Run, Fight or Hide

People have been asking me what inspired me to give a TEDx Talk… Maybe this story will help answer that question.

Coming out is about the hardest thing you can do. In my case it was amplified by the fact that I had to do it hundreds of times, all while hoping that it wouldn’t become public knowledge.

There was a constant struggle between who I actually was and who the rest of the world thought I was. My life has revolved around football. It taught me so much about myself. It gave me purpose, joy and some of the most meaningful relationships I’ve ever known. And I felt like I had to chose between my life and my love of football…

I often heard, “Just do it. If people turn their backs on you – that’s their problem.” Really nice in thought, but imagine potentially giving up everything. Seem easy anymore?

On Saturday, fellow speaker Steven Hayes gave a fascinating talk on how we often make the mistakes of using external problem solving solutions to solving internal problems. External problem solving options are: run, fight or hide. It’s a default mechanism. We are taught our entire lives on how to solve external problems. To solve external problems; get away from them, fight against them or hide from them.

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Talia Ybarra Photography

I hid. And this was the result –

I hid in the bottom of every bottle I could get my hands on. Alcohol was my escape. I couldn’t change my location (run). I needed to finish my degree and I love where I coach. I couldn’t bring myself to depart with either of those. I couldn’t fight, because fighting meant owning up to who I was and I couldn’t do that…

So I hid. Every night when I came home the burden that I was carrying through the day was amplified. I was alone and the exhaustive schedule that I had created to distract myself during the day was no longer keeping me company. But, when I drank, I could forget all of that pressure. I could imagine myself living the life I truly wanted to live. Free from the oppression and depression. I could do whatever I wanted to do and be whoever I wanted to be. It was a feeling that I could not naturally replicate at the time.

Unfortunately, alcohol has side effects.

The more you drink, the more it takes you to get that feeling. And when you drink as much as I was drinking… Yikes. For someone who suffers from depression alcohol is the last thing you need. But, it calmed my anxiety and it was the easiest answer to what, at the time, seemed like an impossible problem to solve.

So why did I decide to give a TEDx Talk?

While I’m not the brilliant Steven Hayes, subconsciously I knew that the only shot I had at not drinking myself to death was to face it. I couldn’t hide any longer.

The stats on substance abuse surrounding gay teens, young adults and even adults is rough – to put it lightly. It’s a tough road to walk, but even harder if you do it the way I did.

I gave that talk so that hopefully even just one kid won’t end up like this…

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Talia Ybarra Photography

You can’t hide at the bottom of a bottle.



Talia Ybarra Photography 



Head North


To often in life we find ourselves waiting for the perfect time and place when, in reality, the perfect time and place probably doesn’t exits. And if it does, the imperfect time and place can be, well, perfect.

I’m a chronic idealist. I have visions of the future and how, when and why it will happen. While the end result is important for me, so is the process of getting there. Not only do I want to be in control of the outcome, but I want to be in control of how I get the outcome… Which most of the time is impossible.

But, when you’re as stubborn as I am, this is a tough train of thought to break.

About a year ago I heard a phrase from a good friend that helped me change my way of thinking, he gave a speech thats backbone was, “head North.” P

As you are probably thinking, that is a very general set of directions. If you apply this to your life goals at first this will feel, at best, like a Karate Kid lecture from Mr. Miyagi – ridiculously unhelpful. “North” covers a lot of ground.

But, there are two important principles to remember here:

  1. You know the general direction of where your dreams lie and you don’t have to, nor are you expected to, know the exact whereabouts you will find them.
  2. The farther North you head, the easier choosing a path becomes.

You see the father North you head, the less physical (and metaphorical) real-estate there is.

Now maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t want to head North. North is cold as hell and I will be eaten by Polar Bears.” And that’s fine. Head south for all I care. Just find a general direction where you think your purpose and destiny lies and get your ass moving in that direction.


Two years ago I began working for TEDxUniversityofNevada. I LOVED TED Talks. What an awesome job. As soon as I got the job I knew I wanted to give a TED talk one day, but I had no idea what “Big Idea” I could bring to that stage that would even give me a chance to stand up there.

The job I had? I was a glorified parking attendant. My job was to organize a group of volunteers for the day of the event that would help patrons find their way from the parking lot to the theatre. Glamorous, I know.

But, I sat in on every meeting, rehearsal and event I was privy to, and eventually I had a better job. I was more involved with speaker prep, I was able to give feedback and I had the opportunity to meet some of the brightest and most courages minds on earth.

Last January I had the pleasure of meeting two-time Grammy Nominee Jennifer Knapp. Jennifer is an incredibly successful Christian artist and an LGBTQ activist, but more importantly to me, the first person to ask me, “what are you waiting for?”

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Jennifer Knapp, Dr. Simmons, Jennifer’s Partner, Myself and Carlos

You see at the time I met Jennifer, I was not anywhere close to being out, but I trusted her and I told her my story. She sat there with me for almost two hours at a crowded event and listened to my story. One of the most genuine people I have ever met. At the end when I told her I envied her position and I thought that I might have a “Big Idea” of my own, she agreed and asked me, “what are you waiting for?”

This question sat with me for months. I knew exactly what I was waiting for – someone to do it first. The hell I wanted to be the first openly gay football coach (that I know of).

While not only openly admitting to being gay, but also giving a speech on it did not at all seem like the greatest choice in the world, it did seem like heading North.

So here I am. Once a parking attendent. Now speaking on a stage I’d once only dreamed of and definitely heading North.


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