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Everyone has a personal journey worth sharing. From traveling anecdotes to stories of personal development, sharing what we’ve learned creates invaluable reading experiences. This is why we asked our community of passionate writers to share their personal journeys. With thanks to everyone who took part, here are some of the finest examples of creative first-person storytelling on

Over the last four years, I have ventured out on my own to work with youth in Vietnam, South Korea, and Cambodia to help support and empower them through education and caregiving. I am driven by a passion for community enhancement, youth development, and cross-cultural exchanges, and a desire to assist others in accessing health and language education. With each instance of volunteering, you hope make a positive change. Often, your own life changes also; the question is simply how. While each country I have worked in has left its own unique impression on me, it was in Cambodia where one child made all the difference and changed my life.

It had been two years since I was last in Southeast Asia, and the summer heat was as oppressive as I remembered. As the plane landed at Phnom Penh International Airport, my chest tightened with excitement, though I was also nervous. I had never been to Cambodia and I knew no one there. I was pretty sure I could handle my assignment caring for children with disabilities at a local orphanage, but a part of me also knew I was underestimating the severity of the situation I would be walking into. Unlike the work I had done elsewhere, this would be deeply hands-on and Cambodia was sure to be a country unlike any other I’d been to. A voice of doubt whispered in my mind, “Can you handle it?”.

I did amateur stand-up comedy for three years before it ate me up and spat me out. Like most young men are wont to do, I got in to comedy because of a girl. A wholly forgettable girl in the greater scheme of things but I was 24 and was hoping I'd get to see her untanned areas...

I was working full time in a call centre and said girl said to me, "I saw some stand-up the other night, you should do it Ben, you're funnier in conversation than half of them there!". Always a sucker for flattery and distracted by a pretty face I thought "how hard could it be?!"

There's definitely a misconception in comedy that it is very easy to make. Armchair warriors of the land always think, "I could do that, he's just talking about the news!", but I encourage any naysayers to visit your local amateur night and give it a whirl. My first gig was a new act of the year competition which in hindsight was an awful place to start. This kind of competition is for the best amateurs to show they're ready to step up and ideally prove that they're ready for at least paid work. I went there with a 5 minute set entirely about my name, because y'know, I'm funnier than half of them there.

When I was in college, I used to go to cons pretty often. It was mostly an excuse to walk around in a Yukata and utilize its utterly amazing sleeve pockets. Eventually, though, my attendance started to taper off. I graduated and so did my crew, which meant we were off doing our own thing. A few moved out of state, some moved just far enough that regularly hanging out wasn't possible. Either way, we grew up and grew out of that kind of thing. At least that's what I told myself when I finally stopped going. A part of me never stopped liking cons, though. I always loved watching the cosplay music videos and other great content that came from them.

This year I decided to finally go to a convention again after six years. The only hitch was that I didn't really know anyone who wanted to go with me. All of my "friends" were mostly from work and conventions weren't really their thing. Still, I had just bought a new camera and wanted to take it for a spin so I bit the bullet and in June I went by myself to the Los Angeles Cosplay Convention to try and take some pictures of cosplayers. Turns out that'd be one of the best decisions I've made in a while.

So, there I was standing in a crowd full of unfamiliar faces.

Rarely in this world do we encounter a visionary with a mind so imaginative and a vision so raw that it makes us drop down onto our knees-to peel disgusting processed meats and cheeses off the strip club's stage. It could have been worse I suppose. I could have been one of the dancers that were doing the same thing, but to their bare asses as opposed to being the underappreciated drink fetching, floor scrubbing titty-bar waitress. As many other young larva of the adult entertainment industry I was about to undergo a metamorphosis. My catalyst being an innovative new activity so brilliantly titled, The Bare Ass Bologna Toss.

It had been months now that the Sunday shift at The Soul Hole was dying out. What was once a great laid back shift with big tippers and little effort, had become increasingly stale as the weeks continued to roll by. The high rolling drug dealers were disappearing from the state or into correctional facilities. Traveling business execs no longer came in to awe their clients or escape their mundane marriages. Dancers were flocking south in search of new clubs, cheaper plastic surgeons and a readily available supply of sugar daddies. The herd was thinning fast as our remaining regulars were running out of money and escaping the costly club fees back in their cheapass motel rooms. 

Writing this piece in 2015 would see a very different story.

Although looking reasonably healthy on the outside, perhaps just a little more pale and weary eyed, on the surface you wouldn’t have known anything was wrong. In reality, I was ill. Mentally, I had crashed to my lowest point in my life. I was riddled with deep anxiety, I was suffering with insomnia and I was stuck in a depression that didn’t seem like it would ever lift. Although I wouldn’t go as far to say I was suicidal, I was no longer in control of my life or rather I just didn’t care. Cocktails of whisky, anti-depressants and sleeping pills became an everyday habit and I wasn’t taking any care of dosage.

I was abusing alcohol, self-harming, hiding from friends and refusing to go to University in what was my most important year in education.

The reasons for the deterioration of my mental health stemmed from a number of things, and happiness seemed like a feeling that was long lost and alien to myself. I didn’t really see things getting better, and I wasn’t putting any effort into trying to make them so. I had a void inside of myself and I was filling it with prescription medication and alcohol. I searched for a “cure” in various places and forms, but nothing worked.