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LeBron’s Homecoming Story Mirrors My Own Journey

LeBron James Comes HomeFor those of you who follow sports and professional basketball, the most recent LeBron free-agency media hurricane could be seen as fascinating, inane, or some combination of both. Most of us remember the widely criticized facepalm moment which was The Decision four years ago when The King decided to leave his hometown of Cleveland to take his talents to South Beach. At the time, I was one of his detractors, not just for instigating the circus but running out of a town desperate for one of their own to deliver them from sports purgatory. (All of which is rather funny considering that I’m a Pittsburgher with enmity toward Cleveland sports teams.)

He left his boyhood home, joined a successful franchise in the Miami Heat, and achieved what many expected him to do: win championships. But there appears to have been a nagging yearn to return to his roots and do something important. Think about it. It’s similar to the journey most of us make in our own lives. We grow tired of home with its constant expectations and suffocating familiarity. We wonder if there may be something better “out there” and leave it all behind. Yet it’s in that journey where we explore new territory, try out different identities, experiment, risk, love, and lose. This process helps us find out who we are and what we want from our life. Eventually, there is a point where coming home is the most obvious and desired choice. Perhaps its one of the reasons why the parable of the Prodigal Son is such a revered story in the Bible.

So, LeBron…I understand your decision to come home because it largely matches the decision I made this year. After leaving for Texas and the shiny attraction of the corporate world, I chose to come back to the East Coast and return to the nonprofit work where I began my career 15 years ago. It’s funny because I confidently swore at one point that I would never go back East and definitely wouldn’t go back to nonprofits after I fought so hard to escape them. Now? I laugh and understand why it’s never wise to use the word never.

My eight years in Texas was a journey where I explored new territory, tried out different identities, experimented in my career, risked much financially, loved family and friends, and lost my soul for a while. But I’m proud of that decision to leave for the Lone Star State and even more proud of the decision to come home. Now that I’m in Atlanta, I’m back near the old mountains that I love dearly, near the ocean that holds so many joyful boyhood and young adulthood memories, near family and friends who helped me become who I am, near my ancestral roots.

Plus, I’m back doing the work I know I was always meant to do. Each day, I put my talents, experiences, and passions to good use to help make a difference in the world and end poverty housing. Having lived through the good, bad, and extremely ugly of corporate and startup life, I’m all the more grateful to have soulful, purposeful work that I love to do (almost) every day.

Cheers to you, King James. And welcome back home.

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Reclaiming My Purpose…Oh, And Depression Sucks

Starry Night SkyIf we want different answers in our life, we need to learn how to ask different questions.

I’ve been playing with variations of this idea for the last month. Much has happened to me in 2013. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that much as happened in me in 2013. Far too much for me to describe in a single blog post, but perhaps over time I’ll be able to write more about my journey this past year. However, let me try and take a stab at it.

Though I have shared some things through my social networks at various times, I haven’t written much here in this blog. The very idea of opening myself up to the world through this site was terrifying. I was battling a crippling combination of depression and anxiety that left me wanting to simply get small and hide from the darkness that was both out there and within me. I did my very best to hide this darkness and fear from friends, family, and the world. Sometimes I succeeded. Often times I failed. All along the way, I kept asking, “Why?” Why is everything such a damned struggle? Why am I scared to do the important things I know I need to do? Why can’t I feel a sense of hope anymore? Why does my life seem without purpose?

That’s the terrible thing about depression. In hindsight, I see it clearly but when you’re neck deep in the muck and shit, you don’t see with the same eyes, hear with the same ears, and think with the same mind. It’s a rather horrific and lonely place.

What I needed was a way out, a way to wake up, and God presented me with just such an opportunity. But it wasn’t a nice, soothing wake up call that gently roused me from my slumber. It was the equivalent of a foghorn placed directly at the side of my head. Jarring and painful, but now wide awake to the fact that I was not caring for my mental health. Furthermore, I was definitely not living the Life I was meant to live and doing the Work I was meant to do.

Now, my question focused on, “Okay God, what are You trying to show me?” Different questions can yield different answers.

In the past 30 days, I have gotten the help I needed in the form of therapy and medication. I have discovered I am a part of loving, wonderful, supportive Church community. I have received tremendous comfort and caring among my dear friends and family. I know just how much I love and admire my wife for courageously helping me through it all. I have regained a sense of joy and curiosity that was lost for far too long.

And I’ve also been freed to ask new questions about the direction of my Life and Work. The answers are still a bit murky but clarity is beginning to take place. After all that I’ve been through this year, what I do know is that my Life has value and my Work must have meaningful purpose (more about this soon). I see my course is forward and my very best is yet to come.

I share all of this partly as therapy for myself, but also as words of solace to any of you who are struggling right now with your own demons of depression and anxiety. You are not alone. Your Life has value. Your Work can be a brilliant light in this world. Reach out for the help you need…and don’t give up until you get it.

Be well, my friends.

Love, Chris.

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The Struggle of the Moth

Isaac Cheifetz poses the following question: Can the principles of evolutionary biology be used to guide our careers?

In his article, he compares the “stop and go” path that some middle managers find in their journey to executive management to the evolutionary development theory of Punctuated Equalibrium popularized by Stephen jay Gould. In Gould’s theory, evolution tends to be characterized by long periods of inactivity that are “punctuated” by environmental forces leading to rapid, revolutionary development. Further in the article, Cheifetz clarifies what differentiates punctuated career development from a stagnant career path.

It reminds me of an episode of Lostwhere Locke talks to Charlie about the moth’s transformation and struggle to change. While he could help the moth escape from its cocoon with a slight cut of the knife, he would be doing it a disservice by robbing it of one of nature’s essential lessons. Struggle is what nature imposes in order to make things stronger. Without getting too Darwinian, there seems to be something there about our careers. Sometimes, there are lessons to be gained from struggle and if we give in and move on too quickly, we’ll rob ourselves of those necessary learnings.

When our careers seem like they’re stuck in low gear, maybe we need to be there for a reason. And maybe there is a rapid, revolutionary development on the near horizon if we’re open enough to look for it.

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