My Story - Joe Powers
Joe participated in STLF's college Pay It Forward Tour last year and will lead a Mystery Tour from Illinois State University this year. Here is his story!
Written by: Joe Powers
As I begin to write my STLF story I am taking into account my setting. I am currently sitting in a coffee shop listening to Needtobreathe and enjoying an absolutely amazing scone with coffee. I think everyone has those moments in day-to-day life where the little things surmount into a reminder of how blessed we are for the opportunities and everything that we have. At any rate, I am about to condense a story about my STLF experience into just five short paragraphs and although I am nervous of my story-telling abilities, I will try to tell this very cool story with minimal rambling, as I tend to get off topic fairly easy. The path that led me to STLF started five years ago, and looking back on that path I am thankful for all the experiences and struggles that I had. On the Pay it Forward tour I had a great time, made friends that I will keep and cherish forever, and discovered leadership potential that I never knew I had. Post- pay it forward I have obtained a balance in my life and I am at my happiest. However, prior to the tour I wasn’t so content, confident, and happy.
Five short years ago my struggle with OCD began to escalate and I kept the struggle in. I put on the appearance that I had everything put together; the person I portrayed wasn’t the person that I was on the inside. I ripped myself apart for having irrational compulsions, and the fears that stemmed from my OCD put me in the lowest point of my life. However, no one would have ever known, apparently I am a good actor. During my end of high school/beginning of college period of life I decided to push God and my faith further away while letting my compulsions overtake my daily life. I was on a slippery downhill journey and I was fearful of opening up about it. I got amazing grades, became over-involved, and took many board positions in campus organizations. To everyone I was what seemed like a perfect student. When my OCD reached its peak I was finally forced to open up to my parents about the struggle. Being the loving and caring people that they are, they encouraged me to seek therapy and they showered me in love and support. I was so fearful to admit a weakness to them but it was the necessary step I needed to take.
My struggle to overcome my OCD is a defining moment in my life and is a huge part of my testimony because this disorder that I hated so much made me into a stronger person, and more importantly led me into forming a relationship with God; who I spent some time trying to push away. Although I overcame my struggles with OCD I still had coping mechanisms that helped me keep control over my OCD. Keeping my OCD under control will be a constant challenge for me for the rest of my life. I became an uptight control freak and had to have every aspect of my life planned out. Having these tendencies helped me keep control over myself, however; I wasn’t happy about the person I was. Having such amazing timing, God decided it would be a good idea to surround me with STLF participants all at once. I saw such a great community of people who radiated love and positive attitude towards others. All I heard from these new people was information on this Pay it Forward tour. I have come to find that STLFers are great persuaders and they all convinced me to go on the tour.
Okay so quick recap before I get into the end of my story: struggle with OCD, trying to be perfect, finding God, overcoming OCD, and coping by becoming a control freak. So now I am on this tour, more specifically the mystery tour. I don’t think I was cognizant about the fact that by going on the mystery tour I was giving up all control and I wouldn’t have a perfectly planned schedule to my knowledge; although my bus core would. I am so happy that I never thought of this while picking the tour I would go on. If I thought more about it I probably wouldn’t have chosen mystery tour because I loved having that pre-known schedule. The mystery tour truly forced me to give up on the notion of having control over my life. All my struggles in the past surmounted on the downtown streets of Charleston, South Carolina. After the large group service project we had the day to explore the beautiful city of Charleston. A friend, who I had grown close to over the tour, and I decided to break off from the group and explore the historic areas of the city. The day flew by and it was almost time to go back to the bus so we could get ready for celebration that night.
At this point in the day “old” Joe would have rushed back to the bus to get there early and follow the schedule that was made. What I suggested to my friend was something that to this day surprises me. I suggested that we miss the bus and find our own way back to the hotel. We would be responsible and notify our bus core and make sure they were okay with it. The thought of doing this both terrified me and made me excited. When 5 o’clock came around and the bus left I felt an overwhelming feeling of relief. At this point we missed the bus, had until 9 to explore the city and I had to put my trust into the fact that we would find a way back. We had an amazing time in Charleston, eating lamb ricotta pizza while listening to a soulful jazz musician, found hidden nooks and crannies of the city, and met some amazing Charleston residents a long the way. We made it back to celebration in time and everything worked. But, there was no schedule, no guarantees, and no way of knowing if we would get back in time. As trivial as this sounds, thatexperience, and the rest of the tour, forever changed my life. I learned firsthand that not having a schedule for every aspect of my life is ok. I found balance in my life between being organized and laid back at the same time. To be honest the old Joe does still seep back from time to time. But all I need to do is rely on my experiences from the tour to get that balance back. Sometimes not having control is a good thing. Having trust in the people you are with and in the plan God has for you is so much more important than doing everything in one’s power to make it happen “their way.” STLF has shaped me in so many ways; if it weren’t for the tour I wouldn’t be in such a great place in my life. As I go on to lead ISU mystery bus 1 this upcoming spring I am ecstatic to help fellow students overcome their struggles while revealing their leadership potential. I want nothing more than for every participant to have an amazing experience gaining insight into themselves and their potential. I would like to finish my story with an STLF tradition… “yeah buddy.” To those who don’t know, a “yeah buddy” is a way to congratulate someone or a group of people for something great they did. So, a big YEAH BUDDY to everyone in STLF. All of you have changed my life and I will hold you all close to my heart forever.
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