Alan was the kid we all wanted to be friends with—energetic, entertaining, and interactive. You’d see him running around the neighborhood, knocking on doors, rallying other kids together to play a ballgame. He was academically advanced, focusing on homework and earning himself good grades. His prime enjoyment was rooted in the happiness of others.
In his later elementary years, he told his dad he wanted to attend a different school, to which his father responded, “Why’s that, Al?” Alan told him, “Because I already know everyone at this school. I want to meet everyone in the world.”
Beginning to sink
But when Alan was in 6th grade, suddenly, and without permission, his life began to dismantle. He found his high-energy, charming spirit unravel, punched by the pain of his parents’ decision to divorce. His attention and energy shifted from entertaining his peers into a naïve, dead-end attempt to revive his parents’ marriage and rekindle their affection for one another. His efforts, while valiant, were to no avail.
For the next five years, Alan was in quicksand, desperate for a hand to grab that would yank him to safety. Destructive thoughts flooded his mind, stacking one on top of the other, increasing in intensity: “I’m a failure. I won’t amount to this or that. I’m not good enough for anything.I’m not worth it.” Until finally, during his sophomore year in high school, caught in the aftermath of Mr. and Mrs. Muellegger’s separation, lost in the dark cave of self-discovery, unknowingly grasped by the tendrils of depression, his thoughts turned suicidal.
Reaching out, reaching up
Suddenly alert and aware of the severity of his thoughts, he confided in his school counselor. With his protection in mind, she sent him home and released him from academic responsibilities until he was enrolled in a therapeutic program.
The following year, as a junior in high school, Alan attended a school assembly that featured an organization that educates school communities about teen depression: Erika’s Lighthouse. After listening to the panel of people, asking numerous questions, and fervently taking notes, Alan knew he was called to be someone’s beacon of hope.
Shortly after the assembly, a few of the organization’s members asked the school counselor if she knew anyone who’d be interested in joining their speaking panels, and she mentioned Alan. When they sought him out, he didn’t hesitate, and he’s been involved ever since.
Serving through struggle
When I asked Alan why he thinks giving back is important, he told me, “I think it’s incredibly important because when we aren’t doing as well as other individuals, there are people/organizations/things that are there to help, at any level of extreme. It’s common to see someone who isn’t doing well and just push them aside—dog-eat-dog mentality. Survival of the fittest. When you’re feeling good, I think it’s important as a community to help those who are struggling. It’s especially important to give everything the utmost attention: other people and yourself.”
Alan’s heart for helping and serving others has permeated into all areas of his life. In his free time, he and his band of five years occasionally play at charity events, the most recent gig raising awareness for human trafficking. Aside from fulfilling his innocent love for attention, Alan performs to curate an atmosphere that allows people to be free from whatever problems they carried in with them, even if it’s a temporary relief. He says, “We help people take a little mini-vacation in their own backyard—a place where people can let loose and have fun.” But he doesn’t stop there.
Even his education is of service to others. He chose to study psychology so he would have a greater understanding of people underneath their surface. He says:
“Not only can I understand what we do, I can understand how and why we do it. My goal in life is to change people’s lives for the better—every time someone interacts with me, [I want them to] leave better than they came. If I can understand people all the way down to a science, literally, then I can help serve them more effectively.”
Owning every bit of me
While serving others has certainly been helpful, Alan said the real changes happened when he took ownership of his depression, and his work has helped him do just that. He told me, “That’s what’s beautiful about working at Vector—it’s a carbon copy of real life. [Being a sales representative] has been a discovery of the power and influence we have over ourselves and others. What I learn in Vector, I use in life. There are no insulators at Vector, which has challenged me to act against myself in some respects.” As a manager, Alan is responsible for himself and others. This practice of ownership and leadership has given Alan stable ground to stand on, enabling himself and others to become the best version of themselves.
Determined, inspiring, courageous, hardworking, strong, optimistic—human. That is Alan Muellegger.
It’s okay to not be okay
I was once told that, at some point in our lives, we all become members of a group we never envisioned ourselves a part of. A woman who survives breast cancer finds herself marching alongside other champions. Two divorcees are now someone’s ex-husband or ex-wife. An adolescent male overcoming suicidal thoughts now raises awareness for teen depression. Perhaps this is where we find ourselves—not defined by our memberships, but strengthened by them. Perhaps the storms we endure alone lead us to a landing place over the horizon. Maybe this is our landing place—somewhere together.