This time last year, I was a freshly-minted college grad frantically applying to jobs relentlessly and stressing about the future. Little did I know that I would soon take a leap of faith, pack my life in a few suitcases, and drive solo cross country to the city of angels. That the ride would be daunting, full of uncertainty, and brimming with blessings disguised as detours. That I would be driving blind down roads I never thought existed, guided by the Father as everything fell into place more perfectly than I could have ever imagined.
For the first time in my life, my future is irrevocably up in the air and the possibilities are endless. No more checking the boxes, fulfilling the requirements, or following a predetermined structure. The notion is exhilarating. 2018 is looking to be the most anointed year yet; I am bracing for the ride with joy.
In the meantime, I have condensed some perspectives that God gently reaffirmed in my life this year (Chapter 22, Vol. 2017) below. Walk with me as I reminisce.
Loneliness is a blessing.
In 2017, loneliness gripped me. Living in a city with 15 million other people, there is no shortage of human interaction. Yet the feeling was inescapable.
I had grown disillusioned with friends who did not have my back, with friendships that were built on self-interest and not a common purpose. I strive for authenticity in every facet of my life, and I caught myself fostering relationships in Los Angeles that were anything but. I had to come to grips with the fact that most of of my friendships had become a reflection of the “fake” culture we lived in LA. Friends who were more concerned with self-promotion on social media than with self-growth. More worried about achieving a status than leading a fulfilling life.
I had to take a step back, to rethink how I was investing my time and who I was spending it with. I quickly realized that I had traded my four quarters for one hundred pennies, and consequently was wasting my energy trying to prevent them all from slipping through the cracks. No more. I made the conscious decision to re-shift my focus on the people and things that truly did matter. The process was slow and increasingly painful, but the results have been extraordinary. What initially felt like an unjust punishment turned out to be the biggest blessing.
La La Land of Smoke & Mirrors
In the entertainment industry, nothing is as it seems. Everything is fake, faded, and worn. The glitz and the glamour of Hollywood is but a fragile mask to the vapid and heartless core of an industry built on exploiting the brokenness of the human condition. The same ones who build you are the ones who destroy you. They prey on your best intentions and twist your achievements to fit their agenda. They take your God-given purpose and reduce it to a figment of your imagination. They lie, manipulate, and distort and they expect you to thank them for it.
I have seen dear friends lose themselves to the system, witnessed them bury their very identity for the sake of success and acceptance. I am surrounded by souls that forego regaining autonomy of their own life for a few fleeting seconds of secondhand validation.
Yet I speak from a place of hope. I still believe that the solitary beams of light will prevail against the overwhelming darkness. It is not all lost. There are souls in the industry fighting for the greater good, creatives who still cling to their sanity as they work for the greater improvement of humanity. In the end, God always triumphs.
I am guilty of getting wrapped up in my ambitions and aspirations, of allowing the endless noise of our culture to impair my judgement. I have to constantly remind myself to breathe, to pause, and to be present. It’s sometimes difficult for me to stop the gears from churning, to slow my mind down, and to force myself to enjoy the now.
I have bought into the flawed gospel of our culture that in order to lead a life of significance, one must always stay busy. I have confused stillness with negligence. I find myself constantly planning ahead, always strategizing ten steps ahead.
With the advent of social media, it is far too easy to fall prey to the lethal game of comparison. We see another 20-something effortlessly living out his/her dreams at a breakneck pace and drive ourselves mad trying to do the same. We reduce a life of meaning to followers and rates of engagement. We approach success like a competition, caught in a war against time. We become trapped in a vicious cycle of defeat, an endless loop of unfulfillment.
Success is an illusion. Chasing dreams is overrated – chase God first and the rest will follow. We are humans first and foremost, working professionals last. Family and friends are infinitely more valuable than any promotion or monetary compensation. Human moments can’t be bought, and you can’t place a price on a peace of mind. At the end of the day you only have yourself and God to answer to. The opinions and expectations of others do not matter.
Studies have shown that the #1 regret most experience on their deathbed is not having had enough time. In the words of Fr. Mike Schmitz – spend your time, don’t waste it. Our lives are but a blip in the fabric of time, you can afford to take a few moments to appreciate that.