Being picked on because he was gay was one challenge Bryan Campbell had to deal with during his childhood. He was also a target for being the only non-white American in his elementary school and although other non-whites attended his middle school, he was the only one who was Korean and Puerto Rican. In addition, he was much smaller than everyone else.
“This exposed me to a lot of bullying, physical altercations and low self-esteem and it only got worse as puberty hit once I got into high school,” Bryan said. “I recall many occasions of being picked on, not having many friends, being harassed in the terrifying gym locker room, being called all kinds of names, getting into fist fights. It drove me to a point where I no longer wanted to live. If life was this painful, I’d rather not be here,” he shared.
Even with these difficult situations compounded by harsh taunting from his younger brothers when they learned of Bryan’s homosexuality, Bryan pretended that everything was okay. “People would even ask me why I smile so much. I never really had a good answer for them, but little did they know I was just desperately trying to be happy. As I relive this memory and feel the pain of my childhood, I just want to give my little younger self a huge loving embrace and assure him that everything will be okay and, yes, life does contain suffering, but life is also magical and incredible at the same time,” Bryan said – and he discovered that magic in college.
“After escaping high school, I moved away to college and began to experience the freedom of life and the world became a magical place where I discovered I’m not alone and I started to cultivate my tribe. I was on my quest to find ‘my people’ and in Altoona, Pennsylvania, being gay was still not safe yet. I remember joining the Asian Student Association, but I wasn’t Asian enough and no one wanted to be friends. I joined the Latin American Student Organi-zation and they embraced me, but we got picked on and threatened to the point that the university needed to expel certain individuals. Feeling threatened and unsafe, I moved back home to rediscover my roots. It was during my return back to the Philadelphia suburbs that I was introduced to Philadelphia’s ‘Gayborhood.’ I never knew it existed, but my best friend at the time Elvira took me to my first gay club and it blew my mind. Before that moment, I didn’t know other gay people existed. Once I found my people, life became a party,” he recalled.
Bryan graduated college with six years’ worth of credits in five years and was always on the dean’s list. In the workforce, he became the “king of changing careers” and after nearly 15 years, he discovered his true purpose. During most of those years, he self-medicated with alcohol. “That allowed me to forge ahead with my crazy work life and I believed that one day, I will have enough money and freedom to be happy. That was until two years ago when I found myself in the same spot as I did in my early teenage years. This time, though, I was standing on the roof of my house that I practically shattered myself trying to afford. It was at this moment a whisper inside of me said, ‘Life gets better.’”
“I had realized instead of figuring who I truly am and what the purpose of my lifetime on this planet was, I had lived my life according to others’ perceptions of who I should be. I was told about the American Dream – it’s why my family immigrated to this country. In pursuit of happiness and the American Dream, I had burnt myself out and realized I didn’t know who I was and what I was supposed to be doing. I just found myself stuck where I thought I was supposed to be,” Bryan said.
“From that moment forward, I declared that life was going to look different, feel different and I was going to show up differently each and every day. I began meditating every day and multiple times a day, I spent quality alone time with myself in nature, I edited who I spend my time with and how I spend my time, I started listening to my emotions and feelings and I started living life on my terms and no one else’s. I basically became the master of my life instead of life pushing me around,” Bryan shared.
“I understand there are always going to be unavoidable times of struggle, but I have come to realize that those difficult moments of challenge are there to shape us, teach us and expand us into stronger, more improved versions of ourselves. Therefore, difficult moments in life are no longer a bad thing, but rather a realization that I’m about to step into greatness on the other side of any challenge that stands in front of me,” Bryan said. “Also, when we suffer from hardship and overcome that difficulty, we are now endowed with the tools to help others experiencing the same challenges and help them through this moment on their journeys. On this path to my beautiful future, I realized the best guide we have is our own intuition and the more we listen to it, the easier it is to live by and, with these understandings, not only can we regain control over our thoughts and emotions, but we can also help others grow through their traumas. Thus, healing our own pain and suffering and helping others do the same for themselves and that is where we find the magic of life!”
Bryan’s Connection to AIR
“I have been a BIG fan of AIR for the past 10 years because AIR has touched my heart strings, allowing me to feel the life force inside of me. It has shown me compassion and selflessness for others and, it has truly shown me what life is all about. Anytime there was a traumatic event that happened in the LGTBQ community or one of our brothers and sisters wasn’t able to overcome their mental hurdles, AIR was always there in support, solidarity, smiles, hugs and oftentimes fluffy cuddly therapy dogs– and who doesn’t enjoy some puppy love?!” Bryan said.
“AIR is one of the largest cheerleaders for excellent mental health for our nation’s youth in a world where they are afraid to talk about their emotions. I always loved the saying, ‘A candle burns brightest when it lights another candle,’ and AIR has been lighting candles all around the country not only for the LGTBQ community, but for anyone who is suffering with mental health challenges,” Bryan said.