It wasn’t the happiest of 15th birthdays. Tyler Goodling was stranded in a town hundreds of miles away from his Lancaster City home where he grew up playing soccer and listening to music like many other young teens. His parent’s car had broken down in Birmingham, Alabama on the way to Mexico, the destination where his family would soon live. Towed from an unsavory part of town, the Goodlings got a crappy room at a motel and had a less-than-celebratory dinner of hot wings at a local mall. It was a memorable birthday for Tyler for all the wrong reasons.
“My parents sold our house on College Avenue and we moved to Mexico for two years,” says Tyler, whose parents took positions at English camps in Puebla City, a two-hour drive south of Mexico City. “It is an amazing culture. They have a beautiful respect for people’s time, something we will never achieve here as a society. There are a lot of things I learned. It was awesome and awful at the same time.”
Uprooting any 15-year-old kid from their regular and comfortable routine is bound to create some friction. Tyler had to leave his friends. He started high school in a foreign country in a bilingual school and was homeschooled his sophomore year.
“My parents and I didn’t get along for a while, but everything is cool now,” says Tyler.
But in Mexico, things went from bad to worse.
“I was cutting myself for quite sometime and had some suicidal thoughts as well,” says Tyler, when his cat, Lucy, decides to make an entrance into the living room of his Gallery Row apartment where we are sitting today. She’s loud, curious, and pleasant. Her interruption is an apropos reminder of how uncomfortable this subject can be. “I’m really fortunate because I was able to work through some things.”
He found support from friends and family—and he is extremely grateful—but also latched onto a movement just gaining momentum back in the late 2000s. To Write Love On Her Arms opened up a new level of communication for Tyler.
“It was help in the area of topics people don’t like to talk about, like self abuse, suicide, and depression which, unfortunately, are still sort of taboo topics. People shy away from them, but they are extremely real,” says Tyler.
Still functioning today, TWLOHA defines itself as a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self injury, and suicide. The cause arose from Florida resident Jamie Tworkowski’s experience with a teenager named Renee Yohe, an addict who had scrawled words of self hate into her left forearm with a razor blade. TWLOHA continues its efforts and answers thousands of calls for help, has raised more than $2 million for treatment and recovery, and effected the lives of people in 98 countries.
“You are not alone, and this is not the end of your story,” reads TWLOHA materials.
“There’s always someone out there ready to listen,” says the now 26-year-old Tyler, who many Lancastrians may recognize from his position at Passenger Coffee. Although he tends to keep to himself socially, he excels in the world of customer service. He’s grown passionate about coffee. “I love making people feel at home, comfortable. If someone is choosing to go out and spend money somewhere it should be a good experience. I like the customer interactions and the beauty of the product itself.”
When he returned to Lancaster from Mexico, he returned to his passions for soccer and music. In Mexico he had the opportunity to play soccer on a club team a few steps below professional level. Mexico presents an opportunity for everyone to play at a competitive level. In the U.S., that is not available and quality players must find competition in expensive traveling teams.
“In Mexico, it’s just a way of life,” Tyler says. “Soccer was really my life for 16 or 17 years and then I ended up tearing the ACL in my left knee.” Musically, he returned to Lancaster in time to relish in the prime of the city’s metalcore scene. Bands like August Burns Red, Texas in July, and Circus Circus played regularly, and Tyler even took up playing the guitar.
“I’m a firm believer that life can be and should be beautiful,” Tyler says, with Lucy making his way on and off his lap. “What makes life so beautiful are the people and how different we are. I think simply understanding that we matter as people is the foundation of moving forward.”