Cupcakes & Sprinkles: The Sunshine Struggle Of Sweet

Well, we made it to another week. I hope all of you are staying safe and healthy as we continue to live out this pandemic in quarantine. And as a reminder, I would like to re-iterate the below before I get started on this week’s post.

My heart goes out to those who have passed away from this virus. My heart goes out to all of those who are currently suffering and fighting to get well. My heart goes out to everyone who has been directly and indirectly affected by this virus. My heart goes out to all people who are working the front lines to restore health and well-being to the world around us. My heart goes out to all of us who are working to navigate the unknown on the daily with feelings of anxiety and despair.

Well, I’m not wasting any time in this week’s post, so buckle your seat belts and get ready because this week, I’m laying it all out on the table. Real and raw.

On Saturday night, I put my body vertical on the couch like I normally do around 11pm and flipped on my usual go-to evening episodes of The Golden Girls. And as I laid there, I had a very weird sensation that something was stuck in my throat and I couldn’t get it to go away. I kept trying to swallow the saliva that my mouth was creating (TMI I know…sorry not sorry), but it wasn’t helping.

Somehow, I magically drifted off into a slumber and when my eyes flipped awake, I could see it was just before midnight and Betty White was delivering a punch line as the audience cackled. The only difference was that I wasn’t cackling along with her like I usually do. I was so focused on the feeling in my throat.

In classic fashion, I took to Google and typed in the search bar “ways to remove food stuck in throat” and immediately started to read the list of suggestions that were returned from my search on the device I was holding in the palm of my hand.

Needless to say that I tried so many different things that list mentioned including Ginger Ale, big gulps of water, moist/soft foods (yogurt), coughing (essentially trying to gag myself), and even a teaspoon of butter. Yes, that’s correct. Butter. Gross. Nothing worked and I spent all night tossing and turning on the couch thinking about the sensation I was feeling and how to get rid of it.

Anyhoo, long story short…I barely slept at all and I ended up scheduling a Teledoc appointment (which is an incredible service by the way) and was given a prescription for Nexium to help treat what is thought to be a minor case of acid reflux. A huge thank you to Adrienne of McElroy Pharmacy for traveling into the shop on a day when they were closed to help me out.

The point of this story is not to have a pity party in my honor, but rather something on a much deeper level.

I felt helpless. I felt panic.

But above all, I felt lost.

I’m not even 100% sure when this pandemic and quarantine situation officially started, but if my calculations are correct, I believe we are coming up on the approximate two month mark.

And honestly, I feel like I’ve lost some of the essence of Mr. Sunshine.

Something just doesn’t feel right, so I figured this week, I would just start from the beginning…because we are told that it is a good place to start.

So, I apologize in advance for rambling thoughts, but it is just the way this week’s blog post is going to be. Real, raw stories and facts about me as I try to find my way back into the sunshine of sweet.

Hi, my name is JP Welliver. I’m 32 years-old and live in Lancaster, PA. I’m just over 6 foot tall and weigh 155lbs. I have blue eyes, blonde hair, and pretty intense dimples.

The childhood home I grew up in is located in Lititz and is one that I still visit often because family time is something that is extremely important to me. My parents, Gil and Carol raised me on strong morals of love, faith, kindness, and taught me to always do what is right.

My brother, Will is someone who I didn’t always get along with or see eye to eye with growing up and while we did our share of raising voices and fighting, he is someone that is actually pretty cool. It has been a true pleasure getting to witness him become a loving father with my sister-in-law, Mindy and their adorable baby girl, Mackenzie.

In elementary school, I was often made of fun for multiple reasons whether it was because of the clothes I wore or just for the fact that I was more feminine. Looking back, it is not something that really phases me because it is something that helped me to shape who I am today, but in the moment of those days where people were so inconsiderate of others’ and their feelings, it hurt the heart.

Ready for an elementary school story that I’ve never told another soul?

Well, read on.

During my time in the first grade, I had a huge crush on this one girl. Obviously, I will not reveal her name, but for the purpose of this post, we will call her “Jane Doe.” Well, during this time of first grade, Disney had released Pocahontas and I was obviously obsessed with the movie. This was also one of the many reasons why I was made fun of…because you know…Disney princesses…boys aren’t supposed to like them. It’s not “natural.”

Anyhoo, I digress.

So, long story short (I’m using this phrase a lot in this post), I drew this girl a picture of Pocahontas and gave it to her one day at recess in front of her friends. And, after I handed that picture to her, she took it, walked over to the trash can, and threw it away.

My heart was crushed. It felt as if I had just been punched in the stomach.

Flash forward to middle school where life didn’t really get much better as far as the being made fun of aspect. People were still making fun of me for the clothes I wore and being feminine. Nothing new. It wasn’t breaking news.

Ready for the intense middle school story that I’ve never written for the public eye before?

Well, maybe refill your coffee mug at this point if you have a free moment. And sit down if you aren’t already.

One day, in seventh grade, after gym class, I had a group of “jocks” make fun of me for how skinny I was. And while I didn’t really let it bother me in the moment because I had learned to ignore their comments, it really did hurt. That night, I was so frustrated and mad at both my body and these jocks that I decided to steal a Men’s Workout magazine from Weis Markets. I placed the magazine under my sweatshirt strategically so that it wouldn’t fall out unexpectedly. I dreamed of being muscular like the male models that were pictured in the magazine and had high hopes of one day being able to not get made fun of for my skinny minny body type.

Well, that week I felt so guilty and I got to the point where I just couldn’t take it anymore. So, I returned to the Weis Markets with the magazine in a large, manilla envelope and went to the service desk. I handed the envelope to the worker letting them know that I had shoplifted it from their store earlier in the week and also handed them the amount of money that the magazine would’ve cost if I were to have purchased it.

And that’s that. On to the high school years.

The high school years (at least after ninth grade), were where I really started to find myself and get more comfortable with myself. The real defining moment for me was the Spring of my junior year (2005) when I admitted to one boy from our music department that I was gay and had a huge crush on him.

And while that particular individual did not swing that way or share the same feelings (story of my life), he was extremely happy for me admitting and being honest with myself. None of my friends were surprised. If anything, it was relief for them that I had finally discovered this was who I was.

Senior year of high school and the Summer before leaving for college were a bit difficult for me because of the disconnect that I was experiencing with my parents over my sexuality. It was territory that was new for all of us and waters that I didn’t know how to navigate and it often ended in frustration and yelling. Fast forward to today and my parents are fully supportive more than ever and I couldn’t be more thankful for all of their never-ending support, guidance, and love. If only everyone in this world could have parents as amazing and loving as them.

Press ahead to my college years at Penn State where I spent 4 wonderful years of life that I would go back and re-live in a heartbeat. Here are a few rapid fire facts for you from my college years.

1. I became part of a show choir group, The Singing Lions which I credit for keeping me at Penn State. Had it not been for their support, love, and friendship, I would’ve left to come back home and start back at square one. They are also the ones whom are credited with giving me the Mr. Sunshine nickname that has still stuck to this very day.

2. One very vivid memory I have at college (that also involves adult beverages), was at a cast party after a production of Crazy For You that involved Hawaiian Punch, vodka, and a white carpet. You do the math because I don’t think I need to put together the elements for you to figure out the answer to the equation.

3. I also have one very vivid memory of becoming very ill at the Indigo Bar downtown. I have Elyse, Marissa, Jolie, Ashley, and Jimmy to thank for coming to my rescue that night because I was very much a hot mess and they were kind and compassionate enough to put up with me that evening. Ask any one of them and I’m sure they will tell you it was not my best moment.

4. I went into college wanting to major in Public Relations/Broadcast Journalism because I wanted to become the next Matt Lauer. The night that I found out I didn’t get into either major because my GPA was not high enough was while on Spring Break Tour with The Singing Lions. We were all staying at different alumni homes and I happened to be with a very wealthy family that actually had an elevator in their home. All I can say is thank goodness for the king-size bed and what seemed to be a million pillows that decorated the headboard. Those pillows were the comfort for me that fateful evening to bury my disappointment.

5. I used to love playing April Fool’s jokes on people and one of my best ones to this day was when I told my college friends that I was being dismissed from the College of Communications because of having too low of a GPA. I even went as far as to forge an official-looking letter to show everyone when they didn’t believe me. I had several people going with that one and to this day, haven’t come up with anything quite as good.

Flash forward to now…my adult life…post college years. Here are even more rapid fire facts that you may or may not already know about me. This is all part of the rambling, raw thoughts that I mentioned would be happening in this week’s post. Once again…sorry not sorry.

1. I do not like to be in the passenger seat of a car when a driver is speeding at more than 10mph over the limit. It makes me extremely uncomfortable, nervous, and freaked out. So, if I’m a passenger in your car, please don’t speed.

2. I didn’t have a lot of money saved when I went to buy my house in 2016. In fact, I didn’t really have any money saved. In truth, I did things a little backwards and rushed into my decision of buying. But then again, I like to be unique and opposite of what the “rule book” tells us.

3. In 2016, I was out in Lancaster City and got very sick. Somehow, I got into an Uber that took me back to the house in Lititz that I was living at with Elyse and Marissa. I struggled getting into the door and once in, I fell down on the kitchen floor and just laid there. Elyse was not home and Marissa was out with some friends. She got home to discover me on the floor and immediately threw me into the shower. I think that moment freaked us both out a lot. She displayed true friendship that evening (like she has over the years so many times) and I will be forever grateful.

4. I work three jobs to support myself as a single, gay man in society. I love working and keeping busy and find myself getting annoyed when people tell me that I work too much.

5. I get irritated when people tell me that I need to find a boyfriend. No, I do not. While society might tell us that we need to have a partner in life to be happy, I disagree 150%. I find myself thriving with the friendships that I have built up in my life and do not feel that dating is something that needs added into my life. It has never been a priority for me and I don’t see it becoming one in the near future. So, get off your high horse and stop telling me I need a man in my life.

6. I don’t really like expensive things nor do I find joy in wealth or material objects. I would much rather save the money I work hard for or use it to better the lives of others in the world around me. I am the type of person that will wear my shoes until they are falling apart or wear my shirt until all the buttons fall off before I even think about buying new ones.

7. I don’t need fancy, expensive trips or foods. Give me the simplicity of a beach and a cheap hotel with family and friends and I’m good to go. In addition, give me cheap, fried unhealthy food that costs $5.00 as opposed to the healthy option that costs three times as much.

8. I’m deathly afraid of spiders…doesn’t matter if they are small, medium, or large. One size fits all in the scare meter for me.

9. While I am definitely an outgoing and extroverted person, there are days and moments in my life where the last thing that I want to do is interact with humans. This is a feeling that I usually convey to others through direct texts or via a very quiet, non-talkative personality.

10. I’ve found it much harder in the past couple of weeks of this pandemic to not get stressed out or drained. In my personal opinion, people have become even more rude than before and seem to have lost any sense of love, compassion, kindness, and empathy. It deeply saddens me in the soul.

11. Each time I see a post on social media that includes the phrase “my person” or some other form of PDA, mushy, romantic descriptions/words/text, I get annoyed. No one’s life is perfect, so stop trying to tell the world that it is through the use of fancy filters and hashtags.

12. I apologize in advance for this one because it might be TMI, but I’m laying it all out there. At 32, I’m still a virgin and proud of it. What saddens me most about this fact is that people usually don’t believe me when I tell them.

13. Listening to Katy Perry’s Firework always makes me feel better no matter how old the song is.

14. Another one of my biggest struggles that I deal with on the daily in my life (especially right now with all the extra time we have to think and let our minds wander) is the aspect of feeling as if I don’t fit in, specifically when I’m in a group setting. As the world of adulting continues and I evolve as an individual, I find myself thinking more and more about my morals and ideals that I’m passionate about and fight for in life. And with that evolution also come the thoughts of who truly belongs in my life and those who might need to start getting phased out.

15. I do not feel fulfilled when I’m not doing something to help others. The fact that I’m not doing anything this year to aid with pediatric cancer research is something that I’m really feeling the void with. Helping others is just something that is a part of my blood and when I’m not actively doing that, it leaves me feeling empty. It makes me feel lost.

So, what was the point of this blog post? What was the point of my rambling, raw thoughts?

Well, it was to convey the point that I feel lost as Mr. Sunshine at the moment with this pandemic going on. I feel helpless in trying to figure out where I belong in the field of trying to help others. I thought by sharing some very personal facts and stories about myself while starting from the beginning and working up to current day of how I’ve evolved would be a way for me to reflect and give me some guidance on this path of trying to navigate where Mr. Sunshine fits in with the COVID-19 crisis.

The sunshine struggle of sweet is very real for me right now and one that will continue for me as we all work our way into “the new normal.”

Sorry for the word vomit of rambling thoughts. Oh, and in case I didn’t mention it before, I really miss hugs. Like…a lot.

So, thanks for sticking with me during all the crazy times and continuing to support me with love and kindness. Thanks for reading and coming back to read week after week.

I can only hope that both you, me, and everyone else in the communities and world around us will come out of what we are currently experiencing even stronger and more determined than before.

Sprinkle sunshine always,