Four and a half years ago, I took a trip right after I took the last final of my college career. It was with a church called Newsong and I went to Mexico City to see the work that was being done in the fight against human trafficking. It was a profoundly impactful experience, but when I returned, even though my heart was moved for this specific group of marginalized people, it became just a story that I would tell.
That all changed when my friend Crystal asked me in June of 2019 if I wanted to travel in the fall.
Earlier in the year, Crystal had invited me on a trip to Turkey. What probably started as a trip with the lowest expectations ever, became quite possibly one of the most rewarding trips I’ve ever been on. The trip being as amazing as it was actually ended up backfiring as it sent me into a depressive spiral when I returned to the states.
I discovered that as I travel my body and mind can relax to a degree that allows my creative juices to flow at possibly the most effective rate than in any other given scenario. I wrote a handful of blogs and began to revive my old passion for video editing. Upon returning I began to volunteer on the media team at Mariners and I began to look for ways to create.
All of this revived creativity was great, but the removal of the constant exposure to new cultures and new experiences was heavily depressing. I began to grow anxious as I realized that a huge part of my joy was based upon what I believed to be a “one-off” experience in a far off land.
What ensued was a phase of self-medicating with both positive and negative coping mechanisms, more than a couple of mental breakdowns, a renewed vigor in my therapy sessions, and the search for more community. More on that in a different blog in the future
Crystal was pretty adamant and intent on traveling in the fall, which just happens to be the busiest time in the current industry I work in. I knew for a fact that I would not be able to request the time off due to restrictions and responsibilities that accompany my job title.
Historically, I am a very risk-averse individual. I err on the side of caution whenever possible. My backup plans have backup plans. I don’t leave jobs unless I have another job lined up and ready to go.
But something about mental breakdowns and year XXVI had made me relish the risk. I had been pondering the meaning of life, purpose, death, and dreams all year long, and I decided (with some encouragement from some close friends and the Rooted group) that it was time to stop pushing my dreams to the horizon of my life. I decided that if I was going to take this two-week trip, that I was going to go all out and try to return to Mexico City afterward to volunteer in whatever capacity was needed. (Insert cool phrase that links to Spotify playlist I listened to in Mexico City)
I quickly filled out an application to volunteer in Mexico City and I eagerly awaited a response. The response came more quickly than I anticipated and I was placed in a project called SAHLPlusUNO. This project specifically focuses on training women and girls from vulnerable situations culinary and business skills that aid them in starting their own businesses. I was going to teach 4-5 sessions on business principles and basically help in any way I could.
When November 6th rolled around and I boarded my red-eye flight to Mexico City, I could not have been more excited. I was terrified because my Spanish is terrible, I’m young and not a fortune 100 CEO, and for maybe the first time in my life, I was going somewhere alone with no backing from any overarching organization. What followed was (as cliche as it sounds) life-changing.
In the span of twelve days, I basically got to teach these amazing women some very basic good practices for starting and sustaining businesses, I got to observe their primary market that they were trying to market their baked goods to at a bazaar, I got to interact with and fellowship with some girls at the safe house, I got to participate at a block party (Imagine shutting down business for a night in the red-light district by throwing a party on the street with food, music, and free manicures… yeah wild), I had the opportunity to listen to and ask a few directors what their biggest challenges in the fight against human trafficking were, I got to process all that I was experiencing with Imon, all the while also learning about myself and where I fit into this fight against this very complex and troubling social issue that is human trafficking.
It’s been five days since returning and it would be an understatement to say that I miss being in the heart of it all. I jokingly told some coworkers, “I left my heart in Mexico City, so I’m going to go get it… And I’m never coming back.”
You know that feeling when you feel this void deep in your being because you feel like you don’t belong? It doesn’t matter where you work, what hobbies you have, or what groups of friends you spend time with, you always feel like an outsider. As if you don’t really belong anywhere. Your strengths are constantly critiqued as being too much by those you respect. The traits that make you unique are constantly described as being growth points that you need to “work on.” It just feels like you are completing “filler quests/chapters” in the videogame that is your life so that you can get to the “good” stuff that is retirement or doing what you hate doing so that you can do what you want to do sometime later on.
Yeah, I’ve thought about all those things a whole LOT this past year.
I came to this conclusion that if I was bleeding out on the floor due to another North American mass shooting tragedy, that there would be three things that I would regret not doing:
- Not pursuing being a filmmaker or screenplay writer
- Not starting a pro-bono college and career consulting firm for underserved children
- Not participating more in the fight against human trafficking.
(Note: I am not intending to make light of mass shootings. This is a legitimate fear and actual thought process that I experienced multiple times as I was pondering death)
It took several deaths of people in my social circle, crippling depression and anxiety, several sessions of therapy, a lot of internal processing, and many many MANY talks with family, friends, and coworkers to realize that it was time to stop wondering about the “what-ifs” and waiting “for the right moments.”
Life is very very short.
A quote from my favorite movie, The Shawshank Redemption says this:
I guess it comes down to a simple choice really. Get busy living or get busy dying.
The title of this blog is inspired by the song of the same name that is taking the church world by storm. I heard this song in Spanish for the first time in Mexico City, and I already loved the song in English.
This past year has been composed of a lot of realization of all of the pieces of my life coming together to form a more cohesive narrative and picture. I’ve wondered for so long about why I have the vices I have, why I have had the struggles I’ve had, why I’ve experienced what I have, and why I have felt stuck for so long.
The theme of this entire trip though has been to begin taking steps even if you are uncertain of where those steps lead. I am reminded of a scene from Indiana Jones in which a first initial step of faith is required.
See, oftentimes, we really don’t know where the heck we are going. We have some passions or some dead dreams that we’d like to revive but later.
We do what is safe and advised because that is what everyone else is or has been doing.
We know that we were designed or created for more than what we have been assigned, and that is why we wonder about purpose and identity, yet we are afraid to actually pursue that which brings us life.
Yet even in our anxiousness and our depression, we have all withstood trials and tribulations that have given us skills and knowledge that are not common to the average person. We all have something of value to teach and pass on.
Perhaps, being rejected or being told we are obsolete in our current social context means that we need to go to a different social context to best utilize and teach what we have learned…
It is never too late to revive those dreams and to take those steps towards carrying out what our unique purposes are. I was 4.5 years late, but being late meant I had more failures and lessons to speak and teach from.
I respect whatever it is that you may believe, but I believe that God is the ultimate waymaker and that He orchestrates everything in our lives to help us get to both where we need to be and where the world needs us to be.
Numerous obstacles come in between us and fulfilling our purpose. I’ve been obsessed with self-health and self-care this past year and it has been incredibly helpful and rejuvenating to take care of my own needs. But, as the excitement of the last month calms down, I think I am starting to realize that at a certain point, holistic self-care may actually require caring for others.
Perhaps in caring for others (after taking care of ourselves), we begin to understand the purpose behind why we are here.
But I mean we would never know if we played it safe all the time…
Sometimes we just need to take that first step.