“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” (John Lennon)
At 31 years old, I cannot think of a better way to address this question now than the way that John Lennon did as a 5 year old. We are meant to believe as children that there is a predetermined destiny laid out before us. And that all we need to do is uncover what that destiny is, and then the stars will align and all will be well for us. We are led to believe that we will embrace success in short order. After all, we will have found our niche in society, and as a result we’ll step forward with confidence and embark on a lifelong career doing “what it is we love to do.” We’ll marry young, settle down in a quiet neighborhood, perhaps buy a little land, raise a few kids, and work out our days living our life’s dream. You remember the dream…it’s the same one that we had when we were 5 years old…
Now, raise your hand if you’re not doing today what it is that you thought you would when you were a Kindergartner? Life simply doesn’t work out that way for most of us. Sure, there are kids who are “bred” to be doctors, lawyers, or to serve their communities as firemen or police officers. But most of us have traveled a far more convoluted road to our destination. And that destination where we find ourselves…is it really the last stop on our journey? Most of us would be hesitant to commit to such an idea. We’re not ready to close the door on future career moves. And it doesn’t matter if we’ve found ourselves in a position that is seemingly perfect on the surface. It’s not about finding the perfect job, it’s about finding the perfect “you”…and that’s a lifelong journey, not a short range destination.
Today, I find myself unexpectedly unemployed. This June I decided that it was time for me to move on from my comfort zone in a well-established, successful career to take a leap of faith and move into an industry that was completely unfamiliar to me. I gave up financial security and known surroundings to put myself into a pool of uncertainty with a salary less than half of what I had been earning in my previous position. In part I took the risk for the growth opportunity and leadership role that I had envisioned in my new venture. But for more reason than any other, I took the risk because THE RISK was who I had become.
Things didn’t work out as I had hoped. Two months into my employment I had an expense reimbursement check bounce. And then I began to miss paychecks. Currently, I hold four different checks from the company that I am still unable to cash. And I have a fifth and final paycheck due this Friday. I don’t know if I will ever receive the money that I am due. It will likely take a lawsuit for me to see anything from the individuals who misled me into taking the position.
It’s easy to feel angry and jaded in my position. It’s far harder to let go and keep pressing forward. But that’s what I must do. That’s what I feel God has called me to do. I do not regret the experience, because I learned a lot about myself in these last several months. As I mentioned earlier, I discovered through this opportunity that I AM a risk taker. I am not a person who can settle into comfort and be content. And for that, I am very proud. Being a risk taker affords you all of the opportunities in the world. Doors open and welcome competitive minded individuals who are not afraid to put themselves into harm’s way. Comfort confines, risk rewards.
Two years ago, I was operating in an agoraphobic like state of mind. I was beaten down and starved by comfort and by my fears of the world around me. The events of my life had sent my anxiety spiraling out of control for the better part of a year, and my body began responding in a lot of absolutely terrifying ways. I became afraid to exist outside of the one bedroom apartment where I hid from any and all threats to engage in a life taking place without me. My world was shrinking every day…the walls were closing in. I missed a great friend’s wedding due to shear panic and I even spent Thanksgiving at home alone due to fear. A risky move for me two years ago would have been waiting in line at a drive-thru for a cup of coffee at a local McDonald’s, or heading to the grocery on a weekend to do some shopping.
At the time it was hard for me to see myself being in a position where I’d want to ever take a risk again. I was simply trying to survive, one day at a time. That was until I began to truly put everything into God’s hands. And slowly but surely, I began to heal. I stepped forward in faith, one day at a time, trusting that He would catch me should I ever fall. I forgot about logic, about all of the reasons why I could not do something, and I began to engage the idea that God had me in His hands, and that I had survived the worst of all that had plagued me for a very real reason…because He wanted me to live and grow with Him and share my story with everyone whom I would encounter in my life.
I became a risk taker due to my relationship with God. I learned that there is no fear in anything when you remember that God is behind you. Imagine having faith so strong that you KNOW that you cannot fail? You’d probably be willing to try and do more in every area of your life. That’s the way that I came to feel. I simply could not fail. A setback was just a redirection of my course or a reminder to focus in and continue to pray hard and trust in my faith. It was an absolutely enlightening way to live.
But I am not without weakness. Because I put so much faith into taking the risks that I did in recent months, I felt considerably deflated by the losses that I consequently suffered. Today however I recognize that those events were simply a redirection of course on my lifelong journey. I am now focused back in. God has a bigger purpose in mind. And piece by piece He is molding His creation into something sustainable. A risk taker needs to be able to understand that reward does not always follow every pursuit. He needs to be conditioned to keep trudging forward in spite of disappointment and loss. Because of the lessons that I learned as a result of this experience, I now feel that I am ready to go on my way, stronger than ever. And I thank the Lord for His work in me.
At five years old if you had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would have probably told you that I wanted to play basketball at UNC and then move on to a professional career with the Chicago Bulls. Today, I follow an ideal more like that of John Lennon – I want to be happy. And what truly makes me happy is learning who I am through my life with Christ and continuing to grow and embrace new opportunities that fit who I am as a person. It’s not about a dream job. If I’m growing, the idea of my dream job will always continue to evolve with my own personal growth. Today, I am a risk-taker. I am a competitor. I am a leader. I am an honest, caring individual who believes that all things are possible. I am the man that God is molding me into being. I have not arrived, and I will not ever truly arrive. Every day, every month, every year I hope to continue to add more to my personal resume. Not just in career highlights, but in personal and spiritual growth. Because that’s where it is that my true value lies.
I’m back on the job market. And I hope to find employment soon. But my identity will never be shaped solely by a career. My purpose is to grow with God. I have accepted the fact that I probably won’t ever know the precise answer to that “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question. But if I was pressed to answer, I’d respond a lot like little John did…I’d want to be a happy, and more than anything, I’d want work on building a resume more like that of my greatest career mentor, Jesus Christ. Because this life is simply an application for admission into the greatest retirement plan one could ever imagine…eternal life in Heaven with our wonderful Creator.
Thank you, Jesus for molding me into who I am today and for never giving up on a sinner like me. I’m sure that I have given you countless headaches, but you have never once left my side. My heart is full. I love you.