AUSTIN, Texas — It’s inevitable that all of us in life, at some point, will dip into a lull and potentially hit rock bottom. Things aren’t going our way; life is catching up with us – or we just don’t feel comfortable in our own skin. If we are lucky enough, we have someone in our life – by our side, pushing us to be ourselves and to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Our next guest not only has this person in his life, he aspires to be this person for others moving forward.
Please welcome, Nick.
What You Need To Know
- Grew up in Georgia before migrating to Texas.
- Can beat you in Tennis and volleyball.
- Is an exceptional artist.
Nick and I snagged some Mezcal last week at El Cockfight – a new mezcal joint downtown that serves, well – mezcal.
“So, I grew up in Georgia and lived there my entire life until March 2022 – Actually my first gay friend that I’ve known since middle school messaged me about Austin originally and said it looked cool, one year later he moved there – I called him and said ‘screw you man!’ for going without me” Nick says with a big laugh. “At the time I had a remote job so I said, fuck it – packed up my stuff and moved out here”
Nick is one of those guys you could have a conversation with for hours – thoughtful, engaging and fun.
I asked him what he thinks of Austin so far being only a year or so in.
“The crowd is young, that’s for sure. Even just walking around it seems like nobody is above 40.” Nick explained. “The gay community has also been super welcoming. I’m more of an outdoor gay than others I’ve met! So I really love what the city has to offer.” We both laugh. “But seriously, everyone is young and vibrant, and I love the crowd here”
I wanted to know more about Nick, so I dig in on growing up in Georgia.
“I grew up very Catholic so being gay was a big no no” Nick for the first time tonight becomes more serious with his tone. “Sports was and is my outlet. Through sports I was able to be my true self. I’ve been playing tennis since the 6th grade, and I had a lesbian coach.”
Nick starts to dig deeper.
“I really struggled with the religious element – and why I was loving someone I wasn’t ‘supposed to’. I honestly got to a really, really dark place where I needed to tell someone what I was feeling, or I would hurt myself. One day, I was talking private lessons with my coach, and she knew something was wrong. I just completely broke down – started crying – and my coach came up to me and said ‘you don’t have to say it, I’ve known since the day I met you’ – since then, she’s been my rock since I came out. She took me to my first Pride, helped me come out to friends and honestly, I wouldn’t be here today without her.”
Everyone, take a deep breath – that’s a lot to digest. But what I want to stress is the importance of coaches, mentors or anyone in our life that sees us, for us. You may be that person for someone else – and it’s never to late to ask someone if they are okay, or if they want to talk.
“Coming out to my parents was very hard because of my religion – when I came out to my Dad he said ‘I love you no matter what, it’s going to take me a second but I love and I’m going to figure it out with you. We have been through struggles, but we are on the way to a good spot.” Nick explained.
Love can conquer all – and Nick found additional love and support in college.
“When I was in college I was out and dated a guy and that’s when I started to see things get a little better with my family – I also met my ride or dies in college. My friends taught me about still having a relationship with God but still staying true to who I was. These people are who made me who I am. My friends are my family. They are the ones who I call If I need anything, and family doesn’t always have to be blood. When someone says family, I think of my core group of friends who support me 100% no matter what.” Nick says with conviction.
Nick also explained to me that he still plays tennis today, and actually coaches others locally here in Austin – but his passion for coaching runs deeper than just his love for the sport.
“In addition to playing tennis I’ve been coaching since I was 16. I also coached at the top volleyball gym in the county A5”
What can’t this guy play or coach?!
“For me coaching runs deeper – there’s no question my tennis coach saved my life. I understand how much she meant to me at such a pivotal, dark time and that’s how I became inspired to want to coach and be a mentor for others. I know how bad it got for me and if I can inspire others through sports to prevent those feelings, that’s what I want to do.”
A few things are pretty clear at this point in the interview – First, Nick and I both have a shared affinity for Mezcal. Second, Nick’s story is nothing less than exceptional – his desire to inspire others through sport reminds me that we all posses the ability to positively affect the outcomes of others – sure, we may not be in the driver seat of their life – but we can ride in the passenger seat and provide direction and motivation to the destination.
“I really love seeing the growth with people I coach – If I can help them get better, I will. You spend so much time with someone as a coach – part of your job is to break them down and build them up, and that’s hard for me to do at times – but I love it and I give good advice because of what I’ve been through – it allows me to have enhanced empathy for those I’m teaching” Nick explains.
We close with some advice he would give.
“You want my top advice? Okay here it is! Slow down… take a long pause. Everything is moving so fast. I felt like it was yesterday, and I was 18 coming out and going to my first pride. But you need a break from it all. Put your feet in the grass, touch a tree, get off your phone. Take some time and smell the roses.” Nick describes with a smile.
We finish our Mezcal and get ready to depart for the night – but before we do, Nick provides one last nugget of advice that resonates so deeply.
“Our community goes through a fuck ton, and we have a lot of work to do but we are alive and living. You know, my dad fought in Vietnam and described it to me this way – he said, ‘If I’m fighting in the trenches of war, you better be beside me firing back to the enemy, I don’t care who you are – I need you to have my back’’.
At the end of the day, we are all people – and we must have each other’s back regardless of background or up bringing. There’s no more important connection in life than the connection between us as humanity – and sometimes society needs a reminder that we are all capable of being good and supportive of each other.
As we leave the bar and walk our separate ways – I have a renewed sense of visceral inspiration to ask myself “Who can I help tomorrow? Where can I share my advice and help coach someone who might need a little extra push” – indeed Nick has and is achieving his goal – inspiring others to find the good within – and motivating us, to be us.