This year's guy

I love this guy, and not just because he's really pretty, has blue eyes that sparkle like the sea on a sunny day, and sings like a rock angel to boot. Read on to find out why
I’ve been watching American Idol for years. Every year, I get very invested in a contestant—or two, as was the case in season seven, when Davids Cook and Archuleta bowled me over week after week with their talent. Season fifteen, the show’s farewell season, is no different. This year’s guy is 20-year-old Dalton Rapattoni from Dallas, Texas.

Some facts about Dalton, from the official American Idol Instagram:

I think the good thing about Dalton as a contestant is that he knows who he is musically and what he’s all about. That knowledge helps him make the right choices when it comes to navigating the competition. Dalton’s talent aside, the real reason I love him is because I see myself in him. Not only do we both sing and write songs, but like me, he has a mental health disorder. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was younger.

In a way, his diagnosis paved the way for him to be on American Idol. In an interview Dalton gave to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (a newspaper based out of Fort Worth, Texas) recently, he shared, “I was taking medicine that gave me seizures. I had to pull out of school because of those seizures, because I missed too many days.”

Dalton was subsequently home-schooled by his parents, which left him with a lot of free time. One day, a family friend suggested that he put all that time to good use and join the School of Rock, a music program for adults and children alike. Not having much else to do, Dalton signed up for the program, and he proved to be “not bad,” as he put it, at singing and performing. It was then that he realized music was his calling.

Dalton’s disorder is different from mine. He’s bipolar, I’m not. Without giving away too much about my own condition (because I’m saving my big reveal for when my video blog Free Julian Mauricio premieres in a few weeks) I will say that Dalton and I struggle with severe mood swings. Anyway, if you’re interested, you can read more about bipolar disorder here.

I really admire Dalton because it seems he’s handling being on American Idol well, considering he’s bipolar. What most people don't get about having a mental health disorder is that sometimes, even daily life can be overwhelming for someone like Dalton and me. I wish I knew how he’s coping with the pressure, because I don’t think I’d do as well if I were in his flowered Doc Martens. I’ve come a very long way since I began treatment in May 2015 but I still have so far to go.

It means a lot to me that someone competing on American Idol this year is in a situation similar to mine. Watching someone like Dalton flourish in a high-stakes environment inspires me to keep on keeping on. Now I'm like, if Dalton can do it, I have no excuse not to at least try, right? Furthermore, Dalton is living proof that people with mental health disorders shouldn’t be written off as crazy or whatever. We may be a little broken in some ways, but we can still shine.

Dalton, if by some miracle you’re reading this, I wish you all the best in the competition. I want you to go the distance so you can inspire more people like you have me. Break a leg!

Watch a compilation of Dalton's performances below:

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The old Julian can't come to the phone right now.

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