I have been working so diligently on building my career and celebrating the small successes along the way and one challenge I have always faced is the overwhelming question of "Am I doing enough?"
With the tragedy that occurred on June 12 at Pulse Nightclub Orlando and the not one but TWO people stopped on their way to the Los Angeles LGBT Pride events that question is freezing me in my tracks and ringing louder than ever. We often feel so alone in moments like these and often times it's easier to just more on doing and saying nothing just to bury the pain. I'm no stranger to this.
I spent the first 24 years of my life openly gay but avoiding "gay jobs" in a pursuit to maintain a relationship with my Father and to avoid more hate like that from my childhood. I realize that every person has a story that makes them the person they are today but do we share it enough? Do we hear it enough? I've spent plenty of years with pain and anger from the memories of my early years. Those memories have created a man who is loving, nurturing and full of ambition. Unfortunately not every person in this world has the strength or support to overcome such pain. Acts of violence, in my opinion, are a manifestation of unresolved pain and anger.
In the hours following the horrific tragedy in Orlando people took to social media. Some sharing love and support and some sharing anger and pain. This morning I woke to a new day with a new message. LOVE WINS... ALWAYS!
I was raised in an abusive home where substance played a huge role in the daily actions of my homes inner workings. As a young gay male I just did my best to stand tall for what I believed was right and fair. But the effects of this upbringing made me cautious and fearful. As a young adult many decisions were made to try and minimize that pain and fear from growing. During a shopping trip to buy makeup to celebrate Halloween 2006 I chatted openly about my life, as I often do with strangers, and about my upcoming plans to celebrate. The conversation evolved into a relationship over time but on that day, through our conversation she seen my passion for life, she then pushed for me to apply for a Make Up sales position with Benefit Cosmetics and after going over it my head for a few days, thinking about the backlash it might cause, whom of my loved ones might be offended, I did just that. I applied for the position and was hired!
This strangers pure appreciation for my story forged the way for my true self to grow through an honest connection and love. When my father passed away two years later the burden of pleasing him seemed to vanish into thin air, which was honestly terrifying. I had no one to lean on if my ideas didn't work. For Halloween 2008, I visited my very first spa, the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa in San Franscisco, CA. As with my first experience at Benefit, each therapist that I met the conversation quickly turned to my passion for beauty and wellness which led the therapist's to say to me: "Why aren't you an Esthetician" An Esthe-Whoooo??? Oh no I could never do that... I'm too Gay already! Again with love and support these strangers pushed me to look deeper and made me feel welcomed and were supportive of sharing my true self.
So before boarding my flight home I scheduled a meeting with Marinello Schools of Beauty in December of 2008. Nothing was holding me back any longer from being who I wanted to be. My father had passed and I could no longer garner his disapproval for what I did with my life.
On January 6th, 2009 I began my Esthetics education. While in school I offered complimentary facial to all kinds of events because I believed I was on this path from the love and support of these communities; Charity events, Celebrity Gifting Suites, Human Rights Campaign Events and Staff, Trevor Project Events. With the launch of my career I felt obligated to give back to the community who had continuously nudged me to freely be myself without fear. Often times we take those experiences for granted and I wanted to express my gratitude in some way.
I have been truly blessed in my overall life and as the years continued and new adult struggles have come in to play my volunteering efforts have come to a screeching halt, fears have resurfaced and so many others seem to be feeling the same way. If you are anything like me you too may have noticed that you have a calling inside of you saying "DO MORE!" with another voice saying "You have nothing more to offer". While my life is certainly not picture perfect, nor am I in the place I wished to be at 32 years of age, I believe now is the perfect time for everyone to stand up and do whatever you can to bring forth more acceptance and love within our communities and our nation. We do not have to pour kerosene on the candles of those we remember by creating more anger and pain but we must take action EVERY DAY to create the world we want to live in for ourselves and the generations to come. You never know how your actions might create a change to someone else's life. It is because of a meeting by fate that I have accomplished the successes I celebrate today. But now I must do more and call you to join me!
My heart is deeply broken by tragedy and while I am sending my prayers to all those affected by acts of hate and terrorism in Orlando and around the world. My call to you is for action. Take time to processes each emotion through this rollercoaster of life but reach beyond your comfort zones, deep down within you and ask yourself:
1. WHO AM I
2. WHO DO I WANT TO BE
3. WHAT DO I NEED TO DO TO GET THERE!
(And get help if you need it, there is power in numbers!)
We never enter this world alone but through fear, pain and anger we isolate ourselves and others. Let us join together now and use the courage of those who have gone before us and build. Build our communities, Build our families, Build our Nation!
How can you do more?
Weather you start in private or start big in your community does not matter, what matters is that you begin today! Share in the comments below how you will being creating a loving community and nation today.
Richard Merrill-Rivas is a nationally recognized Celebrity Esthetician, Educator, Holistic Health and Business Coach.