Leveling Up When It Wasn’t Planned

This seems familiar to me.

 

Because this wasn’t the way it was suppose to go.

I was freshly laid off. Having moved into my grandmother’s house only a month prior to help care for her as she was living alone. The long term plan was to also save up for a down payment for my own home in a year’s time and then move out.

But I was laid off. A month after the move.

What followed I can’t explain as some sort of seven step guide. It’s merely my story. But in the immediate months that followed, almost the week right after, I started down a path I am forever referring to as my next education.

My initial jumping off point was I knew I didn’t want to do what I was just doing as a career. I knew I had to pivot. I knew things weren’t going to be the same.

This lead me to reading books by Jon Acuff, James Altucher, Jeff Goins and many more. Books I never dared to read before because I thought they were too self-helpy/salesperson/’I can help you but first pay me money!’ I was only interested in scholarly books or theological books. But the career driven, make your own path, exit the Matrix and do things different books? They were never on my radar.

Until they got on my radar because of the strong desire to pivot.

Well, one thing led to another and within a couple months time I was reading a library copy of Tim FerrissThe 4-Hour Workweek. And I have wrote about this story in particular before, but what I want to detail this time around was having exposed myself to a line of thinking and problem solving and paradigm shifting I had never considered before, I found myself doing mini experiments and exercises in finding what matters most to me and how I can daily change for the better regardless of being suddenly ‘stuck.’

The self education just snowballed into reading more and more similar books, listening to podcasts of the same nature and more. What happened immediately was a thirst for knowledge.

Next came following through with all this knowledge into action. The advice of several of these authors were implemented into daily practices, routines, or otherwise one-off challenges I had again never considered. Birthed out of this time frame was the formation of practices I have maintained in some fashion to this day which have greatly leveled me up.

Journaling,

not only to get the toxic stuff out of my head onto paper, but also, not surprisingly, to greatly improve my writing skills.

A more structured eating and gym regimine,

as I had already been on a journey where I lost 30lbs prior to the lay off. I have since been told by several people given the situation I was in, I had all the excuses in the world of letting a few things go in those regards. Sit around and play video games and eat unhealthy. But I did the exact opposite because having tested out new ways of doing things and seeing the positive results, I trusted learning and implementing whatever someone who has been there and done it has to offer in regards to diet and exercise. This lead to the next 50lbs being lost. And a completely new way of treating food as fuel and exercise as stimulation for the mind.

Reading on top of reading on top of reading.

I remember after graduate school being burned out with books and assigned class reading. But with a new sense of freedom I was looking forward to recreational reading on my own terms. Well, five years would pass by before I got serious about recreational reading. The lay off gave me time to sit down and read masterminds, folks who are so much more in the know than I am, who offered wisdom through their years of being there and done that. It become intoxicating and was leveling me up more.


There are countless other improvements which were made during this knocked off course time period.

What is standing out to me in the period of time the globe is finding itself in at present are the two streams I see daily on the social media feeds.

One stream is fueled to take this time to improve themselves.

The other stream is fueled by panic and fear.

I am once again realizing, having gone lax on some of my own daily regimens, that pregnant in this moment is the opportunity to regain some disciplines all over again. To better myself. To complete a couple trajectories I was on just prior to the events in the world going on right now.

And more importantly, I realize it’s not just time for me to better myself. It is time to help others more than ever.

Because now in the midst of our situation at hand we didn’t plan for, we can pivot, we can improve, we can change, and it can be for the better.

A Lot Has Changed In The Past (2)Year

Wage War has the song that defines my last two years. It’s going to be my anthem, my marker of these years.

The chorus says it all. But I’ll get there. 

First a walk up to the chorus with a verse punching me in the gut: 

Let’s get this straight
A lot has changed in the last year
Thought I had everything together
But watched it all disappear

It is remarkable what has disappeared from me. Previous to 2 years ago, I thought I was at least on the trajectory of putting it all together. I knew I didn’t have it all together. But I was on the correct path.

Silly me. 

I watched a lot of ‘stuff’ disappear. What’s remaining in the process? I’m finding the Person I always identified as the core behind everything. 

This is where every biblical metaphor of pruning, burning away, and seeing what’s left over applies to my last two years.

Thought I had everything together takes on a unique meaning for me. I didn’t arrogantly believe I had it all together. In fact swaying heavily in the other direction, I was already well on the way of holistic improvements a year, two years, really a few years in the making because of an acknowledgment of not having things together. Improvements made because of the humble identification of desperately needed change.

So when the hits started coming one after another over the past two years, all my personal improvements felt for not.

These personal improvements ironically had no challenging places to test themselves out in (or at least not in the arenas I figured I would apply my personal improvements in).

In other words, if I could establish habitual changes when times were ‘good,’ without realizing it, I was being prepared to keep it up when times became ‘bad.’ 

It’s kinda like the stakes were raised so change wouldn’t be on my terms anymore.

So here I am putting my past two years into perspective, and with everything that is burned up and gone, it is what remains which brings me to my knees.

This chorus. It stuns me:

Now I see, I was broken to be made a better me

There are so many defeats I’ve had to deal with. There are many incredibly significant moments of pruning. What’s astonishing within this reflection is how I have become a better me in the process. This is the best version of myself ever. I have never been ‘clearer.’ 

A career stall actually turned into a time period of incredible learning through massive amounts of reading and writing, all combining to solidify my why.

An empathy I possessed intellectually a decade ago as a believer has now manifested itself personally through intense breaking and healing. Frankly put, as I reflect back on the idealistic 22 year old Jesus follower, having consumed massive volumes of early 2000’s Christian blogosphere material, and beginning their graduate studies with the aim of ‘getting into’ a field based on helping people, I see a person only scratching the surface of servant-hood. 

The ‘better me‘ standing now embraces hardship completely different. I had somehow avoided major pains in my life and figured I could serve others out of a timid, shy, intellectual point of view.

But I was finally broken so that I can look into someone’s eyes and see their pain better. 

I was assuredly empathetic before. But pain? Obstacles? Losing it all? Terror?

I’ve come into contact with pain I’d wish on no one. And yet here I am on the other side of it. I have learned the art and practice of taking the obstacle as a learning tool, as a data point. 

Am I still here? Is it morning? Is it a new day? 

Then be grateful.

Is Jesus still standing with me? He sure is.

Then be faithful.

And now I….

‘Had to learn to let it go and let it be.’ 

This is the clear marking of ‘forward.’ There are things I simply must let go. Even the process of breaking must be let go at some point. 

There are burdens too heavy to carry on my own. They were never meant to be my burdens. 

Now I can start fresh over again changing things I am actually tasked to change. Not things I have no control over. Only the pieces I have been given to put together.

The serenity prayer is on my heart like never before.

Build Who We’ve Become

Do not rebuild my life in the exact same way it was before. It’s time for me to rebuild based on who I am growing into.

Author Maria Goff essentially summed up the main lesson from the past year of my life lovelivesherein her book Love Lives Here.  In the excerpt below, she is referring to her family’s long-time cabin burning down to the ground.  Everything inside of it was now gone, every item which contained countless memories.  There was an instant temptation to rebuild the cabin exactly how it was before.  As if the memories, the lessons, the warmth of friendships birthed and grown in the cabin could be rebuilt physically as well.  However, with wisdom as the guide, Maria clarifies:

We’ll build something that will serve who we’ve become, not just repeat who we were.  The biggest mistake we could all make in our lives [emphasis added] is to rebuild things we’ve outgrown or to live in constant fear that we might lose what we have all over again.  It won’t be the fires that destroy our lives and our faith.  It will be obsessing over not getting burned again that will.

Ouch.  This drilled way down into me.  I think dental work from the 1800’s would be less painful to endure than this quote.

Maria’s focus on two aspects of this strike me.  The first is the temptation to rebuild things we’ve outgrown.  It is hard to admit to defeat in an area in life.  But it may be harder to pivot in an area of life because we have grown up since we first set out on the mission.

It could have been years ago when we decided on X, but the conditions we were in when the decision was made are no longer present.  I could hold onto the romanticized version of the way I hoped it all would turn out when I started out on a venture.  Or I could let the cold-water-splash-in-the-face take more of an effect than just sending shivers down my spine.  The conditions are no where near the way they were before.  There’s no good use utilizing old blueprints drawn up back then to start the process all over again now.

Her second emphasis is on the fear of building again at all.  More poignant for me, this weighs heavy as I can carry the metaphor of not being burned again, or at all, to extremely fearful bounds.  Something of great value was lost to Maria and her family.  Yet, there was a resilience in building something new and different based on who they have become.

Not only will the cabin be new, but it will be built.  I can paralyze myself just thinking of getting back up and trying again.  But why try the exact same thing again?  We all need to try again but in step with her first point, it will be different this time.

In a sense it will be different anyway, even if we want to start the same task or goal over the exact same way.  We’ll have the experience of the failure with us.  It will be a different time in our lives.  We’ll maybe even be physically somewhere else.  Regardless, if we start with new or old blueprints we must be willing to risk fire getting to our final product again.

Weren’t all the memories created in the first cabin worth it all anyway?  That’s why we build again.  But it’s also why we build based on who we are now.