My Promotion to Guncle

I’ve been wanting to work on my blog for while but had a bit of a writing spell recently. Or, if I’m being totally honest, I was just being incredibly lazy and not taking advantage of the inspiring muses all around me.

I’ve also been super busy between work and babysitting my almost 7 month old nephew, Lucas.

Just a quick back story for you: My twin sister Valbona and her fiancé Nick had my nephew in May of 2017. For our family, he’s the first nephew/grandson born. To say that we all just melt over my nephew is an understatement. As a brand new uncle, I’m a mess!

Current day: I’m fortunate enough to get to babysit my nephew almost every Friday and some weekends. I’ve been doing this since a few weeks after he was born.

This child, my heart, my light, has had such an amazing and deep impact on me. From when we first found out my sister was pregnant to now, something in me has changed. I’ve always loved children, but this kind of love that I have for my nephew is a new experience! Anytime I hear his sweet voice making sounds or screaming, or anytime he drools on me or grabs my face/beard, I just melt into a puddle.

My favorite part though, and the part that wraps me around his precious finger, is when he just looks/stares at me and gives me a huge and happy smile. There is literally no wrong that Lucas can do in my eyes.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Being part of his village, and knowing that I’ll have a partial influence on who Lucas grows up to be, is having a very deep and profound impact on me. This isn’t like a part-time babysitting job where I watch a kid for a while and then off he goes. We will be in each others’ lives. I know that I will have a part in shaping who he becomes as an adult, intentionally or not. This makes me really self reflect on who I am as a person and to make sure that I am doing the right things so that I am a positive role model in his life.

Not only am I an uncle to that sweet hellion, but I also happen to be his gay uncle. His guncle. Being a guncle is a very huge deal and it slightly varies from the uncle title. Part of my (self-appointed) role in his life is to teach him about the beauty in diversity and practicing inclusion. That being different is magical and to help create a world where people can just be who they are. I am grateful for the experiences I have had in my life and that I will be able to use them and share them to the children in my life. I’m also determined to be the rich uncle in the family! Ha!

There is another unique advantage of being a guncle (but this isn’t limited to us). As a gay man, I don’t think I’ll ever have children (biological or adopted). Who knows where life will take me, but that’s where I’m at right now. I’ve always said that I’d love the children of my siblings like they were my own. I even surprised myself at just how much I meant that! There is nothing I enjoy more than being in the same orbit as my nephew. It is exciting that I can just be myself from the very start of his life until I leave this world.

Some people don’t understand why I’m so involved in my nephew’s life. This is a close as I’m going to get to raising children, so I’m definitely going to maximize my time. I’ve got a huge amount of love to give and this makes me so happy!

I’ve been called many things before and have held many titles, but none as important as guncle! I call this a promotion because I am better today than I was before becoming an uncle.

Being Gay in Kosovo (Video)

 

Hello friends!

Happy Gay Pride in Pristina, Kosova! Today is the first annual Gay Pride in the country’s capital, and I am so excited about this!

As a gay Kosovar Albanian man, this is a huge deal! Several years ago I wrote a blog post to share my own experiences coming out as gay. I did that so I could share with people what is often unspoken about in our community, and more importantly, to possibly help others to let them know they are not alone. You can check that out here: http://rebelbeard.com/gay-shqiptar-what/

I created this video to share my support and experience and to also give some visibility around life in Kosovo as a gay person:

Check out this post that I had also shared chronicling some stories of what other gay people have experienced while living in Kosova as an LGBT person: http://rebelbeard.com/gay-life-in-kosovo/

I am so happy and so proud that Kosova is moving forward in such a progressive way and starting to lift the veil around LGBT people. I think this will start to humanize us to those who have vilified us as monsters that go against being Albanian or that bring shame to our families.

We are Albanian like you. We are human beings like you. We are your sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and even mothers and fathers.

<3 <3

 

Europe Trip #4: Kosova

Europe Trip #3

Europe Trip #2: Waking Up in Rome

Trip to Europe: #1

I have decided to share my upcoming trip to Europe with my friends. I will be heading to Italy, Kosovo, and Albania over the next three weeks.

 

How to Learn a New Language

Pershendetje! (Hello in Albanian)

Have you ever wanted to learn another language? Have you been turned off at the thought of learning a new language? Maybe it’s too hard or too time consuming? Maybe the language is confusing?

I call bullshit on those excuses! Learning a new language is totally doable, and I am going to show you how! Remember, you already learned at least one language as a child. You can also learn a new language as an adult.

Speaking more than one language is amazing! It’s been proven that speaking two or more language has a very positive impact on the human brain. Being able to speak another language actually increases the grey matter in your brain and also allows you to think differently than those who only speak one language. As a bilingual or multilingual brain, you are able to problem solve more quickly as well as switch between tasks with more ease. This is because speaking more than one language teaches you to “switch” between languages when necessary.

The actual learning of a new language also engages many parts of the brain that other cognitive learning does not. There are even studies that show that learning a new language can stave off diseases like Alzheimers for several years. Why? Because you are actively using  both sides of your brain. Your brain is exercising and staying fit!

In a multicultural country like the United States, or for those of you looking to travel abroad, being able to speak another language is a huge win! Have you ever been abroad and found it a bit disheartening that you can’t speak the same language as everyone else? I know I felt like that when I first went to Italy and Germany. I felt like I missed out a bit.

Your resume would also stand out to future employers if they say you are able to speak multiple languages. Think of the audience you could reach if you were in a client facing role? With science showing the positive impact speaking different languages has, this would make you stand out as top talent!

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You are probably wondering: What does this guy know about learning new languages?

Well, I was born in the US, but I was born to non-English speaking parents who mainly spoke Albanian. Naturally, my twin sister and I (first born children) started speaking Albanian as our first language. My parents also spoke Serbian (which very common for Albanians). They had tried speaking Serbian when they didn’t want my sister and I to understand then. My mother told me that I had started to speak Serbian words so that did not work out very well for her. This was because as children, our brains are much more “elastic” so learning a new language is so much easier. We are almost like sponges!

My twin sister and I started pre-K and did not know a lick of English. We had to take ESL (English as a Second Language) so that we could learn English to speak with our peers and teachers. We were in ESL for a lot of elementary school. At that point, we had been so immersed in the English language that we picked up and were fine.

After that, I took a couple of years of Spanish in high school. I was an A student. Spanish was easy for me because I understand the structure of the language because some of it was like Albanian. For instance, in both Spanish and Albanian, the adjectives are placed after the noun. So a “big house” in English is a “house big” in Spanish and Albanian.

Just a couple of years ago, I took a German class in school and learned some basic German. Again, my brain was able to grasp the language with the help of having another language in my mind. I was a B+ student here. I had just bought a house and was redoing the kitchen, is I couldn’t focus as much as I wanted.

With that experience, I am going to share with you what worked for me, what didn’t work, and what I could have done better for more success.

  1. Be passionate about the language you want to learn. Ask yourself, “Why do I want to learn this language?” You have to be motivated to learn a new language. Your “why” has to be your rock throughout the learning process, especially when it gets tough. Keeping it relevant to yourself will keep you dedicated to learning.
    • I took German because I fell in love with the German language and the country/culture of Germany.
    • I am relearning Albanian because it is my culture and a large part of who I am today.
  2. Sign up for classes in your community, or use free apps/sites like DuoLingo. Local community centers or churches of different nationalities sometimes offer classes in their language. DuoLingo works just like Rosetta Stone, but is entirely free and offers a multitude of languages.
    • I personally recommend DuoLingo because it follows the different learning styles that a person would need to learn a new language. You are able to read, type, and even speak your target language. After some time has passed, DuoLingo will let you know that you need to revisit certain vocabulary to strengthen your memory and skills.
  3. Become immersed in your desired language! Learning a language is more than just learning and speaking new words. It is about reading, writing, understanding grammar, and being able to express yourself.
    • Start reading websites or newspapers in your target language. With just learning some words, you will be able to pick up the context of the article you are reading while learning the language.
    • Listen to online radio stations in your target language.
    • Watch TV shows in your target language. Do not use subtitles as they will confuse your learning brain.
    • Start writing in your target language. Use vocabulary that you are currently learning or have learned.
    • If possible, travel to the country of the language you are learning, or find local community happenings for that culture.
  4. Practice, practice, practice! This is the most CRUCIAL step of the process! In order to successfully speak a new language, you have to practice speaking it! Remember, you are teaching your mouth to make new sounds that it is not used to, and you are rewiring your brain to be able to recall and apply these new words/conjugations/forms. Practicing is what will make you successful! Practice full conversations while you are by yourself in the shower or car.
    • I was an A student in Spanish because I focused on reading and writing. I did not practice like I should have, so I was only able to (and still can) read and write in Spanish but I can’t properly speak it like I should.
    • My understanding of Albanian is really good, but growing up I became accustomed to listening to my parents speak Albanian while responding in English. Now my pronunciation of words could be a lot better. I am working on this.
  5. Find a partner. Having someone to practice with will make this process so much better/easier! Use this partner to write email/letters in your target language. Meet with this person regularly to have conversations in your target language as well. If both your native languages are English, you will find that it will be easy to switch to English when you don’t know what to say. Do NOT do that! Ask each other in your language how to say something in that language.
    • I used to use the expression “How does one say _____ in ______?” When learning German, I would say “Wie sagt man “car” auf Deutsch?” if I forgot how to say car. That would be my way of asking my partner without switching to English.
    • My mother is going to be my partner for relearning and practicing Albanian.
    • Meetup is a great way to meet people who are also learning the same language you are. Groups normally meet from once a week to once a month. It is a great way to make new friends while practicing.
  6. Stay consistent! Continue practicing the language in all aspects every day! You will find it will get easier the more you do it. If you stop learning/practicing the language, you will forget what you have learned and will set yourself back a great deal! The expression “If you don’t use it, you lose it” applies here 100%. Your brain will actually start to lose the awesome grey matter that was created when learning the language. This is going to be the key to continued success and learning. You will make mistakes along the way. You will mispronounce words. You will forget words or conjugations completely in mid sentence. You will use the wrong form. It’s all okay! That is how you learn! Be comfortable with being uncomfortable, don’t quit, and you will be fluently speaking a new language before you know it!

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Some specific things to avoid or be aware of are:

  1. Memorization drills. Learning a new language is not just a memorization game. All you will be able to do is recall the word. That is not the same as applying the word in conversation.
  2. Learning multiple languages at the same time when starting out. This works for children because their brains are able to absorb everything easier. As adults, you will just confuse yourself if you try to learn multiple languages, no matter how similar or different they are.
  3. Many languages have different dialects. When learning a new language, you will most likely learning the “standard” or “official” version of the language. Focus on the main language. You can adapt to the other dialects later.
  4. Language apps. Do not become solely reliant on these to learn a language fluently. They are a tool in the process, not a means. The other steps above will help you become successful.
  5. Using English. As mentioned above, do not switch over to English when practicing a new language. Using English while learning a new language is going to confuse you and your first instinct will always be to lean on that.

There is a certain beauty in speaking another language. You are part of something that you weren’t before. A culture. A country. A mindset. The doors of communication that you open to people whom you couldn’t otherwise communicate with may also open many opportunities for success, new experiences, friendship, or even love.

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These are all tips that I am following for myself as well. Please let me know how these tips work out for you and/or any questions you may have!

Viel gluck! (Good luck in German)

 

I Love Being Single

I have been single for about 9 years. It’s been an interesting near decade of ups and downs that I have tackled on my own. While social, I am naturally an introvert. That means that I have also spent a lot of time really getting to know myself.

During that time, I chose to stay single. I also met a lot of awesome friends and found my career path. In meeting new friends (or seeing old ones), I get asked the same questions all the time. “Why are you still single?” or “I never see you dating anyone.”  I know that it’s always out of a good place in their hearts and they want to see me happy. I really do appreciate the kinds thoughts and love. However, it’s that last part that irks me a bit. My response is usually a bit shocking to some people.

I love being single.

Yes, that is correct. Personally, I am so happy when it’s just me. Yeah sure, I have hung out with a couple of guys here and there, but only for short periods of time. The thought of starting something with someone doesn’t invoke positive or exciting emotions for me. I lean closer to dread and anxiety. People have a really hard time grasping the fact that not everyone wants to be with someone.

The purpose of this post is give visibility to two very large misconceptions about what it means to have a happy and fulfilling life:

1. Being in a relationship

2. Having children

For some people, being in a relationship, or with the “one”, is not an end game goal. For a lot other people, or the same people even, neither is having children. Some of us just don’t want that white picket fence life with 2.5 kids. Personally, I think it would be awesome to have kids, but as a gay man, I’ve prepared myself with the fact that will most likely not happen.

You do not need either one of those to be happy or feel fulfilled! I certainly don’t. I said I would love to have kids, but it isn’t the end of my life if I don’t. That doesn’t make me selfish or an asshole. It just means that my happy is different than other people’s happy. My happiness and fulfillment comes in the form of traveling and writing. It also comes from developing myself and my potential while become self-aware of who I am. It can be really frustrating when I open up to people that I am not interested in dating or relationships and they start giving me that shit of “Oh you just haven’t met him yet” or “You’ll meet him when you’re not looking”. That just takes away from my vision of happiness.

I am not looking because I don’t want it! That shit always makes me feel like people think I am one of those single people frustrated with dating and just “done” with everyone. I am not that. I am not frustrated with dating or relationships. I just don’t want them nor do I partake in them.

To dig a little deeper into who I am, I like the intensity and passion of meeting new people. It’s sustaining or working on that love the following days as a relationship is where I check out. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.  It just isn’t a fun idea to me. It’s dreadful. To those who know me, that really speaks to my adventurer personality. I also like to keep my time to myself.

I am not interested in getting to know someone on that deep of a level, and vice versa.  Some people probably consider me a high-functioning sociopath, but I am okay with that. When it comes to the sex, I do not need to be in a relationship for that. I can meet guys for casual sex (being a gay man has its perks) or just jerk off. I especially love having sex with someone when we are initially attracted to each other. That stage is the hottest. After that I get bored. I don’t like the routine of it all and I like being able to flirt and have crushes on whomever I want.

I want people to understand that I’m happy. I am so happy. I know what I like and what I don’t. This free-spirit life, not being attached to any one person or thing, is who I am. I am not looking for my “other half” because I am not a half. I am a full person. A happy person.

Look, I think relationships are great for people who want to be in them. I respect that a great deal (the good ones, anyway) and I really do hope that those who are on the hunt for love find what they are looking for.  It just isn’t my cup of tea. So please don’t force that shit down my throat. Let me just be.

I make myself happy. I fulfill my own life. I don’t need anything more than that. I’ve found that the greatest love of all comes from learning to love yourself. Actually, Whitney Houston found that. I just believe it.

2017: Getting Shit Done

If you look back through some of my posts from the last year, you would think I was the most miserable son of bitch on the face of the Earth.

Honestly, I felt like it. I felt like the world had kicked me down to the ground and kept stomping the fuck out of me. The past two years were an emotional shit show for me. So many things happened, and at the same time, that I was drowning. Only a few close people know about them. My social media presence remained upbeat because I didn’t want anyone asking questions or knowing.

I am sure if you are reading this that you are probably wondering what happened. For several reasons, I cannot go into them in such a public forum (although some of my previous posts allude to parts of it).

To be quite honest, I don’t want to focus on that nightmare anyway. I want to focus on 2017, the year that I am getting shit done for myself and moving past the vaguely mentioned experiences.

Near the end of 2016, those several shitty experiences all came to an end and set the stage for 2017. The things that were seriously plaguing me were finally over. It was like the winds blowing my sails into the Bermuda Triangle decided to just change direction and take my tiny boat to happier days.

And happier days it has been! I got a fresh start and was able to start over. It was at this point that I started to feel that 2017 was going to be great. I was going to make it awesome!

I changed jobs at work in December 2016 and transitioned into a role, that I absolutely love, as a leadership trainer. I loved training Servicing and also training other trainers in the art of training. But there is just something about training leaders.

Jumping into this new role in 2017 pushed me outside of my comfort zone and made me very vulnerable, but I am experiencing so much growth of my own skills because of it. It feels amazing being able to make an impact on leaders, which will in turn trickle down to their team members (the only time trickle down economics actually works). I am part of a newer team and doing what I can to help build us up. I am so happy right now!

Personally, my mind has let out this loud sigh of relief. The past two years pushed me over the edge and I fell into a pit of mental health issues. I was seriously balls deep in Depression and Anxiety. My ADHD was out in full swing. I had to start seeing a therapist and was prescribed something for the ADHD to get myself together. So many nights were spent on being victim to racing thoughts, fear, sadness, and fear and not on sleep. I became so fixated on the negativity because I couldn’t see any light. Not even a damn glimmer of it. Life has an intense way of reminding us that nothing lasts forever though.

Many of the things I was experiencing have started to dissipate. I forced myself to start focusing on the good things, and if I didn’t feel like there were good things happening, I fucking made them happen. I was going to get shit done this year. The shit that I wanted, and needed, to do for myself. No more reasons or putting myself in situations where I can’t do shit for myself.

Shit to do #1: Traveling

One thing I decided was that I needed to travel. My soul is the traveling type and staying stationary has negative effects on me.

So I went back to New York and visited family. I went there first because it was where I was from and the first time I was able to travel anywhere for quite some time. I love to explore and it really did me good to get out and check out new places and hang out with one of my amazing cousins. I even went to the hospital I was born in to take pictures!

This is me in Central Park:

I also took myself out every single night I was in NYC. I either went alone or I met up with another cousin. I went out, had drinks, and socialized. Words cannot express how doing that made me feel. I could almost hear the sound of the top popping off and all my mental BS exploding out of me.

While I was in New York, my sister (who really loves to travel) talked to my mom and booked us three tickets to Mexico.

New York was amazing…but fuck..going to Mexico from Christmas to New Year’s Eve was FUCKING SUPERB!! We stayed in Playa Del Carmen. We were there for 9 days and we rocked out that trip! It was gorgeous every single day! Even when it rained, it only rained for 20 minutes and then the sun came back out.

While in Mexico, we hit up several (it’s impossible to do all of them) bars/restaurants on the main strip in Playa Del Carmen. We also went to Tulum where we did sightseeing of ancient ruins. We also went to Chichen Itza where we saw the amazing ancient ruins there as well as went snorkeling! I mentally needed these adventures!

This is me sightseeing:

If you are ever in an emotional rut, I HIGHLY recommend traveling to a place like Mexico. The country is gorgeous (from the tourist side of it), the people are so friendly and genuine, and the scenery is a feast for the eyes! It’s that tropical vacation you long for, but also super affordable! I promise, if you are really going through something, do this for yourself.

I have also booked a trip to Denver for April! So I am moving and experiencing life! I cannot wait to get into the mountains and just be outside in a new place!

Shit to do #2: Personal Goals 

When Old Deller, my laptop, died several months ago, I never got around to getting a new computer. No wait..not that I didn’t get around to it..I just wanted a Mac and those are WAY more expensive than a PC.

Not having a computer probably wouldn’t be such a huge deal for some people. However, I like to write these ramblings of a mad man and share them on my blog. If I wanted to continue writing and building myself as a writer/blogger, then I needed to have adequate resources, like a computer. I don’t like to use my work computer for personal business. So I actually splurged on a Mac computer today! This thing is fucking magical!

I’ve always loved writing and I think (know) being lost in so much negativity was taking that away from me. In other words, I was fucking myself because I was letting my dreams just waste away. I just laid there and let everything run me over. I am also tired of starting something and not seeing it through because of shit excuses.

I also want to get into the beard oil business. This year I registered my blog as an online store and even got an Employee Identification Number (EIN)! Awesome! I have some other stuff around that to figure out, but I have it on my Shit I Need to Do Right Now list.

Lastly, I grew up speaking Albanian, but since I never really used it where I grew up, I don’t speak it like I used to. I am working on relearning and practicing it some more.

Shit to do #3: Personal Upgrades

I first got glasses when I was in second grade. I have always worn glasses, until I became a teenager. Then I transitioned to contact lenses. After that, I went back and forth between contacts and glasses. I have always had corrective lenses in my life.

The past few years though, I found myself thinking about LASIK and eventually making it a goal. Well I can say that as of March 2017, that is one goal I turned into reality. I got LASIK! I feel like I accomplished a bucket list item, and it feels amazing! I can see great, and as my eyes heal my vision keeps getting better. I tested at 20/20, possibly 20/15.

Earlier this year I also signed up for Warrior Dash with my friends from work. I have always wanted to do a physical challenge like that. I have been working out a lot and put on some intense weight.

Last week I signed up for a 6 week workout program with a place called Michigan Kettlebells. It’s going to be intense, but so worth it. It will help me cut down some of this fat I gained and tone up my gained muscle. It will also get me ready for Warrior Dash! I also want to play rugby so this will help me with the training and conditioning of my body!

My goal is to look like this guy (or a watered down version) at Warrior Dash! I even paid for the kilt so I can really experience the event:

I am so ready to continue smashing through my goals! So fucking ready! It is really easy to lay down and die when life hands you a large glass of “Fuck you.” I am guilty of that more than I care to admit. Especially when the shit gets piled on! However, like I said earlier..the negative shit is gone! That means I only have positive things to focus on!

Seriously, if I find something negative to focus on at this point, I brought it on myself and I am a fucking lunatic!

 

I am excited to share this because I have seriously never felt happier. So many great things happening that I just need to let the sun shine on my face!

 

Freedom Of Speech?

The ignorance of some people is mind blowing.

I guess that’s what happens when you’ve never had to actually fight to have the same rights or to be treated equally as other people. Being treated as a second rate citizen makes you view our country differently.

For example:

1. Women still face inequality (you can even rape them with minimal to no jail time!).

2. Black people have faced oppression/discrimination for hundreds of years and still do so today.

3. Gay people JUST got the right to get married last year. We can still be legally fired for our sexual orientation in many states.

Don’t think the irony of “the land of the free” was lost on any minority group of people standing for the national anthem.

You’ll have to forgive some of us for being upset by inequality. We had just wanted liberty and freedom, like others who already had it. Women just want to be treated equally, receive equal pay, and stop having their bodies dictated by men. Black people want America to stop being racist and forcing them into a caste system, and also for the police to stop killing them. Gay people just always wanted to marry the person they love and stop having America target them and creating “religious freedom” laws that promote hate.

When that national anthem plays, it can cause rather conflicting feelings. On one hand, you feel patriotic. It’s that other hand..when you start to think about that patriotism, but then remember this nation treats you as less equal than some of your counterparts. That part stings. Sure, we could pretend to be patriotic. What does that really accomplish? It is fake patriotism. It is sweeping the current issues listed above under the rug. We do live in a country where we are actually and legally allowed to express our dissatisfaction at the country and government.

It’s also amazing to me that exercising your First Amendment right to express yourself is ridiculed and judged. That’s not how this works. If you don’t understand how freedom works, then you are part of the problem. Yes, you can absolutely disagree with someone who has a different viewpoint than you. Lately, I have seen some disturbing posts from people where they more than disagree, they find this type of expression offensive and think that anyone like Colin Kaepernick should be punished. Why is it better to play along than speak out? Why should someone be punished for speaking out? Because harsh truths are being brought to light? That is exactly what we need!

Telling people to be grateful for what little they’ve been “allowed” to have (by people who never had the right to “give” those scraps) or comparing us to other countries that discriminate even worse is wrong. If a gay Muslim man is murdered by other Muslims for being gay (which happens and is completely fucking vile), do not compare us to that and say “well at least you aren’t being killed.” That is even MORE infuriating because we are supposed to be PAST shit like that! Black, white, gay, straight, Muslim, whatever.. we should all be considered equal and have liberty in the United States. But we don’t, and that is why people choose to kneel down instead of stand for the anthem. We have not done anything to warrant everyone WANTING to stand for the flag.

Lastly, not standing for the flag is not a diss against the veterans who have served this nation. They fought, and gave their lives, for our freedoms. Speaking out against social injustice and protesting peacefully is not an attack on those people. It is living up to the freedoms that those amazing men and women have protected by sacrifice. I think using this as an argument against protesting the national anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance is just a tactic used to guilt people speaking out and to make them look like anti-American monsters.

It is more America to speak out and express yourself than it is to silence those who are trying to change the country for better.

Respect and celebrate other people’s expression of themselves. This is a right.