You are who you are right now
One of the most positive things about my current job is talking to elderly individuals. A lot of time, they are in very unfortunate situations, by themselves, and just long for someone to talk to and have a conversation with. Most of the time it's around five minutes talking about nothingness, boring small talk with people who don't remember me telling them my name. More recently, I have found myself having very meaningful conversations with complete strangers, and they go on for considerable amounts of time. Just yesterday I was talking to the sweetest lady in her late 60's who immigrated to America from Ireland when she was young.
The baby boomers are an amazing generation. Stacked side by side, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and the Millennials all have their pros and cons, but the baby boomers have a lifetime of stories and experience to share with the younger generation if they can get on a shared topic of interest. I love politics, religion, and all of the other topics that you never expect (or as a customer generally want to discuss - #racetogether) to talk about when you call customer service. All I did was ask her a simple question about how the drought in California was effecting her, and we traveled down a wonderful rabbit hole that led to the topic of mental health.
We had talked a bit about how it's not a conversation that people enjoy having. The people struggling feel as though they have nobody to turn to, and the people who don't suffer mean well, but without a first person understanding, they often get frustrated when their form of encouragement doesn't produce results. But then she gave me wonderful insight.
You are never going to be the person you were. You are never going to be the person you will become. You are only the person who you are right now. The decisions of your past, as well as the preparations you make for your future are important, but ultimately spending any amount of time comparing your value to that of a different person, even when that person is yourself, provides nothing in the form of progress.
This really stuck with me. How many times have I compared myself to the fun I had in the past, or how I'll never attain for the future? Right now I have all I need, and the challenges I face are helping me learn.
So how does the stigma change? I honestly think it's a matter of having the conversation. We talked for an hour and at one point she said "I completely forgot what I called in about" because we had related on a topic that both of us weren't scared to talk about. I had made the comparison to her that I think the mental health stigma of today can be looked at as an analog of the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS in the early 80's. It's doom. You can't talk about it. If you are suffering, the only people you feel will understand are other people who are suffering, but how do you talk about it? It wasn't until many years after the public fear from lack of understanding turned into a public conversation, but today living with HIV is not as terrifying as it was 30 years ago.
I've grown a mustache for the Movember organization for 6 years, my brother and I have even organized a few gala parties at his work that were great fundraising events. I have always known since making the decision to be a barber, that there are a few organizations that I want to continue working with and volunteering my time and new skills. St. Baldricks will need people who can shave heads and Movember can have amazing November promotions inside a barbershop. I think NAMI is going to become an important organization on the horizon.