Paul Brandel, 23
A beautiful soul and incredibly dear person to my heart, I’ve had the pleasure of watching Paul’s journey unfold for three years now. “This interview feels too casual,” laughed Paul. “It’s just like I’m talking to you.” That, I responded, was the purpose for conducting these interviews. Below are Paul’s absolutely honest, ’just like talking to me’ responses.
What is your most recent accomplishment?
“Does it have to be an actual event? No? Finally getting my first tattoo.”
What is your dream career?
“I don’t have a specific career that I want to be working towards. I just know that for the rest of my life, I want to be helping people with disabilities. Whether it’s physical, mental or developmental. Because they are a voiceless group of people. You know, for years these people have been fighting for equality. They’ve made great strides in terms of equality, but when you go to a movie theater the only thing they have special for them is an extra seat where you can put the wheelchair.”
What is your daily mantra? It can change every day. What was it today?
After a brief lull in fluid conversation, Paul responded: “I do try and go out of my way to make people smile. If I can make one person smile, my day’s work has been accomplished. If it takes so much as wiping someone’s ass to smile, I’ll do it for them. If that’s the one moment of happiness that they’ll get during their day.”
Can you tell me your current greatest battle you must face?
“The biggest battle that I’m facing right now is finding a balance between my professional life and my personal life. There just seems to be less and less time for both with every passing week.”
Can you tell me about your current path and the steps you’re taking to feel comfortable in your own skin?
“I don’t have a path. I DEFINITELY do not have a path. You can put that in capital letters. I’m constantly trying to figure out what the next step is, but it’s never what I imagined. Well, the happiness gets hard to find every single day. That’s why I work in the field that I do, because it is incredibly, incredibly rewarding. It gets very stressful too. For months and months I went to a doctor and got prescribed Xanax for my anxiety, and that more or less just made me a drooling zombie. Eventually, that just didn’t work out for me.”
If you were faced with absolutely no limitations at all, what would you be doing with your life?
“I’d definitely take myself out west to Boulder, Colorado. But I really do wish that I had all the time in the world to spend on planning Mitch-A-Palooza events with all my friends.”
“An organization that me and a few of my best friends started once my closest friend, Mitch, was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma (bone cancer). We hosted music events with some of Mitch’s favorite bands, basketball fundraisers, raised money for academic scholarships, Camp Adventure, and Stony Brook Hospital, where Mitch received his treatments.”
What are you doing with your life currently? And in what ways are you working to fill the void you’ve been experiencing?
“Well, I’m currently working as an assistant supervisor at a residence for people with developmental disabilities and that takes up most of my days. I try to fit in yoga when I can. And spend as much time with my girlfriend and friends that I possibly can. There’s really not enough time in the day to do as much as I want to. And I don’t have enough energy to do as much as I want to.”
What have you learned about yourself along the way?
“That I’m not as angry as I thought I was.”
What are your dreams for yourself, for the person you already are and the person you want to become?
After an extended moment of silence, Paul responded: “I have no real set dreams. I think my biggest dream would be to be a person who is comfortable with who I am today, and not worrying about what my next big step should be.”
And what is keeping you from achieving them?
“It’s the constant fear of what I feel like my next step needs to be and how I need to accomplish them. I feel like everything needs to be in a set order. I don’t know whether that pressure comes from my upbringing, solely from myself, or seeing what my friends are doing. I’m just constantly feeling like the grass is always greener.”
What advice do you have for everyone seeking to answer the same questions as you?
“What advice? If you can’t be happy by doing things for yourself, try and do something for somebody else. I think you’d be surprised how good it can make you feel.”