Alex Aide is Program Manager for Born This Way Foundation
This is a picture from my speech last week that I’m really, really proud to say went well. I had the opportunity to give a presentation to introduce our upcoming programming in Las Vegas to partners and nonprofits making a difference for young people in the community there. This photo captures me meeting many of them for the first time, and it will forever be special to me for that reason alone.
I want to tell you another reason why I love this picture, but to do that, I need to be more honest in a way I don’t think I’ve ever been with most people in my life. I’m coming out of one of the worst depression episodes I’ve ever experienced after a really rough 2018.
Depression has always been something I’ve managed, but like most of our journeys, I have peaks and valleys. I’m also a bit of a reluctant speaker. Even with a simple event like this, I stress and prep wildly when I know I have to speak. I don’t tell you this for sympathy or to think I’m incapable. I tell you this because — look closer. The man in that picture is in front of a room full of important people and partners who came to learn about what Born This Way Foundation is doing in Las Vegas and how we might work together. And in this picture, I see someone who wants to shine on behalf of the Born This Way Foundation Team. I see someone who is standing straight, tall, and with confidence because, despite any self-doubt and nervousness during preparation, he told himself over and over again *in his strongest Tiffany Haddish’s voice* “he ready.” And when the time came to present, he 👏 was 👏 ready 👏.
Yes, I see my depression in the picture — but not the sadness or anxiety associated with it. Rather, I see the strength and resiliency it has given me through healing time and time again. And the knowledge behind my eyes that if things get rough again, I will always come back swinging.
I’m sharing my feelings about this picture with you because, ultimately, this (albeit, very visually basic) picture isn’t even about me. It’s for you and every other person in my life, past and present, who have helped me pick up the pieces without judgment again and again. The ones that push me to be the best I can be and never let me forget who I am even when I’m not sure anymore. The ones that still send me dog memes even when I don’t have Instagram. The ones that cheer me on at the beginning, middle, and end of each race. Members of the BTWF community like you who make the world a kinder and braver place. I got back up again this January, swinging, because of you.
Your love and kindness mean more to me than you’ll ever know. I left that speech feeling like I could do anything, and I haven’t felt like that in forever. And you know what? I think I will. I’ll be sure to remind you of the same when you need it. Here’s to the next one.