Zachary Lansing is an inspirational and impressive senior at Penn State, and this week, he is our #ManCrushMonday! He is someone that represents everything VALLEY stands for: individuality, self-love and kindness. He sat down with VALLEY for a Q&A on his experience over the past three years and how he got to where he is!
Zachary was born and raised in Owings Mills, Maryland. He has an older sister named Alexa and a dog named Charlie, and describes his life as being “pretty average, except for going through 21 surgeries.”
“I have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), an Executive Function Disorder, and I also wear a hearing aid. Growing up with Goldenhar Syndrome, which simply put is the underdevelopment of the ears and jaw, I sometimes didn’t get the acceptance I feel everyone deserves,” Lansing shared.
He went on to explain that he was “never really bullied,” but people kept their distance from him “because they couldn’t figure out what was different about [him].”
“It wasn’t out of fear, but ignorance as the disorder I have is very rare,” Lansing says. “Because of the deformities in my facial features and my difficulties with my speech, life could be pretty rough. Instead of thinking my life is a curse, it’s actually a gift. I’ve been told I made up for my disability with my charm and sense of humor. In my spare time, I like to party, watch hockey and indulge in my favorite hobby, kickboxing.”
And he sure does make up for it! Read on for Zachary’s wonderful answers to some of VALLEY’s biggest questions.
VALLEY: What is your best quality, and what makes you stand out among others?
Zachary Lansing: Persistence to always go after what I want until I have achieved it despite the many obstacles in my way throughout my life as well as my everyday struggle to make my voice heard for what I believe in. I’m also reliable and trustworthy. I always have my friends’ backs and care about what they have to say. These are qualities you don’t find in a lot of people.
V: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the last 3+ years?
ZL: Always fight, never give up, and keep the path moving forward because if you stop it’s hard to get back on the road.
V: What is your best advice for overcoming challenges?
ZL: The only limitations are the ones you place on yourself and realize that life is not a sprint but a marathon. Endurance is the key to success.
V: What is your favorite thing about VALLEY Magazine?
ZL: VALLEY Magazine provides an excellent platform to learn students’ stories, keep up with the latest trends and happenings around campus and centers on a variety of different topics to keep you hooked in for more.
V: What have you gotten out of Penn State that you never expected to?
ZL: There is so much I have gotten out of Penn State that I never expected to. If I had to give one specific experience I will say it was during my first semester here. I took a class called BISCI003, which focused on knowing and understanding your true self—getting connected to others and the universe around us, as we are all striving for a purpose or inner serenity where we can coexist without feeling like an outsider. People shared stories, I mean the darkest and happiest periods of their lives. One day I was chatting with my professor about my situation and he welcomed me with a great response. Briefly what he told me was that reality is how it’s perceived by the individual based on life experiences, so if you live through your ego, then your reality is an endless wave of highs and lows like your life is a ‘play’, but you are never quite satisfied and you can’t understand it because you should be content, it’s because you haven’t accessed yet the realm of bliss and stillness which is your true self. “Remember Zach, compulsive thinking is a disease!” That was it, he was absolutely right. I was trying to match the expectations of how I “should” be with others and caring what they thought that I was losing myself and sinking deeper into a state of depression. Simply put, I was trying to fulfill my ego. Following this direction led me to the path of some of the most chill, genuine and positive people in my life. When my grandfather died, I realized I was holding onto things that I needed to let go of. I spent months pining over a girl who wanted nothing more than to be friends, while ruining my chances by blowing off another girl who wanted to be the world to me. It seemed when I was trying to sort this out, more and more people began sharing their life stories with me about false reputations, not belonging, relationship difficulties, thinking they aren’t going to make anything of themselves and we also shared many great memories. By having people open up to me, I was able to ignore my own problems for a while and help others sort out theirs. This taught me that time heals everything. When you feel like you can’t make it through something just hang on because you can. It will get better. Little by little the pain fades until one day you look back and it is just a memory. One that makes you realize how strong you really are. I learned more about myself during that time than any other.
VALLEY thanks Zachary for his candid, honest and very personal responses. Here’s to you, Zachary—for living your life to its fullest and showing all of us that we can, too.