Avenue in New York. I sell clothes, my official title is fashion consultant, and I see it time and time again, the mistakes people make in choosing their wardrobe. As I said in my article ” We are what we wear, so wear it good.”, I said that first impressions are important, before the handshake or the first hello, we have already been examined by the person we are meeting or seeing for the first time. We look at them as they walk towards us, they look at us, and though it is quick and almost done unconsciously we register how they are dressed, how they walk and if they are smiling. It all happens within a few seconds, and it is that moment that is the foundation of a first impression.  So let’s make it good, we are our own advertisement. We are our own brand. 

    Let’s be honest, this trend is disturbing, and we are happy it’s fading out. The saggy pants are just as much a fashion sin as are wearing socks and sandals, both are no goes! Even if you have a nice butt, or you are wanting to show off your new pair of underwear, saggy pants are just not acceptable.  I have been caught with my pants down before, and when it happened I wasn’t wearing a belt and my pants were one size to big for my waist.  How do we correct the saggy pants issue? 

    1. Wear a belt! Ok, in all honesty I have not worn a belt in 2 days with my jeans. Sometimes a belt us not a must, and if you are trying for a more relaxed look there is no reason to wear a belt. 
    2. Wear pants that fit comfortably around your waist. Jeans especially, which are cotton and a few % of elastane, give way. The jeans stretch through movement and body heat, so if the jeans feel a bit too large before you buy them, buy them one size smaller. If you can wear your jeans without a belt, and they do not sag, then they are the right fit. 

      Everyone is built differently, and to know what sizes and styles fit you and your personality, means trying a lot of different clothes and styles out. To get an idea about a few different body types are 5 men in the picture below. We will together talk about each man and what clothes would fit and accentuate his body in a very favourable way.

      1. The tall slim man, he is the guy we normally see on the runways in fashion shows. Basically he can wear anything from a skinny jeans and oversized pullover, to a baggy pants and I slim fit collared shirt. Keep in mind, a skinny jeans and a tight t-shirt will not work well together because it will give the impression he is as tall as a skyscraper.  The same thing goes for wider, baggy pants and a untucked regular cut shirt. With this combination it will look like he is swimming in his clothes. Tip: tight jeans and a larger shirt or baggy pants and tight shirt, thumbs up it’s approved. 
      2. The tall more muscular man, he has long legs and more form to his body. He also can wear anything and get away with it. Unlike man #1, man #2 can combine skinny jeans with tight shirts and so on. One thing to keep in mind is the proportion. With any body type, try to make sure that the legs and upper body appear to have the same length. Personally, my upper body or torso is a few inches longer than my legs, or so it appears. Tip: pay attention to the proportions and make sure the legs and torso appear to have the same length.  That means if you have a longer torso, buy pants that sit higher, high rise. If your legs are longer, buy pants that are low rise, hip hugging, and buy shirts that are slightly longer. 
      3. The “average” man, he is roughly 5’10” or 178cm and a normal build, with a nice body form. I would put myself in this category, coming in at 179cm, broad shoulders, strong legs and a little tummy. Again, The proportions matter. Longer legs the lower the pants are cut, longer the torso higher the pants need to sit. With this body type, we can wear baggy pants with a over sized shirt, but also go for the skinny look, with skinny jeans and a tighter shirt. Keep in mind how your body is shaped.  If you habe a bit of a stomach, don’t squeeze yourself into a tight shirt showing off your tummy. Tip: if you have really thin legs, skinny jeans only make your legs look even thinner. Oft for a slightly wider pants leg. 
      4. The slightly more bodied man, he is 5’10″/178cm or slightly shorter and he has more waist line. Proportions matter here! If you can pull a skinny jeans off, great! Pay attention though to your looķ, you don’t want to look top heavy and give the impression your legs can’t hold your upper body up. Tip: slightly wider pants legs and shirts that are regular fit. It’s best to tuck collared shirts in with this body type. 
      5. The shorter more cuddly man, he is short and with more body. Basically, no tight pants or tight shirts. Keep your proportion in mind. Tip: keep things basic, no shirts with a design that accentuates your stomach. 

        Please, know your sizes. Know what suit size you have, jeans (inch) size, collar width and general t-shirt size. It saves a lot of time and frustration when shopping for clothes, we consultants can only guess your size and before you try on 3 different sizes just tell us what size you normally have. 

        We are what we wear, so wear it good.

        Imagine feeling great in any outfit you wear, how more confident you are now, how sexy. We would all be a lot more happy and balanced if we actually felt comfortable in what we are wearing. Some men don’t feel comfortable in ties, it’s because their shirt collar is too tight or they have the wrong tie on and the same goes for suits, smokings, shorts and even jogging pants.  We don’t wear our clothes, our clothes wear us and we are just the walking mannequin. We advertise big brand names to feel good about ourselves, we wear the latest trend even if it’s not made for our body figure. Bottom line, we lose ourselves, our personalities in the outfits and styles we pressure ourselves to wear. We put a smile on and wear these awful clothes that are too tight or too big, but we don’t feel comfortable because we are not letting our personalities shine through. Fashion has been around, well honestly ever since humans started wearing clothes, and trends have come and gone. Our ancestors, just like us, have at one point or another been under pressure to try the newest trend. Sometimes this pressure is extreme, and honestly it’s getting worse. We are losing who we are to be “that guy” on Instagram or “the hot math teacher”. Yes, we are pressuring ourselves, and that needs to change. 

        How many miuntes a day do we spend breaking ourselves down? The minutes I have wasted on Instagram or Facebook are too many to count. Looking at those pictures of gorgeous guys, shirtless, a bit of chest hair, strong chest muscles, sixpack abs, broad shoulders, amazing hair and lets not forget to turn them around to idolize that hot round bottom and the legs of a Greek god. Yes, on the one hand wishing they were my friends and how cool it would be to party with them or go to the gym together, but also it causes me to feel bad about myself. I do not have a sixpack, to be honest I have a little stomach, my chest is not as hard as it once was, even at 26 years old my acne scars from my teenage years are still visible on my face. That’s just the start, I could go on listing off every single physical “flaw” I have on my body, but why? All of my scars have a story, my little tummy shows that I do enjoy good food and fun (also that I’m not a fan of working out), my legs are strong and show I love walking everywhere. My skin is tan, which shows I enjoy the sun and outdoors. I live and enjoy living, and it has taken me well over 8 years to realise that I am the only one who will ever live my life so I should live it as well as I can. These Instagram celebrities are cool, and I follow a few of them, because they as a person interest me. That is what is important, to let our personalities be free, be visible and be inspiring.  To feel confident in what we wear, we need to be comfortable in our own skin. Soon I will start working out a bit, just to keep my muscles toned and joints limber, that is all. I don’t need a sixpack or the body of Adonis, that’s not me. I am happy with how I am. 

        The next aspect about feeling great about what you are wearing is evaluating yourself. What message do you have inside you that you want to share? What story do you have to tell? Our style choices need to reflect us as individuals.  Fashion is what you see on the runways, trends are what you see in H&M and Zara, our job is to take fashion and trends and make it our own STYLE. Personally my favourite big name brands are Tom Ford and Versace, I am officially shocked that I only have two favourites. Both of the brands speak to me and my personality,  I love the big bold messages of Versace which says I’m here, and Tom Ford for me is strength in every subtle little detail. Both designer’s that started these two brands are/were strong men who made their mark in the fashion world, and they have never lost sight of who they are. When it comes to my closet, it is filled with basic t-shirts from HUGO BOSS, Drykorn, Mey. Collared shirts from Jakes  (the house brand from Peek&Cloppenburg) or Eterna and shoes from Versace, Allen Edmonds, HUGO and Armani. All of these brands, and for years I was obsessed, I would walk around town calculating how much I was “worth” that day. Shoes 250€, shirt 29€, pants 69€, belt 50€ and so on. It’s bad enough we often compare our bodies to other people, but to also think about your “worth” based on how expensive the outfit is even more degrading.  I haven’t stopped liking nice things, but I do realise that they do not define me and a fire or flood could take these material things from me. With that being said though, these pieces from my wardrobe accessorize me, they bring my personality out on a daily basis. Making a first impression is important, and what we are wearing is the first thing about a first impression. Even before we have shaken hands or said hello, what we are wearing has already been analysed. Our clothes need to show us. Basically, embrace your personality and wear what you feel best brings out the best side of you. 

        There are different styles that I have, my most worn style currently is a pair of jeans, a summer pullover loosely woven for good air circulation, flip flops or boats shoes and my Tom Ford sunglasses. My look has has changed from one year ago, a year ago I wouldn’t be caught dead in town without a collared shirt on. I would some up my wardrobe as casual basics with bold accent pieces. I love red shoes, my sneakers from HUGO or my penny loafers from Versace. I enjoy taking risks and trying new things, and that part of my personality shows in my style. Another thing other than personality that influences style, is the mood. Depending on how happy I wake up each morning, and how the weather is, I choose my outfit. The most important thing is to feel comfortable and be you!!! 

        The country boy style, with jeans, t-shirt and boots is a favorite of mine. Its simple and relaxed, yet I can pull off wearing a suit on a hot summers day and still feel comfortable.  Once we understand how much our personalities influence our style, it’s easier to know which clothes to buy and how to mix and match them. I don’t feel comfortable in a polo shirt, so I opt for a collared shirt with rolled up sleeves. In the evenings a pair of chinos and a collared shirt with a nice pair of shoes is the best outfit. If need be, a date in a nice restaurant or a night in a beach bar. A collared shirt with long sleeves can always be unbuttoned and the sleeves rolled up, or a tie could be worn with a suitcoat. There are so many styles from college, hipster, 50s, and sport, this list goes on and on. We decide what parts of these styles we like, which ones we would wear, then we wear them. Again, we wear our clothes, we are our own person and we need to be our advertisement. 

        This digital world we are in, technology has no limits and we are adapting. I find it exciting, but for the younger generation, those born in 2000 and after have a more different fight ahead than I did at the age of 17. When I was 17 I had a flip phone, a Facebook and a MySpace.  The battle with Instagram and being judged by complete strangers online didn’t exist or at least not that I know of. I am going enough to remember how exciting it was to “paint” on the computer and playing Sims, my flip phone, but I also know how quickly Instagram and Facebook became a part of my daily life. Both social media platforms connect us all, we can digitally interact with so many people from all over the world. We are no longer having to keep up with the people in our town or college, we are trying to keep up with the influencer from England who seems to have the perfect life. We are our own advertisement and we need to stop focusing on what the next guy is doing, we need to focus on oursleves. Like RuPaul says, if you can’t love yourself, how the hell you going to love someone else. 

        Soft pink is definitely my color this summer. I just thought I would post a picture of myself, so you can see who is writing these rambling blog posts. In the posts to come I am planning on writing about which clothes to buy for which body type, which colors to wear with what skin tone and eye color, and what to wear for different occasions. 

        Thank you for reading, please leave any thoughts or critique in the comments section. 

        Alcohol and trying to stay sane.

        This might turn out to be one of the hardest articles I’ve written so far, just starting with the subject alcohol.  It’s a very touchy subject for me, I promise though I will be completely honest. Do I have a alcohol problem? Yes, once I start drinking it’s almost impossible for me to stop before getting wasted.  Am I an alcoholic? I’ve heard there is a scale, so I am sure I am somewhere on that scale. Do I drink every day? No, probably 4 days out of the week, and maybe 3 or 4 times a month getting completely wasted. When do I drink? Evenings, alone or with friends, going out to eat, parties, when I’m bored, after a promotion or some celebration. Does it affect my life? No, I guess the term is functioning alcoholic.  When did it start? In London back in 2009. 

        When I arrived in London in 2009 I was 18 years old, and legally allowed to drink in Europe.  You can imagine how much of a novelty was for me, and once Christians work contract ended that April, we had the whole beautiful May with nothing to do except go to the Chelsea Club gym, out to eat or spend the afternoon drinking Cava on the balcony and playing board games. It was a great time in my life, relaxing and honestly I was enjoying life. Life in general with Christian, my first boyfriend and only husband, was good. Once we moved to Germany, we had the whole summer of 2009 to go to the pool or get drunk at home playing Skat  (a German card game). Then in the fall I started my German course, and he started working. I’m not sure when things started going downhill in our relationship, I remember being so depressed back in 2012 because of his drinking problem that we had talked about so much about. He couldn’t keep a job, and when I would get home from work he would often be passed out on the couch. He was physically there, but I felt alone in the relationship.  That night in 2012, sometime early summer, I remember finding a letter I wrote him over a year before, again asking him to get his drinking under control. Marc, Christians ex talked to him constantly about his drinking, even Christians family knew he had a alcohol problem. Everyone wanted to help him, but he wasn’t ready for help. It was the stress of my apprenticeship, my stress with my parents, my stress with being alone in a relationship and the fact I was young, that caused me to turn to alcohol which I knew would help me not feel as much pain. 

        Alcohol has always been my go to anti-depressant pill, honestly if I didn’t drink I would probably want to be on anti-depressants. After being told by my boss in 2011 that “alcohol is ok to drink and party with but one has to be careful with it.”, I realised that if my boss realises how much I drink, I need to change something.  Christian and I would often by 2 bottles of Vodka, 3 or 4 times a week. One bottle was his for the night and one was mine, after that talk with my boss I switched to wine. Instead of 1 bottle of Vodka, I would drink a bottle of wine. There was still a problem, and alcohol wasn’t the answer, just a way to forget for a night. There were times I would call my parents, after I had a few drinks, and we would talk. That was the only way I could listen to their lectures on how me being gay is a sin. Getting home from work and seeing my husband passed out on the couch, it hurt me to see him like that and since I guess we would be having a “quiet” night in, I would drink. 

        My “salvation” came in October 2012, Christian had his wisdom teeth pulled, yet continued drinking for 3 days straight. On a Friday I was working and my collegue told me we were going to drive to Frankfurt after work, I said No because Christian was at home not feeling well. My friend/collegue/neighbour told me it’s because of Christians alcohol problem and that we are going to Frankfurt.  It was that night in Frankfurt I met Thomas, a good friend of my work collegue. Thomas, was around my height (1,80m), he was slim with short brown/blond hair, a beautiful smile and laugh that was contagious.  We had both gotten pretty drunk, and went to his apartment that night. Anyway, when I got home that morning, Christian had no idea that I was gone.  Thomas and I continued texting each other. I was falling in love, after close to 2 years of giving Christian so many chances to stop drinking, I had somehow moved on even before meeting Thomas and I needed to do this for me. About a week after Thanksgiving 2012, after Christian and I got back from visiting my family the USA, I got home from work to find Christian wasted. The 14 days we were in Illinois, he had maybe 1 drink, he pretended everything was fine, and he was good at it. When I saw him drunk, I called Thomas and asked him to come pick me up. I moved in with Thomas, and filed for divorce from Christian. Thomas and I would occasionally go out and party, but at home and on a regular basis he didn’t need alcohol.  Occasionally evenings a beer, or once a week wine with our dinner. Naturally my drinking alcohol also became less, and for the longest time it stayed like that. 

        2 years ago after a break-up, being un-happy with my job and falling in-love with a soldier who was leaving Germany, I started drinking more. It was a way to relax, to party, to forget, basically whatever I needed, alcohol was the way to help the problem be less daunting. There have been many ups and downs, these past years, but things are finally leveling out. I quit my job, where I wasted away at least 1 year, I am happy with myself, my body and who I have become as a person. I have too much I want to do in life to let alcohol or anything for that matter take over. I have had a few great boyfriends, and they have all in some way impacted my life to make me the man I am now. Yes, I still enjoy drinking, but I’ve cut back and will continue to monitor how much and how often.  I don’t need it, I know that, it only makes me happy for a short time. Life is short enough, so why shorten it even more? 

        This subject is important to me, even if it is a difficult one for me. I hope I didn’t make it sound like I was blaming anyone, because at the end of the day it was me who made the conscious choice to drink. It’s hard to look back at the past, which is why I try to keep these articles somewhat short and very direct, once it’s written I try to not to think about it. I don’t like dwelling in the past, but from my experience, I wish I had gone to a psychiatrist back in 2011 when I realised problems arising. Especially if you have come out and your parents have “disowned” you, or you are struggling finding your place in this world alone without the help of family, get help. Honestly having been able to talk to a psychiatrist would have helped me a lot back then. Instead, I have spent years trying to sort my “life” out on my own and with alcohol.  I’m sure both cost the same in the end, alcohol and a psychiatrist.  

        I hope that this article helps someone, if you feel like you need help, just ask for help. 

        Family- love, broken contact and surprises

        When I think of family, I immediately think of my sister Christi, her husband and my nephew Justin. Next my sister Anna (16 years old), my boyfriend Roni, then Jason who is one of my best friends and roomate. My parents are next in the line, followed by aunts, uncles and cousins. Then a small group of about 8 really good friends come to mind. These people are my family, some blood related and many are not. My boyfriend is on this list, 3rd on the list because I love him, he is family and I want to share everything with him. Jason has been a great friend and we talk about everything, if any of my friends has my back, it’s Jason. My family are people I love and want only the best for. 

        Growing up, especially in my teenage years after we moved to Freeport, Illinois where all of my relatives were, we constantly had family around. Tuesday night’s were pizza night, most of my mom’s brothers, sister and their kids came over to eat and have a good time.  Eventually pizza night moved to Friday night’s and my dad’s side of the family started joining too. In the summer we often had grill parties on Saturdays, and Sundays were always church days, with over half the church being relatives, so we saw each other 3 or more days each week. Add birthday parties, thanksgiving, memorial day, July 4th and Christmas to the list, family was everywhere all the time. We never locked our doors when we were home, people would just stop by without needing an invitation. It was comforting to know that so many people loved me, us. As my older cousins went to college, joined the army, got married and started lives of their own, things started changing.  Pizza night become smaller, Christmas was more difficult to plan, basically life happened.  

        If you read my blog about my coming out, you will know the events and things that happened. If you haven’t had the chance to read it, I will briefly explain. In December 2008 I told my parents that I am gay, since we are Baptist and I’m the only son there was a lot of drama, and February 14th, 2009 I moved to London. After everything that happened, getting kicked out of the church and leaving the USA without telling anyone except my parents that I was gay, a lot of my family members had no idea what happened to me. Back then most of my family didn’t have Facebook and couldn’t keep track of me, and as I have said, I did not tell anyone. I knew that I was leaving for London and would be the family embarrassment, so I let my parents tell who they wanted and they can make up whatever story about me they wanted. I did not care, they have to live in the town, I do not. Contact between my parents and I was difficult, I did pay an extra 25€ a month to be able to call their cell phones, the first 2 years were filled with mom lecturing me on how I need to repent of my sin, dad and I would talk about the weather and food. They rarely asked about what I am doing, that didn’t stop me from telling them though. I learned to just tell them about my life. Sometimes we hung up on each other, that’s life though. They always said they loved me, and I love them. When I visited my family for the first time in 2011 for 8 days, Christian  (my boyfriend at the time) and I stayed with my dad’s sister Susan and her family. In those 8 days, I had breakfast with my parents and Christi once, and the breakfast in a restaurant only lasted maybe 2 hours. My sister Anna, who was 11 at the time, spent the night with a cousin I think, which is why I didn’t see her. Out of 8 days my parents were able to spare 2 hours for me. It was still a great trip though, staying with my Aunt Susan, and them getting to know me better and my boyfriend.  Susan and I didn’t have contact for over a year, my parents told her I was studying abroad or something and it wasn’t until she emailed me that we started talking again. To this day, I am still amazed at which family members still keep in contact with me and show me that they still love me. My dad’s brother and two sisters, all grew up in the Baptist church, and to my surprise it’s my father’s side of the family who I have the most contact with. Even my dad’s cousins and a cousin of my grandma Cochran are on Facebook and we message each other often. On the other hand, the only contact I have on my mom’s side is with my uncle Jerry and my cousin Chloe. Mom’s side, the non religious side for the most part have not tried to reach out to me. Still, they are my family and I care for each one of them. 

        In 2012 over Thanksgiving, Christian and I again flew to the USA to visit aunt Susan and my dad’s other sister Julie. Both aunts are amazing, and depending on what situation I am in, I know which aunt to call for advice. Thanksgiving was great with a lot of food, laughter and conversations.  They did invite my parents to Thanksgiving, but they were too busy I guess. I did drive out to their house by myself, dad was at work and he must have assumed I would stop by at some point, because he told my mom that should I stop by, not to let me in the house. Thankfully it wasn’t yet too cold that November, being in northern Illinois we often get a dusting of snow on thanksgiving and it’s usually cold and windy. My mom and sisters stood in the house, and I stood on the front porch, I was allowed to hug everyone. I remember when Anna saw me, she ran up to me and jumped in my arms, my baby sister growing up. That’s a moment I won’t forget. We talked for about 3 hours, and yes I stood on the front porch all that time, then I left. That was the last time I saw my mom and sisters, I didn’t see dad that trip. 

        Looking back on that last moment with my mom and sisters, it was years ago, almost 5 years and it still hurts. We did continue to call each other until 2014 when I decided to save the 25€ I was paying Telekom to call them, with Skype and now FaceTime and WhatsApp, there are plenty of ways to stay in touch. Somehow we didn’t stay in touch though. When my sister Christi got married in 2015, I was not invited to the wedding, she wanted me there and so did her husband, but my dad told them that if I am there, he will not go to the wedding. What’s more important, the father of the bride or the brides brother? Both love the bride just as much. I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me, it still hurts, because my father and mother can’t come to terms with me being gay, I had to miss out on one of the biggest days in my sister’s life. As for my sister Anna, we have maybe talked 2 or 3 times since Christi no longer lives in my parents house and she is now free to make her own decisions.  I love Anna, she is my baby sister and will always be my little princess.  When she was 5, she probably walked down the aisle and got married hundreds of times. I would play the wedding March on the piano and she would walk through the living room dressed in white. At some point in the next 5 years I am sure her big day will come, will I be there for her wedding? There is not a day that goes by where I don’t think of my family. We have all said things we shouldn’t have and we have many burnt bridges, but my hope is still that one day they reach out to me.  I would love for them to meet my boyfriend and get to know the adult me. 

        Loyalty makes you family. I love this quote, there is so much truth in it. As I mentioned above, many of my very best friends I consider to be family. Jason, my roommate, all the conversations we’ve had, the soldier friends we have had to say goodbye to, the process of him buying his apartment.  Honestly, most of our friends consider us a married couple, except without the sex. It’s normal that when I’m invited to something it’s my job to bring Jason and vice versa. When he needs help with making calls or appointments in German, I make the calls. With my move to Tel Aviv only 2-3 weeks away, it makes me think about how Jason was one of the last people I told about moving. I was so afraid of hurting him, so many friends of ours our heading back to the USA this year, I didn’t want him to have to lose me too. Like family though, he said he wants the best for me and wants me to be happy. He is like a older brother to me. 8 more friends and couple come to mind too, that I call family. You know who you are, thank you for being there for me! 

        Family is the people you love, the people that love you, encourage you, have your back and also slap you if you need it. Enjoy the time you have together and cherish them. 

        Long Distance is not for the faint of heart. 

        As the title states, a long distance relationship is not for the faint of heart. The time apart from each other and the distance that divides us from our loves, will either make us or break us. A relationship is never easy, it’s a lot of hard work and a never ending process. If we love ourselves and find someone we love and want to share our lives with, this “hard work” is more like a fun adventure.  Think of the saying “If you love your job, you will never work a day in your life.”, this is not only true professionally, but also privately. When we really love each other, we will work together to bring out the best in each other. One of the most fascinating and exciting things about being with someone, is growing together. Watching ouurselves become the person we never imagined we could be. Doing things together, like shopping, cooking, long walks around town, going to the movies, or just sitting at home and talking, it’s things like this that bring us closer together.  We learn about each other and the love grows. That’s a “normal” relationship were both partners are present in the same place, it’s not necessarily easier than long distance, both require a lot of patience and understanding at all times. A long distance relationship requires a more different approach though.  

        February 11, 2017, my 4 day vacation in Tel Aviv, Israel began. Why Tel Aviv? Israel was not a country on my list of places to visit, and it’s only because a friend of mine suggested I go to Tel Aviv for my short vacation, that I actually decided to go. I was in my 9th month of getting over a break-up, the soldier I fell in love with went back to the USA and didn’t ask me to come with him, we grew apart and things ended. February in Germany is cold, dark and wet, so Tel Aviv was going to a slightly warmer change. My hopes for my vacation were to have fun, drink, relax and think long and hard on what I want to do with my life. Shortly after I landed at the Ben Gurion Airport and finally got to the MisterB&B I was going to be staying at, I logged onto Grindr (the gay “dating” app). Roni was one if the first guys to text me, it was close to 2 am and he tried convincing me to go out and party. I flew from Frankfurt to Tel Aviv with a 2 hour layover in Kiev, I had been traveling for over 10 hours and was not in the mood to party. We texted each other a bit longer, then said our good nights. The following day, Saturday (Shabbat), I went to the beach, Old Jaffa and walked around the town. Sunday was the same routine, except Roni texted me again and we decided to meet up for drinks in a bar near his apartment that evening. He was born in Germany and can speak German, his English is also great so we had a lot of great conversations. Our love for country music was a good reason to go to his place and watch YouTube videos and talk.  Yes, I stayed at his apartment that night. The next morning we had coffee together in a cafe, then we parted ways to freshen up and change clothes. In the afternoon he showed me Tel Aviv, we rode on his scooter down the coast, then up the Rothschild Blvd, I saw more of Tel Aviv on his scooter than I would have on foot. We had a really great day together. On Tuesday (Feb. 14th -Valentines Day), I went to his apartment that evening, it was my last night in Israel. We ordered pizza, drank whiskey and Coke, watched YouTube videos and listened to music. Our music selection was from Dolly Parton and Reba to Whitney Houston and Cher with Maluma and Ricky Martin somewhere in the middle.  Somehow the songs we picked, and the ones that then played automatically when we were busy, they were just perfect that evening in setting the right mood. It was the only Valentine’s Day that I’ve had, that was so romantic and relaxing, with no strings attached.  We talked about seeing each other again, as friends, that’s all. It was the night that would change us though. 

        When I arrived back In Germany, Roni and I continued texting each other. Texting each other non stop, asking each other questions, sending pictures of what were doing, we were getting to know each other. In March Roni flew to Germany to visit me for a day or so, then he went to visit his Grandmother for the rest of his weekend.  We had an amazing 36 hours together, and I was even there to celebrate his birthday with him. As we said goodbye in the store I work in, he told my work collegue to “Pass auf ihn auf” (Take care of him). My heart was breaking then, I had no idea what we were doing. Within 12 hours of him leaving, we started texting and talking. We said I Love You and our relationship has been growing since. We spent 6 days together in April where we started scouting out the area we would like to live in Berlin when the moment is right. In June I flew to Tel Aviv for 1 week, we had 1 beautiful week together and it’s there that I decided to move to Tel Aviv in August until we are ready to move to Berlin, at least that is the plan right now.

        This isn’t my first long distance relationship, if you have read my article on my coming out, you will notice that my first relationship was also long distance.  I am not an expert on how to have a successful long distance relationship, each person is different and has different needs and views on what they want in a relationship.  

        There are a few basic things to remember though:

        1. Keep it simple. That applies to conversations, especially texting! It’s easy to misinterpret a text message, so to avoid unnecessary discussions just keep your topics simple and save the deeper conversations for FaceTime or seeing each other in person. 
        2. Be honest. Honesty is part of the glue that holds a relationship together, but with long distance you have to be honest. 
        3. Be open, COMMUNICATE! Share your feelings, your dreams, your doubts, things you did that day, people you saw, what made you laugh. A relationship is sharing your life with someone, and that goes for a long distance relationship too. Involve the person in your daily life. Send pictures or videos, little updates throughout the day. It’s not the same as having them next to you, but it helps.
        4. Trust. No relationship can succeed without trust. We are adults and make our decisions, that is how it is between Roni and I. We trust each other, thats all we can do. I try to keep my mind free of crazy thoughts by think of us together and the amazing things we will soon be doing together. 
        5. Keep smiling. This is sometimes just as difficult as trust, there are so many times I wish he was here to share my day with. It’s important to make the other person smile! Send funny pictures, write a nice text message or what works for us is just ask “Have you smiled yet today?”, it works.  
        6. Make plans. Set a date to see each other again, it gives each person something to look forward to. It’s psychological, plans give hope and keep you dreaming. 
        7. Don’t forget the goodnights and good mornings. To close out a long day, I will not sleep until I’ve sent him a goodnight text, and in the morning he gets a good morning message.  

        This is the perfect example of what I text him. Like I’ve said, keep it simple. There are so many more tips and things to do to keep a long distance relationship alive, I have only written the ones down that I find to be the most important. 

        Build each other up!!! Encourage each other! In this world, life will pull at you and rip you apart. Even though there is a distance between you, hold each other tight. It is a relationship so treat it as one, respect each other. That is what love is.

        My favourite line to end each day with is “See you soon”. It’s simple, direct and gives hope. 

        See you soon dear. 

          IQOS: The modern cigarette

          After 2 months or so of seeing IQOS pop-up stores and advertisement for this new alternative to the standard cigarette, I decided to give it a try. When it first came out I did try it in my local tobacco shop, it was interesting and definitely different from smoking a normal cigarette, but the 69€ for the IQOS holder and 10 free HEETS cigarette packs was just too much money for me to spend at that time. Eventually I did start buying my regular cigarettes in bulk, so a complete carton (10 packs of cigarettes for roughly 65€) every 2 weeks or so. Yesterday I was out of cigarettes, and I realised that I had bought a carton 1 week ago. How could I have smoked 10 packs of cigarettes in 7 days? My average is normally 18 cigarettes a day, so almost 1 pack a day. In my break yesterday I went to the tobacco shop and a IQOS representative was standing outside, he noticed me smoking and asked if I know about IQOS. Yes, I told him I do and asked him what he has to offer. Within 5 minutes I was registered with IQOS and for 69€ I received the IQOS kit and 10 packs of cigarettes. Why did I switch? For one, I am a freak when it comes to new trends and I love trying new things, but my second reason is that hopefully with IQOS I will smoke less. IQOS is a E-Cigarette, yet it’s not the kind we all know, there is no liquid and steam, but the whole look of it screams E-Cigarette and I might just get tired of the “hassle” and cut back or stop smoking altogether. We will see! 

          No one is born a smoker, it is a habit and very psychological. I started smoking rather late, I was 20 or 21 years old and in my apprenticeship when I started smoking. My reasons for starting are purely selfish, working in the hotel industry one works a lot of hours and often overtime, sometimes you are just too busy to take a break, I noticed that smokers would go out ever few hours for a cigarette. Generally a cigarette lasts between 4-8 minutes depending on how slow or fast you smoke, so with walking to and from the smoking area outside, smoking one cigarette and small talk, my colleagues were on a 10-15 minute break ever few hours. I began joining them so I could “take a break” and I started smoking just to fit in. I have been a smoker for about 6 or 7 years now, and yes, I have tried stopping before, the longest I’ve gone without smoking was 3 months. Life kicked in and stress, I “needed” that cigarette and with that one cigarette I started smoking again. That is my background at a smoker, one of a few bad habits of mine. 

          What is IQOS?  IQOS is this…

          It is a product of Philip Morris, the IQOS Holder HEATS up the HEETS cigarette at 350°C whereas a normal cigarette BURNS at 600°C or more. Due to the fact that the cigarette does not burn causing hot ash, there is hardly a fire hazard. The Holder has a built in battery which lasts for 1 cigarette (14 drags or 6 minutes whichever comes first), after the time is up the Holder turns off automatically.  After each cigarette the Holder needs to be charged in it’s IQOS Charger, which takes about 5 minutes. The IQOS Charger has a battery life of 20 charges  (1 pack of HEETS cigarettes) before needing to be charged. The IQOS starter pack comes with a USB cable and a plug for charging it in a wall socket or from your computer.  The USB cable makes IQOS a great product for those who travel too. To clean the IQOS Holder, a small brush and other cleaning supplies are provided, and it is recommended after 20 cigarettes  (1 pack) to clean out any excess tobacco rest stuck in the Holder. So far I’ve just lightly pounded the Holder on my hand or on a table to shake out any excess tobacco and it works too. 

          What are the health “benefits” from IQOS? This is still a relatively new product, it’s been on the market a little over a year and despite years of research and testing it will still take time to see the long term statistics and benefits for IQOS. Philip Morris has been working on creating a cigarette that focuses more on the tobacco taste and the experience of embracing this new alternative to the normal cigarette. They are working on eliminating most of the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes, yet stay true to the feel and taste that smokers want.  IQOS is definitely a very promising product, and through my research and thorough review of the https://www.pmi.com/science-and-innovation/heated-tobacco-products website, they are still offering quality cigarettes.  Naturally the healthiest smoking is to NEVER START smoking or to STOP NOW, but for those of us who enjoy smoking or find it hard to stop, IQOS is an incredible alternative to the normal cigarettes. 

          What about the tar in a HEETS cigarette? Unfortunately I found no information on this, all I have are two pictures I took. 

          As you can see, the Marlboro cigarette filter has tar and the HEETS cigarette filter is still white. I hope to eventually find some research on why the filter stays clean, it looks great so I am not worried about too much.  

          The taste of HEETS cigarettes is something to get used to, because there is no burnt tobacco taste, that taste we all know and love. HEETS cigarettes have a very rich and decisive taste, imagine spareribs smoked in hickory wood. That very distinctive taste wrapped into 1 cigarette. I joke about being an American a lot, and how we can’t enjoy anything.  Growing up, when there was food in the table, we ate it. There was no conversation or just enjoying the food, it was there so eat it before it gets cold. To this day I have to remind myself to slow down and enjoy things, whether it be food, a nice wine or cigarettes.  I smoke to pass the time, I don’t enjoy the cigarettes, with IQOS though I can’t help but smoke slower and think about the taste. The experience is like trying a good aged whiskey or a freshly baked chocolate cake that is still moist, the quality of HEETS cigarettes is top. 

          Before, I mentioned that there is no smoke will IQOS, the tobacco is heated and that “vapor” of the tobacco is the smoke so to say. I haven’t put IQOS to the kissing test yet with my boyfriend to see if I have cigarette breath, but I honestly don’t smell like a walking ashtray anymore, and because of this lack of smoke, I believe it lowers the risk of second hand smoke. 

          IQOS is planning on being available in 30 countries by the end of 2017, until then IQOS is currently available in these countries..

          This article is my own opinion of IQOS, I used https://www.pmi.com/science-and-innovation/heated-tobacco-products as my main source of information. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I have enjoyed writing it. If you are looking for a new brand of cigarette to try or you are wanting a nice alternative to the normal cigarettes but not willing to switch to E-Cigarettes, then give IQOS a try and please let me know what you think in the comments section.  

          My Coming Out

          This blog, as I have said before in another post, is my way of sharing my life and experiences in the hope to give encouragement and inspiration to others. I am a normal guy, and I’ve been blessed with extraordinary events that have shaped me into the man I have become.  If my story gives hope and courage to other young men and women who are scared to come out, or who are waiting for the perfect moment, then I am happy. If you are waiting for the right moment you might be waiting a really long time, because there is no “right moment”. It doesn’t matter how or when you tell your family, just tell them! That is the right moment, and how they take the news is then their business.  You will know when to come out, you will just sense it. Do it when you all are feeling comfortable and relaxed, take a few deep breaths and come out.

          If I had known back in September 2008 how much my life was going to change, how many obstacles I would have to overcome, then I can honestly say I would have been to terrified to even take the first step.  Please don’t get me wrong, I love how far I’ve come and the man I am now, all I’m saying is thankfully I didn’t know the future before I took the first step. That first step was Facebook contact with Marc, he was a friend of a former pianist for Celtic Woman, and because I was in love with Celtic Woman back then I became friends with one of the pianists on Facebook. Marc was a middle aged man living in London with his boyfriend, Marc had just finished working on his solo album and I was looking to do a article on Marc for the community college newspaper I was apart of. I had just turned 18, and I was attending Highland Community College in Freeport, Illinois where I had lived in my teen years. Marc and I wrote each other every once in awhile, it was so good talking with him, he was at that time my first gay friend and it was nice to have someone to open up to; and to this day Marc and I still talk occasionally, and considering everything we still get along and can talk for hours. During one of our conversations back in late September 2008, Marc mentioned his german boyfriend Christian, so it wasn’t too long before I sent Christian a friend request on Facebook.  He accepted my friend request and sent me a message saying “I guess we are friends now”. Christian always replied to my messages faster than Marc did, so it was easier to have a conversation with Christian. We would talk about everything, and mid October 2008 we were in love.  He told Marc that he fell in love with me, and that he was going to come meet me in December.  I was happy, finally I “out” in the cyber world.

          Throughout October and November 2008, Christian and I were constantly messaging each other. (Somehow I always manage to find a long-distance relationship as I think about it now). Christian bought his plane ticket to Chicago, he would be in Illinois from December 6th-12th (I think it was 6 days). Now things were going well, we were in love, we were going to finally meet in person, it was incredibly exciting except the fact my family didn’t know I was gay yet.

          My family are Baptist, and we attended the baptist church where my father grew up in Lena, Illinois. We not only attended the church every Sunday, all 3 services and Wednesday night’s too, but my father was one of the two deacons and my uncle was the other deacon. My aunt taught Sunday school and my mom taught Awana club on Wednesday nights. I played the piano for our church services, controlled the sound system, and once a month I taught the teen Sunday school. Back in the day I considered being a missionary, because I loved the thought of traveling and living in a foreign country.  All in all not only in my eyes, but also in the eyes of the other church members I was the perfect example of a young christian man who was on his way to do great things. It’s no secret that the very strong steadfast Baptists don’t approve of homosexuality, according to the Bible homosexuality is an abomination and one of the deadly sins. I grew up hearing that so often, especially in the teen service when my grandpa Cochrans best friend would be teaching. He was over 60 and would get side tracked and start talking about homosexuality and the gays, and how back in his day the word gay meant happy. It was hard to sit there and here a man you look up to, the best friend of my grandparents, telling the teens that homosexuality is an abomination. Men sleeping with men is not natural, it’s the lusts of the flesh and it will lead to destruction just like the city of Sodom and Gomorrah where homosexuality was rampant. Yes, I’ve heard the stories and know what the Bible says, but I also know who I am and how I feel. I won’t get into that know though, that will be in another post.

          Now you know a bit of my family background, and that I couldn’t just introduce them to Christian as my boyfriend and the man I love. I convinced Christian to send my dad a message on Facebook about how he was going to be in the area for vacation after an important meeting he had at a bank in Chicago and that he would like to attend a good Baptist church on Sunday and would like a tour guide to show him northern Illinois.  Yes, this was our plan and big lie, the only truth was that Christian was a banker and that he did have vacation and wanted to see the area. Things went as planned, on that Saturday we made our journey to Chicago in the train, my parents wanted to meet Christian before they let me be his tour guide for the week. Christian met us at the train station, he was extremely handsome and fit, 37 years old and well mannered.  He loves talking and can do it very well, so he had no problem talking to my parents over a cup of coffee. This was my first time seeing Christian in person, I couldn’t take my eyes off of him, he was slim and as I’ve said very hot. I have no idea what they talked about, I was too nervous and excited to concentrate on their conversation. After an hour so, Christian and I went to the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower if I’m correct), and my parents with my two younger sisters went exploring a bit of the city. I’m afraid of heights, but it was still amazing to see the city of Chicago from the top of the Sears Tower. In the elevator on the way back down, I don’t remember what Christian did, but it got me excited and aroused. We quickly slipped off to the Hyatt Regency Hotel where Christian was staying. That hour or so we were in the hotel room was incredible, my first time having sex and with the guy I loved. Everything was perfect, the way we kissed and feeling a connection with him. I entered that room a virgin and left with the biggest smile on my face. We went back to my family and together took the train to Crystal Lake, where we had parked the car and left my bag just incase my parents didn’t like him. They said it’s ok and I can show him around the area, as long as we are at church the next morning and I have my own hotel room. Of course I was going to have my own hotel room, why wouldn’t a complete stranger pay for my extra room? Honestly, I am not sure what my parents were thinking and apparently they really trusted me.

          The time Christian and I spent together those 6 days in December 2008 are forever in my memory. We literally spent the week hotel hopping, Sunday he attended church in Lena with us and Sunday night we drove up to Dubuque, Iowa. There we stayed at the Grand Harbor Resort directly along the Mississippi river. It was so cold that week and Illinois was hit with a lot of snow. We stayed at the Baymont hotel outside if Freeport, our room had a hot tub and the hotel had a beautiful indoor pool. Later in the week we drove up to Madison, Wisconsin where we stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn. It snowed so much, that we called my parents and said we couldn’t make it to church Wednesday night because of the blizzard.  We ended our week in Freeport, Illinois at the Country Inn & Suites for our last night together. It was great having gotten to know Christian, all the conversation we had talking about our pasts and our dreams, all the sex we had and the laughs we shared together. We were happy and that Sunday morning he left at 5 in morning to drive to the O’hare International Airport, I was heartbroken and depression set in. My week of what I wanted my life to be like had ended and I was left with the reality that I need to find a way to be with Christian.

          A few days before Christmas 2008 was the night my life changed, the night I came out. If I remember correctly it was Tuesday the 23rd of December to be precise on the date. My two sisters were upstairs playing and my dad was either in the kitchen or upstairs too, I was laying on one of the couches all cuddled up in a blanket and mom was also wrapped in a blanket sitting on our 2nd couch. We were watching TV, our Christmas tree was lit up, presents were under the tree. Mothers know everything  (or at least say they do) and my mom sensed that something was wrong, I was depressed and not the smiling guy they all knew. Mom asked me asked me what was wrong and I said that nothing was wrong, thankfully she stayed persistent and tried talking to me. She knew I was sad and I’m sure she knew deep down why. Eventually she very bluntly asked me if I love Christian, I couldn’t look her in the eye so I looked at the star on the top of our Christmas tree. I looked at that star as if it were life, and the minute I look away I die. There was silence and I couldn’t look at mom, I finally nodded my head. She then yelled for my dad, when he entered the livingroom mom whispered something in his ear and he very directly shouted “Are you gay?”. Again my eyes were not going to leave the star, and I couldn’t say anything.  I never said yes or no, because no I’m not gay is a lie, and yes I am gay was too terrifying to admit to my parents. Dad told mom to put my sisters to bed, then the three of us talked. I apologise because I have no recollection of the rest of the night, I know we were all in shock and had no idea really what was happening. I was finding myself, my voice and I’m sure they felt as if they were losing their only son and all the dreams they had for me.

          Christmas is a blur, I have no idea what we did or which family members came over. The week between Christmas and New Year was also uneventful, the only notable thing was the decision to move to London as soon as possible. Christian was going to make it possible, all I needed to do was get a passport.  The pain I went through being away from him, the endless conversations with my parents, it was exhausting and honestly I couldn’t feel my own heart beating. It wasn’t with me, I felt that emptiness and knew it was with Christian. After New Years I filled out the form to get my passport and payed the fee at the post office, things were moving forward. Nothing could stand in my way, I was going to move to London, I was going to be myself.

          Due to the stress of moving, or not wanting to be an embarrassment to my parents or maybe I just didn’t even think about it, but I didn’t tell any other family members that I am gay. My mother did tell my aunt and uncle (the other deacon in our church), they all also talked with our pastor. It wasn’t long after that meeting that our pastor invited me to breakfast at the Big Apple restaurant in Freeport. We are breakfast and just chatted, small talk is all. He did ask me about my plans in London and I told him I was going to try to get into a university there. That was a dream of mine, but not really in the plan. Pastor then said that there are plenty of good universities in the USA, which was obvious and I know which ones my parents wanted me to attend. Breakfast was good, I actually enjoyed talking with pastor and watching him nervously eat the ice cubes in his water. He was uncomfortable and too nervous to talk to me about being gay, so he didn’t even try. Thankfully breakfast was only 2 hours or so of small talk, then we left and he dropped me off at my parents house. That following Sunday though my parents told me that because I am living in sin I am not allowed to play the piano or serve in the church services as I used to. It was ok, I wasn’t that great at playing the old hymns.

          A few weeks passed and my passport still had not arrived in the mail. The date I was going to fly to London was February 13th, 2009, so time was ticking and I needed my passport.  One afternoon my dad was at work and my mom was in town running errands when my sister Christi (she is 3 years younger than I am, so she was 15 at the time) told me that a package came for me in the mail a few days before and mom hid the package somewhere in my parents room. Yes, I searched and searched their room until I found my passport between some clothes in their closet.  It wasn’t long after until my mom commented that I must have found my passport, yes and I carried it around with me everywhere, afraid they would take it and hide it again.

          End of January 2009, after the Wednesday night service I had a meeting with pastor and the two deacons (my dad and uncle). That is when they told me about Church Discipline, which is when the church separates itself from the sinner who does not want to repent.  It wasn’t new to me, I grew up hearing about church discipline and how it works. They asked me again if I would repent, they were willing to buy books and research the issue to see how they could help me. There was no talk of sending me to a conversion camp, but I am still thankful that my parents and the church were too poor to even afford to send me there. No, I told the pastor I was not going to repent and change my ways, so they told me that the following Sunday after church there would be a meeting, only the church members would be there and they would vote.

          Sunday came around, it was 2 Sundays before my planned flight to London. Sunday was always a potluck dinner, we would arrive at church around 9:30am (Sunday school and the first service) and around 12:30 or 1pm we would all eat lunch together, the 3rd and last sermon would go until 3pm. It was easier on those that drove long distances to church and everyone was able to watch Sunday night football at home. After lunch my uncle took me aside into another room and told me again that he is willing to research homosexuality and the church and how to change me, he also told me that if at any point during the meeting I felt like repenting or at least felt the desire to try and change, that all I needed to do was tap him on the shoulder (he always sat in the row in front of us) and he would stand up and call the meeting off. The church meeting began, my aunt and uncle were sitting right in front of us, the pastor prayed for wisdom and for God to soften hardened hearts. I was very stressed and the pastor named my name and told the congregation that I was living in sin and did not want to repent, he did not mention the sin but I’m sure most every knew. Our church was small and over half the church were relatives, and housewives like to gossip. There was a moment during the meeting when I strongly thinking about tapping my uncle on the shoulder, I was scared and doubting myself. Is my character strong enough to build a life in a foreign country? What will I do if Christian breaks up with me? So many questions in mind, so much fear and in two words my fears were gone, I “hardened” my heart. Pastor then started with Church Discipline, and to this day those two words still make my decision, to live my life the way I wanted to, all worth it! I sat through the rest of the meeting thinking about Christian and my future. When it came time to vote me out of the church, it was the pastors wife and my grandparent best friend who made the motion. Pastor asked me to leave the building, I walked out to our van and didn’t look back. In the van I was a wreck, I tried calling Christian but due to the time difference he was already sleeping.  The whole meeting felt like an execution, but I survived it.

          February 13th 2009, a day I will never forget. The night before I said my goodbyes to my sisters and parents. There were tears and heartbreak, but I was leaving and my mind was set. I seemed to have slept well that night, too well. I over slept and took a taxi to O’hare, I could have still gotten on the flight but without my check-in luggage. All the way from London, Christian rebooked my ticket and he called me every hour until the next flight. I spent 9 long hours at the airport, then around 8 or 9pm my flight took off and I was on my way to London.

          That is my coming out story. I will eventually write about my time in London and everything that has happened since I came out. If you found this article encouraging, please feel free to comment. If you want to get to know me a bit more you can also follow me on Instagram: joshco08 .