One of the toughest feelings is that of getting second place. It’s said that Olympic athletes deal with this idea; gold medalists obviously are ecstatic and even bronze medalists are proud of being able to place in the top three of the world’s athletes. The silver medalists though, that’s the hardest placement. Silver medalists are often the most tortured mentally, battling the inner fight of the fact that they were good, just not good enough. Milliseconds off of making it across the finish line first, but never getting there first. I’ve felt like this as of recent. I feel like I just keep coming up short.
I’ll never forget the creepiest class I took at UNCG. I was in a “history of horror films” class that met for three hours every Thursday night. It was a blast, scared me to death, but it was such a blast. Sure, some parts of the class teetered on the “this is too much that I want in my mind,” but with an understanding professor, it ended up being a fantastic experience. The only bad part was, by the time the class had ended at nine, the campus was empty. It was dark and eerie, and after talking about horror, it made for a bad combination. I learned that walking to the bus pickup spot was really creepy alone, but luckily, I made a friend in the class who also went to the bus stop. After Jamal and I decided to go together, the creepy night wasn’t so bad.
It’s funny how much of a difference that made, and the same can be true with many different things as well. It helps to have a workout partner to keep you motivated. Going to the movies is a lot more fun when you can talk about what you just saw over milkshakes (Now I want milkshakes). Playing board games with a group leads to lots of laughter. While these are pretty surface level things, when it comes to more serious matters, we choose to walk alone.
I recently have started adding podcasts to my morning runs. I normally have been listening to music to help me get hyped, so the heavy rotation was the Frozen soundtrack or Czarface, ‘cause you know, my fav Disney movie and a rap group with members from Wu-Tang Clan go together. Instead of listening to music, I started listening to podcasts to help me deepen my relationship with God and grow as a leader. I recently listened to a podcast called, “Leadership Lean in with Chad Veach.” Chad Veach is the lead pastor of Zoe Church in LA, and I really love his perspective and attitude when it comes to leadership. In the course of the podcast, he said that there is something he has learned when it comes to discerning decisions and other areas we find ourselves in. He said that God often times will block it, or bless it.
That idea hit me, because it’s so true, and it’s often the biggest hang-up we can find ourselves in.
I’ll never forget the first time I was able to have a conversation about Star Wars. After my dad showed me the original trilogy, I was in love with it. It made my afternoon playing outside have vivid stories of me dreaming about being in the Star Wars universe. I read the random books from the library trying to get more of this thing that I loved, but I really wasn’t able to share my love for it. My neighborhood friends loved skateboarding and video games, but couldn’t connect with my new thing. I wouldn’t talk about Star Wars, because they weren’t interested and thought it was kinda lame. Then, my friend from church named Grayson, told me about this new book he was reading, based off of Star Wars. Immediately I connected because I was able to be myself and talk about something that I loved dreaming about as a kid. That’s a bit of a random story, but I think it illustrates something that many of us face.
It’s hard to be ourselves.
Life has been wild these past few months. I got married to my best friend and greatest woman in the galaxy. The holiday season was wild and fast. I lost one of my jobs. Danielle got a great job. We went on our honeymoon and had the best time. I started writing more. Danielle went back to finish up her school. So wild, filled with highs and lows. Yet, in all of it, I feel so very free. Normally, when I talk about what’s been going on in my personal life, I put a post under the title of “journey update,” but this didn’t seem to fit that style. Yes, this is a sort of update, mainly me laying out the things that have happened that I’ve only alluded to in my recent posts. I’ve been processing and reflecting a lot, maybe it’s the new year mindset of looking back and moving forward, but I think God has been speaking to me a lot. So, this is a personal post. It might go off on some tangents, but I promise that God wanted me to share the things I’ve been learning because it’s important to every single one of you who are struggling. Maybe you’ve hit a wall or feel like what you wanted seems far off, this, this is for you.
Culture has a hard time listening. Every day we have messages bombarding us from all over the place. We are glued to our phones, checking notifications and refreshing apps to see what everyone is doing. The TV is typically just on, endlessly playing Netflix. It just gets tough. With all the noise in our lives, we rarely have quiet moments. Even now, as I write this, I find myself looking at my phone. It’s so frustrating, it’s time to stop and learn to listen. I laugh at myself sometimes. Okay, a lot of times, because I tend to do silly things. I’ll get sucked into a TV show that isn’t even that good and then know waaay too much about it (Shouts out to Vampire Diaries and its’ nonsense). I also do things that are a bit more ridiculous. I’m in a season of some unknowns and having to trust God, and many times I find myself saying, “I just can’t hear God.” The truth is, and this truth is the same for you as well, I’m not allowing myself time to listen.
Well, we are now officially in the full swing of the new year! I hope all of your resolutions have stuck around, but more importantly, I hope you have set some great goals for this new year. It seems like there are always people who decide to get all “bah-humbug” about setting goals during the new year, but the truth is, the new year can be a great reset for all of us. Sure, we can set goals in June and not only January, but the new year truly highlights an opportunity to reflect. That’s why this year, my wife and I chose to focus on the word, dreamer, to always make sure we are dreaming bigger and dreaming about what God has. Our goals are to be active dreamers, not just head in the clouds, but doing something to accomplish these dreams. I have had to shift my mindset, and say, “God, you’ve got the plan, just lead me there.” I’m normally the planner, the past four-ish years, I had in my mind exactly what I was going to do. My job was going to head into full-time, Danielle and I would start working together and have enough experience to plant a church in a few years. I had it all worked out, but then God said, not here you won’t. In that moment I struggled, I’m not perfect, I grieved my job loss and my plans, but in the end, God was teaching me how to let it go and listen to his voice over my own.
Just like that, another year has ended. This past year has probably been one of the most eventful years of my life. In the span of three months I was engaged and got married to my best friend! My nephew Gideon was born, and he’s probably the coolest baby ever (sorry not sorry to those of you who had children). I recently got an opportunity to write for Medium on pop-culture, which has always been a huge love of mine (Click here to read some fun stuff!). There have been so many great things, but this has also been a difficult year for me. I was working and carrying out a different vision than my own, and because of that, I stopped dreaming. I found myself working out of a routine because I wasn’t really able to experiment, I’m not saying this is bad, it just became an environment that didn’t help me thrive. The moments where I felt like I was myself were over shadowed by my anxiety to perform well with the hopes of others noticing my work and the craft I was giving. This anxiety really hurt me, causing me to forget who I am. When I was around people that love me and in situations where I could be who I was, that joy came back. As I reflect over this past year, I want to be different, I want to make sure that I am taking care of myself and following what God is calling me towards.
The day is finally here! It’s Christmas Eve, hopefully you have all your gifts ready to go, and if not, I wish you luck with the chaos that will be happening today. Christmas is always such a magical time, there is so much going on and it can be easy to grow distracted with all the cooking, family gatherings, and making sure you’ve got the perfect gift for that person who is always so hard to shop for. Christmas can also be a challenging season. With emphasis on family and being joyful for what you have, this can be very difficult for some to cope with loss, heartache and fear of the unknown. For me personally, this Christmas has been a time of fun and uncertainty mixed together as the new year has many unknowns. So, what do we do? What can we do is we find ourselves busy and uncertain all at the same time as having to put on a happy face? I think the key is actually simple, just difficult to fully accept and believe. I say this, because it is something that I have to accept and navigate as well. This isn’t me saying, “this will change your life in a few easy steps,” really, it’s the beginning of how to grow and mature in your life. We have been called to humble ourselves and love others; in other words, we are called to be the light.
Good story makes all the difference. Have you ever gone to a movie where it just felt off? One of my favorite things is to watch really bad movies, or “b-movies,” and laugh at the ridiculous nature of it. We love good story. It’s the reason why we watch movies and read books, and find ourselves heartbroken, exhilarated, and connected to characters who aren’t even real. This past week, my wife, Danielle and I had a chance to go on our official honeymoon to Harry Potter World and Walt Disney World. It was absolutely incredible. Throughout the trip I kept wondering why I was connecting to the environment on a deep level. Yes, it was fun and a great experience, but there was something more. Something I was quite getting, then it hit me.