You Don’t Need to Understand People to Accept Them

You Don’t Need to Understand People to Accept Them: feel accepted

Podcast Description

TRIGGER WARNING: In this episode we talk about depression and suicide.

Building friendships and community is a skill that takes hard work to master. 

For many people, such as myself and today’s guest, Noah, building these connections isn’t just for fun. It’s also about survival. Today, we talk about growing up in a household where you don’t feel seen or supported and then going off on your own – only to realize you’ve never developed the skillset to make friends and build community.

As humans, we’re not meant to go through this life alone, and nothing reminds us of that more than when we feel alone. Eventually, Noah did find his chosen family, which was critical to battling his depression while living in Florida, where there’s a lot of anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation. 

So many people think they need to understand you to accept you, but the reality is, we’re never going to understand why and how each person in the world lives – and we don’t need to in order to accept them for who they are. 

In this episode you’ll hear about:

  • Noah’s life after high school: studying drama in college and moving to Miami, where he fell into a deep depression
  • Fear of rejection in friendship – beginners have to get out there and build resilience and NOT view themselves as simply bad at making friends or unworthy
  • How, until you become an adult, you might not HAVE to make friends – your family chooses where you live, your community, and the precedent for what’s acceptable
  • Making friends with people with whom you don’t feel like yourself as a means of surviving this phase of life
  • The messages society tells us – if you’re low, get yourself out of it – and the alternative to create a community who can hold and love you when you’re in your low points

Reflection Question:

At what point in your life did you learn to create connections and make friends on your own? Was it as an adult, or did you develop these skills as a kid? How did you do it?

Notable Quotes from Noah:

“The only thing my brain knows is structured socialization. I’ve never been in a situation where I needed to, like willingly socialize and make a schedule for it or even try to make friends, because, yeah, maybe I’d go to church, but I had my siblings and they would make all the first moves for me.”

“Being in a relationship with anyone, period, is actively choosing everyday to be in that relationship with that person. You’re not promised something with someone. Whether you think you are or not, any moment, someone can unfortunately pass away. They can choose to leave you. Nothing is promised. The choice is active every day to continue this thing with this person.”

Resources & Links

There are only four states in the U.S. that don’t have active anti-LGBTQ legislation. Check out the ACLU website to see what bills are live in your state.

Check out Noah’s podcast, “Severely Personal” and the Man Enough podcast.

Leave Alex a voicemail!

Everyone Wants To Feel Accepted

Until next time…

Take the conversation beyond the new podcast on friendship! Follow Alex on Instagram (@itsalexalexander) or Tiktok (@itsalexalexander), or send her a voice message directly with all your friendship thoughts, problems, and triumphs by heading to AlexAlex.chat and hitting record. 

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Episode Transcript

Podcast Intro/Outro  00:02

Alrighty, gang. Here’s to nights that turn into mornings and friends that turn in family. Cheers!

Podcast Intro/Outro   00:18

Hello, Hello, and welcome to the Friendship IRL podcast. I’m your host, Alex Alexander. My friends… They would tell you; I like to ask the hard questions. You know who I am in the group? I’m the person that’s saying, “Okay, I’m going to ask this question, but don’t feel like you have to answer it.” And now, I can be that friend for you, too. 

Alex Alexander [Narration]  00:50

Are you ready? Really, truly, are you ready? Because today’s episode is real and raw. This conversation was… I don’t even have words. Brave, authentic, personal. Those are probably the best ones I can come up with. Today’s guest is Noah. Now, Noah and I met in a Facebook group. I’ve talked a little bit about this before, and I talked about it in this episode. But I joined this podcasting group, just seeing what kind of interesting voices I could find that aren’t in my everyday circle. And as I was going through this group, I noticed a post Noah had about his podcast, which is titled ‘Severely Personal’, go check it out. And on his podcast, he tries to take the really intense life stuff and kind of find the humor in it, to take the messiness and just remind us all that we’re humans existing in this world. And as I scrolled through the Facebook group, there was a pitch for his podcast, and I marked it thinking, well, my past is kind of messy. Maybe I should pitch myself as a guest for his podcast. I love to have a real and raw conversation. I do find the humor in all this. And as luck would have it, Noah reached out to me when I posted about my podcast, and we had a chat, and decided this is a great fit. Now, this episode is very honest. No, it doesn’t hold back. So trigger warning, we talk about suicide. We talk about Noah’s journey of coming out, we talk about the real stuff. Like I said, this episode is very brave. Noah it takes us through what it’s like to grow up in a household where you don’t feel very seen and supported. And then you graduate high school, you move off to college, you go to do the things you’re supposed to do. But no one’s ever taught you that community and friendship is a skill. So you get out in the world, you’re an adult, you go to college, but you never really developed the skill set to make these connections. And the thing is that Noah, like myself, these connections are not just like fun and great and bonus, they’re survival. We aren’t meant to go through this life alone. And nothing reminds you more of that than when you feel like you are completely alone. So Noah’s out here, needing to build himself a chosen family, and find spaces where he feels seen for maybe the first time in his life, but doesn’t really have the skills to do that. And the world’s really trying to put him in boxes to go after success or move away from home or do all these things. You’ll hear in this episode that Noah talks a little bit about how he lives in Florida, where there is a lot of anti-LGBTQI+ legislation. And I just want to call attention to the fact that currently there are actually 491 pieces of anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation in the US. And if you think yourself, oh, well, I live in a pretty progressive state. There are only four states in the US that currently don’t have active legislation. There’s a link in the show notes to the ACLU website where you can see a tracker and see what bills are live in your state. Why am I telling you this? Because we talk a little bit in this episode about how so many people feel like they need to understand you to accept you. And what a terrible way that is to approach the world. Because we’re all so different. And why do we need to understand everyone and their choices and the ways that they live, and their backgrounds and their traumas and their stories? Why does that matter to just accept that we’re all humans existing on this earth together? And Noah mentions that, quite often, people who are attacking the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s often because they’ve never met somebody who’s a member of that community. And after today, you’ll have met Noah, and hopefully hearing his story, his journey, his bravery, to get out there, to figure out who he is, and to build a community for himself, will make some people realize that we really don’t need to understand people to accept them as they are, that everyone is worthy of being accepted for who they are. 

Alex Alexander  06:00

Hi, Noah. How are you?

Noah Mastoridis  06:01

I’m great. How are you?

Alex Alexander  06:03

I’m good. I need to come up with a better opening question. I just… I think I always know that when we get into these conversations, some real stuff is gonna come out. Like how do you… you know, I’m not getting on here to talk about the latest Kardashians drama or not like these silly conversations. So it’s like an overwhelming start to the podcast. 

Noah Mastoridis  06:29

Yeah, it’s like, how do I get started? 

Alex Alexander  06:31

Yeah, like, how do we set the stage for whatever direction this might go in? Which sometimes is fun and light. But probably more often than not the people listening to this podcast know that. You might leaving like, whoa, I’ve never thought about it that way. All right. I’m so excited that you’re here. We connected via this Facebook group to collaborate for podcasters. And before I posted in there, I had scrolled through all the postings are people looking for guests. And I favorited yours. And was like, I need to reach out later about…

Noah Mastoridis  07:15

It makes me so happy.

Alex Alexander  07:16

… being on this podcast. Do you want to talk a little bit about your podcast and what you’re creating?

Noah Mastoridis  07:24

So yeah, my podcast is called Severely Personal. I’m still in so many ways, like, figuring out as I go, like what I want it to be. But like, what I realized that I was missing from like, my catalogue of podcasts that I’ve listened to is like, all the comedic stuff I listened to never gets too serious. And then all the serious stuff I get to is always so serious. So I kind of just wanted to like find something where there can be humor and something so serious, but then also things that aren’t serious, that are just personal. So like, it’s cool. It’s really personal. Like I talked about, like coming out, I talked about like…

PODCAST EPISODE! Hear all about why I created Friendship IRL here.

Alex Alexander  08:08

Really… this uncomfortable all the time about everything. Like I love your podcast, because that’s exactly what you’re trying to do is like, listen, we’re all humans, this is all messy. And therefore, like, we could feel really weird about it. Or we could just try and find the humor in it. So we’re going to find the humor today in this conversation. And, you know, when we very first started talking previously in our discovery call, we were kind of just talking about, like what it takes to find community after college. What was that like for you? 

Noah Mastoridis  08:43

It was so hard and scary. And like, the way I grew up, I grew up in a very abusive, toxic household. I was the youngest of the child. So I was just always following the leader. I was never really making my own decisions. I was just doing everything other people wanted to do. I was never allowed to hang out with anyone. So I loved school, because that was where I was able to socialize with people. It wasn’t until like, middle of high school where I really started being able to hang out with people outside of school. And that was so nice. And so then right after high school, I go to college. And so the only thing my brain knows is structured socialization. I’ve never been in a situation where I needed to, like willingly socialize and make a schedule for it or even try to make friends. Because, yeah, maybe I’d go to church, but I had my siblings and they would make all the first moves for me. So I had no direction as to how I was doing this. I have horrible anxiety. And I went to an art school and that was so fun. And I went to an acting school, like I’m a theatre person. So even though I’m like, so anxious about all these things, I found out like literally a few maybe like six months ago, the reason why I have loved acting so much and theatrical things is because I have a desire for attention. Because I never knew how to get that as a kid..

Noah Mastoridis  08:43

Terrifying, because…

Alex Alexander  08:46

Say it like it is. Yes. 

Alex Alexander  08:51

You and me both. Not theatrics, but like, I get it. I grew up in a messy household too. Yeah, you want to like, feel seen, feel worthy feel like you’re allowed to take up space if you are, as my friends call it, like a trauma kid. And your instincts are what they are because we have messed up upbringing. 

Noah Mastoridis  10:36

And that was what was so great about acting too. Because if you couldn’t tell by now, I’m very gay. That wasn’t a thing. And my family, very conservative, traditional. You can’t be gay, very bad. So I was able to find so many outlets through acting, by being someone else. But it wasn’t necessarily that I wasn’t being myself. I was just taking on attributes of someone else and like, letting things out through that. So it was very healing. I’m glad I did that. I’m not so much into it anymore. Because I have just been able to realize like, oh, I only enjoyed it because of attention. But back to the question.

Alex Alexander  11:15

I mean, I could go off so many tangents. 

Noah Mastoridis  11:17

I know. I know. After college, I moved to Miami. And I live in like St. Augustine, like Jacksonville area, Florida, North Florida. So moving to Miami was like a big thing for me because I had only ever gone to the school that was like, in the same area. So everyone who went to the elementary school, went to this middle school. From that middle school, I went to the correct high school. I never rezoned. I always had a collective group of people that I knew, or at least had a few people I was friends with. So I moved to Miami with one person that I knew very well. And I couldn’t have done it alone. I could not have at that point in my life. And as soon as I got to Miami, I had this dream. I was like, okay, I’m gonna start acting and like these really nice productions and like doing these theatrical things, because I was killing it. I was so good. I am good. But like I grew up really poor. I never really got things unless it was my own money from like my job. So I had to get a job as soon as I got to Miami. And I got a job. And I was making a ridiculous amount of money. I was a bartender, I was working from literally 5 pm until 3 am. And it was horrible, horrible for my mental health. But I was making so much money that I was so distracted. I was socializing with like my co workers, which was nice. But I kind of had a resistance where I didn’t allow myself to connect with them. Like I didn’t want to be friends with them for some reason. I just had my own wall that was built up.

Alex Alexander  12:50

A lot of society’s messages, say like, it’s not safe to befriend your co-workers that they’ll use things against you. And like, I totally get why you would be resistant.

Noah Mastoridis  12:59

And I was also conscious too, like I never was purposely like, I think because it’s been so hard for me to come out, even in a situation like going to a job and living in Florida, unfortunately, the laws are getting worse and worse. Like you can literally just get fired for being gay. But I also was like, I need a job. So I need to be as like, yes sir, I got this, as possible. So I kind of like built that wall up. But eventually like, like I loosened up. And people are like, oh, we love you. And like it was fun. But it’s just fear based on life. After six months, after nine months of being in Miami, I started waking up in the middle of the night. And by the middle of the night, that’s 6 am for me, because I got home at like 3 am. And my body would be shaking. Like it would feel like I just went for a mile run and didn’t eat anything prior, drank water. And I was like, what is going on with me? Like, I’m physically dying. I started getting super depressed, horrible. All my aspirations on my passions in life disappeared, and I had the worst case of brain fog ever, I couldn’t ever really think and I started becoming suicidal. And it wasn’t the type of suicidality where you just want to harm yourself. It was… and this I think is the most common where you just simply don’t want to be alive. It’s too painful to just be alive. I didn’t want to hurt myself, but… and my head was like, if I’m in a car with someone, it’s like, I’m just crossing my fingers, like something’s gonna happen and I’ll die. Not that I want them to die. But like, you’re… you’re just hoping for any possible opportunity to take you out because you don’t want to be the one to do it yourself. And it was horrible. And I was like, I have to get out of Miami and I have to go back home and I have to refigure out my life because I’m unhappy and I’m literally going to kill myself. So that was really scary just leaving everything because with all the money I was making In Miami, I got myself a really nice car and I had all these bills, but I was able to afford it because of the money that I was making. Going back to where I’m living now, you don’t make that kind of money here. But I’m carrying over the bills that you have when you’re in Miami. So I was able to find a really great situation, I reached out to a really close friend that I have. And she let me move in with her and her family. And the rent was very minimal. And they were very understanding of my situation. And they just wanted to see me getting help. And now that I was fully out of college and aware, like I entered this level of consciousness that I think, is what brought me into my depression, because I was finally like, oh, I’m not in school anymore. I don’t have the structured things to keep me stable. And I was kind of resisting my own desire to be an adult and make plans for myself, and set up dates with friends, romantically with anything. It was so hard for me and I was so scared to because I don’t want to feel rejected, and I felt rejected my whole life. And if I’m going to a school, no one’s going to reject me because they’re in the same classroom with me.

Alex Alexander [Narration]  16:09

Oh, man. Thank you, Noah, first of all, for your vulnerability. This is not easy stuff to talk about. So I just want to acknowledge that. And second of all, I want to point something out here, which is that this story, Noah’s story is one example of so many out there, of why it is important to talk about friendship and community as a skill. When it’s a skill, it’s just something we haven’t learned yet. If we just believe that it’s this given talent we all have, that will just wake up and know how to do it. Then so many people continue to wake up every day just thinking that something’s wrong with them. When in reality, if we’re taught that these relationships are built on habits and skills, you can look at yourself and know that you’re not a bad person, you just have more to learn. That society just didn’t teach you the necessary habits and skills to build these relationships outside of structures such as school. And we’re doing such a disservice to so many people by not separating the fact that this is a habit and a skill that you have to learn and put yourself out there and be a beginner when we talk about it. When we talk about the fact that that fear of rejection is similar to the fear of being bad at anything, because you’re a beginner, that we have to get out there practice, build resiliency, instead of viewing ourselves as people who are bad at making friends or aren’t worthy. Not talking about friendship and community as a habit or a skill is having real-life consequences for so many people. 

Alex Alexander  17:23

Somebody used this term recently that I thought was so genius. Like I’ve talked about this before that when a lot of people just talk about friendship and they talk about friendship. They don’t talk about family. They don’t talk about community. And as you and I know, it is like the cumulative unique support system you build for yourself. People that have been through trauma get that. If family privilege and like societal things are working for you, you would never consider that it’s this cumulative thing because you have this great built in support system with your family, right? But you and I both know that it’s cumulative, which is why I insist on talking about family and community in addition to friendship. The thing about family that’s so interesting, like why it’s so important to talk about, as you mentioned, is your family picks where you live. Your family picks the community, you’re part of the groups you go to, they set the precedent for what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable. And if you don’t feel like this person that you are supposed to be, which it sounds like very much was your experience, then you go and you’re in these situations, and somebody the other day told me that we need to start thinking of that as allies, not necessarily friends. Because you were in the school where you didn’t necessarily feel like you could be like yourself, and you just kind of needed to survive. You needed to like make it through your childhood living in this community, being around these people. And sure, some of them are probably friends. But I think quite often people get to the end of that high school, college journey and they haven’t chosen much of anything. And they’ve made relationships, but they’ve kind of just like made people to exist and like survive through this scenario with. And then when you get out of that, when you become an adult, when you have some financial means to move yourself, and when you have your mental health and whatnot, you can like choose where you put yourself, the groups of friends, you connect with the people you meet. And put yourself in safer situations where you can actually develop friendships where you’re yourself where, like, you are you. You’re not in survival mode anymore, you’re not having to act to feel seen.

Noah Mastoridis  18:37

Because for me, going to school was like, my sense of freedom. I… luckily, if it was not for my friends, I wouldn’t have been able to come out because my friends came out first before I did, and it kind of showed me like, oh, like they’re normal human being. I genuinely think that so many people who are super homophobic and just like queerphobic, and whatever way is because one, they have never socialized with anyone who identifies as queer, or they are a queer person themselves. And so being able to see these people as people and being able to be like, oh, my God, that’s me, like I can be that, kinda like woke something up in me. So I was always able to, like, be myself. I had really close friends in like high school, even in middle school, and then in college, where I was able to kind of like escape from the person who I was hiding from my family. And then from, like, my work, my coworkers. But definitely, I see what you’re saying where it’s like, you do choose some certain people to survive with because there are so many people who I was friends with who I’m not going to be friends with now, because I don’t align with them. But it was simply… it’s simply… I never thought about it like that. That’s great.

PODCAST EPISODE! Let’s talk about Chosen Family! I talk with someone who is my chosen family about these relationships, what makes them work, and the importance of Chosen Family in our lives. Listen here.

Alex Alexander  22:05

It kind of blew my mind. I was like, this makes so much sense. But then that’s like confusing for people if we don’t have that language. I don’t know, if ally is really the right term, because ally holds very important meaning in the LGBTQ, the people of color, black lives matter. Like in a lot of marginalized communities, that is a very important term. So I don’t know if like, maybe we need a rebrand on that term before we start using it broadly, if not confuse the two. But like, it’s just that idea that sometimes you’re making relationships with people where you really don’t feel like yourself. And it’s more about making it through this phase of your life than it is necessarily about like a deep friendship. Because then when you lose that, you might think you’re a bad person for that friendship ending, when like in reality, it was kind of built on pretences that you needed for survival.

Noah Mastoridis  22:41

And there’s also like the total opposite, where being able to go through that survival with someone makes your relationship even… Like I have so many friends or I shouldn’t say so many, I have really good friends now, where if we didn’t go through that thing together, that college experience, the trauma, we want to end up as close as we are now. Like, we have a sense of like who we were, and being able to see who we are now in the growth. My best friend, who you saw earlier before we started recording, we’ve been best friends for 15 years. And so, we’ve seen each other from elementary school until now. And it’s crazy. And I think everything that we’ve seen each other through and like what we’ve gone through has just made our bond stronger over time.

Alex Alexander  23:51

I mean, I’m sure of that. Like, if you’re still together, it’s kind of like allowing each other just peel back the layers on who you are, and like accepting each new version. And when you have all that history and vulnerability and like seeing that journey, that’s going to deeply connect the two of you. 

Alex Alexander [Narration]  24:13

Hold on, wait a minute. Excuse me. What is Noah referring to here? Are those emotional intimacy roots? If you are listening to my podcast for the first time, you’ve never probably heard of my roots theory, my roots framework. You can go back and listen to an entire episode where I break this down, but it’s a way to understand what is holding our friendships together. And what Noah is talking about is history with his friend, those memories that you have with someone. Those are what I call emotional intimacy roots. And 15 years of friendship holds so much history, so many versions of yourself with someone. That’s a pretty hardy route. And I do want to acknowledge simultaneously that although that is a big, thick route, and so beautiful, it is also beautiful to go out and meet new people who just align with you on this present version of yourself. Neither one is better. Both are great friends to have. And there’s beauty in both. 

Alex Alexander  25:31

I seriously just recorded an episode on men’s friendships right before this. And I just kept coming back to this idea that we keep trying to, like silo and separate everyone. Like this is the LGBTQ community. This is men, this is women, this is elderly, this is parents as whatever. Like, we all exist in this world together. We are all here. And instead of just trying to talk about how we can like, make one sector of people feel more comfortable and we’re okay or whatever, it’s like, no, we just need to talk about how trying to silo everyone, trying to separate everyone, trying to box everyone in, like this is what’s ruining us all. And we’re all just people here existing on planet together.

Noah Mastoridis  26:27

A lot of it comes from like a fear of what we don’t know. And like, that goes back to what I was saying about how a lot of homophobic people, a lot of times have never socialized with people who are queer. It’s the fear of we don’t know. You look at what’s going on, like politically and stuff like that. We try to separate people into boxes, like you’re saying, and it’s so much easier to not understand the box. It’s like, oh, well, this is my box, I get the people who are in this box with me, I’m going to stay with them. But those people who are on the other box, there’s something going wrong. So I’m going to blame it on them, I’m not going to try to understand where they’re coming from. I don’t want to see them, I’m going to fear them. And then that’s just when corruption happens. And a lot of times, unfortunately, we get so stuck into these boxes, that it’s not until something horribly tragic happens that brings us all together. And the one thing that we all share in common is death. And that’s why something like…

Alex Alexander  27:24

You’re talking my language. Yeah, Noah. 

Noah Mastoridis  27:26

…entire country, we’re like, oh, my God, like everyone got together again, because we all share that fear. It was, oh, we all have an opportunity of dying. So let’s just try to like, be together for this moment. And we just forget that because we let fear get in the way.

Alex Alexander  27:42

Yeah, I always say that. You know, like the grief club is the one club that everyone will be a part of, but nobody wants to be a member. And I quite often refer to that as like, you know, losing a parent or a spouse or somebody like really close to you, a best friend. But you’re so right. Like, we’re just all going through grief all the time that we don’t want to acknowledge that we all share in and in these certain moments, we come together and then we try and be like, no, no, no, no. But, you know, we don’t grieve the same way. You know, this is a common experience. And we’re all scared of it and the things that bring it.

Noah Mastoridis  28:23

Yeah, I genuinely think regardless of privilege or anything, no one… and if you do, shout out to you, but I’ve never met anyone who 100% feels understood and seen. And so when I see people who are like, “Oh, I don’t agree with transgender people, or homosexuals”, and this and that, it’s like I say this all the time. It’s, I’m not asking you to understand why I am the way I am. I’m asking you to see the common similarity that we have of not feeling seen, of not feeling heard. And if this thing makes me feel seen and heard, who are you to reject that from me? Because it’s not affecting you at all. And if it is, that’s your own subconscious thing that you have pushed out and need to do the work on.

Alex Alexander  29:15

Yeah, there’s a podcast episode, I reference this all the time now. And I want everybody to listen to it. I have listened to this podcast episode, and I’m about to tell you about three times. I think it is truly one of the most important podcast episodes I’ve ever listened to. I will listen to it probably three more times. In fact, I’ve told multiple people about it this week, so I should just go read this. It’s by Alok Ved Menon in The Man Enough podcast. Alok is a non binary activist. They talk about in the episode that somewhere along the way we’ve been led to believe that we need to understand each other, to allow each other to be who we are. We’re never going to understand how each person in this world lives. Why do we keep insisting that we need to understand people’s choices? That’s impossible. Like, just have compassion for the fact that we are all different. And that you’re so right that we want to be seen and move on.

Noah Mastoridis  30:23

We all want to feel accepted. Yeah. Like we can all have that in common is that we all want to feel accepted. So what can I do to help you feel accepted? And what can you do to help me feel accepted? So yes, like compassion is so important. And just trying to acknowledge that like, oh, people share the pain that I have in a total different form.

Alex Alexander  30:44

Yeah. So I have a question for you around that. When you came out, and you decided that one, it sounds like you already had friends who were part of the queer community, but like when you decided to lean in and be intentional, like, build these connections in your life that felt more authentic, was that easy or hard for you? And that might be a really loaded question. That also is really off base.

Noah Mastoridis  31:17

No, it’s great. It was really, really hard for me because I had been out to my friends for years. I literally just came out to my family two weeks ago. Like I sent them letters in the mail. I have not…

Alex Alexander  31:36

Two weeks ago from the time of recording this podcast? 

Noah Mastoridis  31:38

Yeah, from the time of recording this podcast. 

Alex Alexander  31:40

Noah, thanks for being here. Oh, my gosh, okay, keep going. Yeah.

Noah Mastoridis  31:45

I’ve never had a close relationship with my family. It has always been very surface level, we have a lot trauma. And we just kind of ignore things. And it made me become a very avoidant human being, because that’s all I knew. I was like, okay, like, if there’s a problem, I’ll just avoid it. And it showed up in my friendships with people, my romantic relationships with people, and it was hurting them. And it was hurting stuff within myself. I was avoiding problems within myself. And that is something else that could have led to my depression and suicidality. And so, before I had come out to my family, you know, I was always like, oh, I’m out to my friends, it doesn’t matter, like whatever. But there was a part of me that just wanted my family to know it would have been… it just would have felt more accepting of myself. And so I always carry that blockage with me, even though I don’t live in the same state as my family, I don’t communicate with them that much. It still was just in me subconsciously, and made me be more of a smaller human being than I am. So having a desire to create these bonds with queer people, and being in the town that I do have, it’s very small, but it is there. I had to put in a lot of work and bravery to go out to these events, because there’s a lot of people there. And in so many ways, I am an extrovert. I love talking to people. But it’s until I rip the band aid off. Like when I first enter the room, I’m like freaking out. I was listening to your episode earlier, about like… you were saying something about, it’s easier… like when you… when you walk into a room and this group of people to shorten that time of when you make your first connection, withdrawing, and I’m like, that is so true. And I never really did it on my own. Like, fortunately, I had a friend with me who went with me to these things. So I had that kind of privilege, where some people don’t have that. And they literally have to, like push themselves into these things. And I wouldn’t have been able to do that at that point in my life without having someone really close to me. What I have learned now is just reaching out to people who you think are cool, and telling them that you think they’re cool, and that you want to be friends with them. It’s kind of like asking someone on a date but as a friend.

Alex Alexander  34:09

Friendship is a lot like dating and we don’t talk about it that way enough. 

Noah Mastoridis  34:12

One of the first things I did when I came back to my hometown, there was like a queer pride market in the small community. And it was so nice. It was my first Pride event. And I flirted with this one boy, and then, you know, it was nice and whatever. He ended up not being a healthy thing. But through him, I was able to meet, like someone who I ended up dating and it was such a great relationship. And they’re such a wonderful human being. We’re no longer together. But like, it was still such a valuable moment in my life. And I learned from that and then having that partner, I was able to, like meet their friends who are very much in the queer community and I loved their friends so much. And it’s so like healthy, you know? We’re so like, friends with everyone. And I think having that sense of like, we share this thing, it makes it easier for us to be friends.

Alex Alexander  35:11

Yeah. And I think whether it’s me and you befriended each other, and right, I’ll never understand what it is to be queer. Like, I don’t need to connect with friends who are queer necessarily on them being queer. There’s so many other parts of you, as a human, as anybody as a human, we could share an interest in friendship and community, we could share an interest in fashion theater, whatever it is. And I can continue to encourage you to go stay super active in the queer community and make friends who understand this piece of you. Like, I’ll just support you and encourage you and all of it and see you as who you are. I don’t have to be your main support person in every avenue who gets all the things, and I think that’s where some people get caught up as they’re like, “Well, I can’t understand this piece of them.” It’s like, okay. Again, like you don’t have to understand what makes you think you have to understand to have a connection? There’s so many other parts of this person. It’s just one piece, you just have to accept it and be willing to acknowledge it and listen and learn and be curious.

Noah Mastoridis  36:28

And there’s something about like, yeah, maybe it’s easier to be friends with someone because you understand them. But maybe you’ll have a more in depth relationship, because you don’t understand them. And you have that desire to want to learn things.

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Alex Alexander  36:41

Yeah, I’ve said this thing before, like, our… our friends are windows into other ways to live. If you just surround yourself with people who are just like you, you’re never gonna see all the other ways you might choose to live your life.

Noah Mastoridis  36:56

Yeah, it kind of piggybacks off that quote, that’s like, everyone is a mirror of ourselves. Like, if I see this hateful human being, I can identify that emotion. And I know that emotion is somewhere in myself, where’s that out in myself? How can I work on that? Like, or this person is… I see… I see a lot of jealousy going on in their lives, and I’m being able to pick at that, that’s just a mirror of something that I have within myself.

Alex Alexander  37:25

Yeah. And I mean, there’s a huge piece of being in relationship that is just being willing to look at yourself, self-reflect, change, admit that you’re wrong. Like really being a relationship of any kind with someone is just a lot of emotional labor. Non stop. Like for yourself, and for the other person. And if you can’t acknowledge that and be okay with it, and like, you’re gonna really suffer in your relationships, these are not easy, no matter what. 

Noah Mastoridis  37:55

You have to do the work. And unfortunately, like, I say it all the time, like, being in a relationship with anyone, period, is actively choosing everyday to be in that relationship with that person. You’re not promised something with someone. Like whether you think you are or not, any moment, someone can unfortunately pass away, they can choose to leave you, like nothing is promised. The choice is active every day to continue this thing with this person. And sometimes it’s like, that doesn’t mean every day, you have to talk to them. But it’s like, that effort, that energy being there. And unfortunately, I have lost so many friends in my life who I value and who I so deeply love because they never put anything into the relationship. I was the one always reaching out. I was the one always like creating conversations. I had friends who like didn’t tell me happy birthday like multiple times, and birthdays are appreciation of our lives. Something as simple as that. And it hurts. It hurts to see these people that you love, reject and abandon you. That’s what it feels like. And I’m sure that maybe none of them meant it in the way that it came across, but I am at a point in my life where I don’t have the energy to sucker up and like, go through that. The energy is not being mutual, I don’t want it. That’s not to say I want to give up on them. Like obviously communication is key. And I think bringing up things to your friends that you feel that they’re not serving you or that are hurting you, I think bringing up those conversations make your relationship stronger. But if they don’t match that, after a while, you just have to let them go unfortunately.

Alex Alexander  39:37

Exactly. Like we’re not on here. I talked mostly about how to keep friends and how to make friends. Because I do think quite often we just lean towards this idea of like friends or disposable cut them off, which is wild because most people struggle with making friends. So like I don’t know why you’re so quick to just run away. But that’s the joy of learning how to make friends is when they don’t feel right you feel we’re confident enough to let it go and trust that you’ll build what you need. And I think that’s just like such a key part of it is there’s less scarcity out there about letting the wrong things go. And you’ll have more tools for what you might try to make it work like you said. But yeah, there’s no shame in letting someone go. Like sometimes people need to let a friendship go or let a friendship pause so that somebody can go do that work. Maybe they’ll come back and it’ll be better maybe, and you let it go. It sounds… and who knows? I could be totally wrong. Like, it sounds like you’re doing much better. You’re happier. Your mental health is better. And I’m sure that’s a day by day process.

Noah Mastoridis  40:47

Yeah. For sure. Yeah, for sure.

Alex Alexander  40:49

How big of a role do you think friendship, community, chosen family has played in that for you? I know what the studies say. Right? I’m just curious what you would say.

Noah Mastoridis  41:03

I, and it’s so sad to think about, but also so beautiful to think about. I don’t think I would be here if it was not for the people really close in my life. Like even just getting out of Miami, you know, who I was living with was like my best friend, I consider her a sister. And she helped me out so much. And then the friends that I have now that have helped me out through my recent breakup, it’s still being able to have people who accept you as who you are. No strings attached just is so wonderful. Because you don’t feel like you have to lie. You don’t have to be inauthentic. You can just be vulnerable and be seen as a vulnerable human being. And having someone support you through that and talk to you and give you advice and be there for you because you were there for them. And not to say someone needs to be there for you. Because you were there for them. Like everyone, no matter what, deserve someone to be there for them. But being able to have that community that has seen you and knows you for who you are, it’s just so important. Because I can’t be vulnerable with my family. I’m trying to… now that’s something I’m trying to take up on now. I didn’t have a relationship with my father for almost 10 years. And part of me coming back home to where I grew up, I started rekindling my relationship with him. He’s separate from like the family that I consider my family.

Alex Alexander  42:33

Yeah, like you’re support… supportive. Yeah.


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Noah Mastoridis  42:37

Yeah. I’ve been able to like kind of work on that. But yeah, it’s hard. It’s hard being alive and doing the work. Like, yeah, I want to lay in bed and cry and be miserable, and just soak up in my misery. And it’s important to do that. But eventually, you have to try and you have to put an effort. And I still struggle every day. Like it’s a conscious decision to work and do the work. And it’s hard. It’s exercising. It’s so hard. But what am I going to do? Continue to be miserable. I don’t want to be miserable. So I’m going to put in some work and do the hard things and read and do research about myself and why I’m acting the way I’m acting, trying to figure out, oh, I’m avoidant because of how I grew up. How can I not be avoidant? But not rejecting my avoidance. Because then I’m rejecting that person that I was when I was a kid. And I don’t want to reject him. I want to accept him, but then teach him new things.

Alex Alexander  43:34

Yeah, yeah. Change, grow, be a new person. Just… in a society that tells us that we are supposed to… like in a hyper individual society where a marker of success is being able to take care of yourself and being able to rely on yourself and like, self-care your way out of your lows, I commend anyone for the strength required to ignore that and decide that building community… like I think that one of the most foundational pieces of self care is building yourself a healthy support system. And that is not the societal message. The societal message is, if you’re low, get yourself out of it. And that’s so wrong on so many levels, like we are people wired, for connection, for belonging, we are meant to help each other. But in order to like believe that and do that, we just have to ignore those messages and decide that like it’s worth it for ourselves. So it’s so beautiful to hear that even in your lowest of lows, you had some sense of how important this is and you did the work to build that piece and give yourself the safety net and support to like supplement and hold you through figuring out all the other pieces. If you’re somebody who’s listening to this, and you believe you have to figure it out yourself, you know, you have to love yourself before you can be loved. That’s such a pile of BS. You’re just deserving of love, go meet some people, allow them to help you. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Noah Mastoridis  45:25

And there’s nothing wrong with letting people know that you’re not okay. That was another thing that was really hard for me is I like to be the mom of the groups, I like to take care of it all. 

Alex Alexander  45:34

You and me both.

Noah Mastoridis  45:36

And like, I was calling my friend and I was asking for advice on my breakup. And I feel this way. And I feel that way. And she could totally read between the lines. And she told me she was like, “Noah, like, you don’t have to be strong. “And she said that. And then she said it a second time, and I just started crying. Because it was just having someone take off your armor for you and just like let you in. It was just so beautiful to have someone accept that and be willing to hear that.

Alex Alexander  46:07

I totally get that. As a kid with a very messed up past where like, you have to be the strong one to keep yourself and like possibly other people alive and surviving and whatnot. It’s so hard to trust somebody else and to have a friend that’s there that sees this and just insists. Like, I can hold you for once. Like, let me be the strong one for you. Let’s try it this one time. Like, it’s so hard to do. But it’s so beautiful when it happens.

Noah Mastoridis  46:35

It makes me emotional like hearing it… like it was just like, so wonderful. Because like when I was growing up, I was like, I am me. I’m taking care of myself. My parents don’t have the requirements to be taken care of me. No one has protected me. No one’s making me feel safe. So I’m just going to be me. And that’s it. I’m only going to be an inside person.

Alex Alexander  46:57

I get it truly. I don’t know if you’ve listened to Episode 19 about my childhood. But if you did, if you do, it is, I get it. It’s so hard for those of us that had to just like survive on our own, to let other people in to… be active parts of our lives and like take care of us. Sometimes we don’t have to take care of them. That’s not the only way to exist. I’m so happy you found that and you have those people.

Noah Mastoridis  47:25

Thank you. 

Alex Alexander [Narration]  47:27

Yeah. Man, Noah, I’m just so grateful that you came on here. These aren’t easy conversations to have, we’re talking about like really big topics. And then swinging people back to like our childhood homes that are messy. And none of this is comfortable for anybody. And it’s not everyday that I can find a guest who will come on here and be willing to pull back the curtain with me. So, thank you so much for being willing to do that. I think these are such important conversations for people to hear. Noah, if you’re listening to this episode, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you. Thank you for joining me on this podcast and sharing your story and your journey and allowing yourself to be seen. We talked a lot on this episode about how we don’t need to understand people to accept them. And I firmly believe that that is true. However, I also get that we do want to understand that we want to hear stories. And that’s why it’s so powerful, that real stories like Noah’s are being shared, that all the guests on this podcast are having their stories shared. Because the more we hear these stories, the more we can broaden our horizons. The more we can see that there are a variety of ways to live, and why someone might choose that. The more we can see that everyone deserves to feel seen and accepted for who they are. But doing that requires some brave people to get out there and tell their story to have really open and honest conversations about the journey they’ve been on in this life. So thank you to Noah but thank you also to those of you who are listening, who got to meet someone new, whether it’s in your car speakers or your air pods or walking around your house on the speaker on your phone. Now you have some more context you have another story to share. And to think about. In the opening of this episode. I mentioned that there is a tracker for the ACLU website that shows all of the anti-LGBTQIA+ legislature that’s out there. I have a lot lot of people who tell me when they listen to this podcast that they love, that it’s not political, but it does put out viewpoints. And you might be frustrated if you’re listening. Hopefully you’re not I don’t know. But I’m talking about this on here. But I firmly believe that people deserve to live, that people deserve to exist in a world where they can be who they are. And that in order to do that, we need to be paying attention. That part of community care is listening. But it’s also an action. It’s going to look at this legislature that might be taking place, to taking a few minutes to write in and let your senators have representatives know that you do not support these bills that you want people to be able to safely exist in this world. And with that, it’s up to you next week. 

Podcast Intro/Outro  51:09

Thank you for listening to this episode of Friendship IRL. I am so honored to have these conversations with you. But don’t let the chat die here. Send me a voice message. I created a special website just to chat with you. You can find it at alexalex.chat. You can also find me on Instagram. My handle, @itsalexalexander. Or go ahead and leave a review wherever you prefer to listen to podcasts. Now if you want to take this conversation a step further, send this episode to a friend. Tell them you found it interesting. And use what we just talked about as a conversation starter the next time you and your friend hang out. No need for a teary Goodbye. I’ll be back with a new episode next week.

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Hi! I'm Alex.

I am just a person who has spent an extraordinary amount of time trying to understand some of the relationships that I hold most dear. I invite you to join in on the conversation below in the comments section below.

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Hi. I'm Alex.

I'm just a gal who cares deeply about community + friendship. Why? Well, I didn't have a healthy support system growing up.

So I built one... out of friends. I believe a healthy support system is the ultimate self-care.

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