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  2. The voices have always been adamant about the importance of seeking discomfort. It has taken the majority of my adolescence to learn to be comfortable in my own skin. It’s a challenge that seems to be incredibly prevalent in the modern age, where everyone seeks instant gratification through self-validating social media posts sprinkled throughout cries for help. The perplexing nature of human growth has always been fascinating to me, especially having lived (and currently living) through my own story.
  3. When I was in high school, from my freshman to sophomore year, I was absolutely terrified of even making eye contact with another human being. I had just moved to Frisco, TX from Stillwater, OK following my father receiving a promotion at his job requiring a move. I was growing sick of the environment I believed I was trapped in with the people I had met in Stillwater, so I was beyond excited to begin a new life elsewhere. I was in a phase of my life where I longed to be alone, isolating myself in my room as frequently as possible. At the time, the only people I needed were those I had met online through video games. I can vividly recall the worried looks from my parents as I spent each passing day more pessimistic than the last.
  4. I was raised into Catholicism from a young age. I was never particularly interested in the content within the texts of the Bible, and I was blissfully ignorant of the implications behind religion at such a young age. Like countless Americans growing up in an environment of faith, I couldn’t care less about the subject. Once I reached the age where I was beginning to see the world outside of the narrow viewpoint provided to me by my parents and peers, I began to question every aspect of my life, including everything my parents had provided me up until that point. I became somewhat of a nihilist, driving myself to insanity obsessing over the meaning of life and how unfair the world seemed, despite my objectively lucky circumstances. I was living quite a nice area, with relatively well-off parents who showed nothing but love and concern for the state of my being at the time. I grew severely depressed during those years I lived in Texas; the thought of taking my own life seemed to consume every waking moment.
  5. There was a decent chunk of my life where I did nothing but lay in bed wishing for this experience to end. My room was a mess, strewn with unfolded laundry and trash, and I couldn’t have been bothered enough to do anything about it. I was well aware that I was setting myself up for failure by putting myself in such a negative environment, but at the time, I truly did not care. I spent much of my high school years incredibly anxious, wishing to avoid as many people as possible. I was incredibly antisocial. For nearly a year and a half, in hopes to avoid my classmates in the cafeteria, I would bring my school lunches into the bathroom to eat in privacy, where nobody would approach me and I could exist in peace. I didn’t have it quite figured out back then.
  6. Halfway through my sophomore year I began to make my first friends. I stopped eating alone and forced myself to sit with my new friend group, even if I was always the weird one at the lunch who rarely contributed to the group’s conversations. As time passed I grew more and more comfortable with the people I sat with every day, even allowing myself to spend some time with a few of them outside of class. I became close friends with Vincent, a member of the table, a nerdy stoner from California with pale skin, shaggy blond hair and huge glasses. We bonded over our shared interests in punk rock and video games; he was also my initial introduction to marijuana.
  8. Cannabis was one of my best friends during my later teenage years. Through all the confusion and loneliness I experienced, getting high seemed to be the only thing that made me feel at peace. My parents have always been strictly anti-drug, excluding the medications I was taking for anxiety and depression, causing me a great deal of anxiety whenever I was intoxicated. Since marijuana’s legalization for medical purposes and the acquisition of my medical card the anxiety hasn’t been as present, yet I always feel a strange sense of guilt whenever I partake. It’s hard to explain, but there’s a certain sort of insight I felt like I received whenever I got stoned, as if the answers to every question I had asked due to my existential dread had been resolved; like the universe was giving me a warm hug, telling me everything would be okay. To those well-versed in the consumption of psychoactive substances this feeling should be very familiar, despite its inherent indescribability. I continue to be fascinated by this phenomenon, and as a confused teenager searching for clarity, this realization, in hindsight, was an essential catalyst for the commencement of my spiritual journey.
  9. My curiosity and years of research led me to a deep interest in psychedelic compounds that has followed me to the present day. I was eventually presented with the opportunity to try LSD at a high school football game. During the come-up prior to the game I visited my friend and we went to Bath and Bodyworks, where my senses were immediately sent into overdrive. This was the first time I was experiencing any serious alteration in my perception of consciousness, and the overwhelming blend of exotic smells from the store was almost too much for me to bear. I was met with this overwhelming sense of oneness with the universe as I exited the store. I traversed the winding path towards the school that seemed to dance vibrantly in synchronization with the kaleidoscopic geometric patterns rapidly changing around me. The world became a vibrant blend of blues and purples, like everything I saw was radiating with intense love and energy. I had little time to think about the implications of what I was seeing as I was completely immersed in the moment, but in the years that followed that burning question remained unanswered, and I was only given glimpses of it when I was high on psychedelics, marijuana included.
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