Remember Why You Started

Would younger you be proud of who you’ve become today?

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Before we get into this post, I actually lost my credentials to this account! I forgot my email address because I thought it was linked to my school email which got deleted because I don’t attend anymore. I was in a long but helpful process with the WordPress staff so here we are! Without further adieu, Remember why you started!

If younger you met you now, would younger you be amazed at who you’ve become? Or would younger you be bored or disappointed? 

I say bored because, often times as adults, we don’t realize that what we talk about is actually really boring. And not to say that it takes work to entertain a kid, but if a young person can’t stand being around you, I’d consider that a problem. 

^maybe that was a little harsh. 

I ask this question to reverse engineer where we are now with the dreams we had before we got here- where you are at this exact moment- what you do, who you’ve become, your values, etc. 

With that being said, this quote comes to mind, “remember why you started.” 

I don’t think that we were created to be non-believers (I’m not talking religion, but it does apply…). We weren’t created to not be dreamers. 

We’ve all been planted with unique dreams that suits who we are as a human being. 

It’s our lifelong duty to pursue that dream. 

That’s purposeful.

If we may take a moment to ask ourselves why we started, would we be sad, disappointed, or upset at where we’ve ended up? 

Which, then, begs the question, would younger you be amazed or disappointed at who you’ve become? 

I ask this question because when I am in my classroom with 11 3 year olds running around, my mind takes me to the brink of my existence- It feels like time stands still, and I am able to have an outer body experience, and with this experience I ask myself, “Do I really get to do this for a living?”

I get to be a teacher. I get to go crazy with my crazy 3 year olds, and I also get to teach them life lessons. Forget ABC/s, or numbers. I get to instruct them on who they will become for the rest of their lives. To some, that’s terrifying… but to me, that’s exciting! That’s purposeful.

We only get one life. Don’t waste it pursuing things that don’t matter.

My coworkers even say it- I am the guy bouncing off of the walls, laughing, and smiling, and I don’t even drink coffee!

I get to annoy my female colleagues, and crack jokes! This is something I get to do!

This is just work, too! I haven’t mentioned all of the other activities in my personal life.

So, again, I ask, would younger you be proud of who you’ve become?

We only get one life. Don’t waste it pursuing things that don’t matter.

Make younger you proud of you. For when that happens, you will be happy. Younger you is you. Stay connected to the child who dreams. Don’t let the world and the things in it disconnect you from what brings you joy.

Summer, where’d you go?

Your inability to disengage and rest is a reflection of where you find your identity.

In my early years of formation as a young man, I learned to view life in seasons. When I view life in seasons I am able to be grateful for the experiences that that season invited me to. We all know certain seasons bring with it joy, and mountaintop experiences; and for other seasons it brings pain, and the valley.

Long story short– for the past year, thankfully, I was able to freelance as a tutor. I am thankful for that opportunity as that season of being a tutor really forced me to think about what I want to do coming out of the pandemic– and now, I am back to teaching, and pursuing higher education for child development.

If you have something you want to achieve, take yourself seriously. There is too much on the line for you to not take YOU seriously.

Before I transition into a new teaching position I know that I need to decompress, and restore my mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Education takes a toll, and requires all of us, and it engages all of who we are. For me, I take a holistic approach to teaching in that I bring all of me to and in the classroom.

For the past two months or so I have called this my summer break. And what a break it was. Luckily, my girlfriend lives in L.A. now so I was able to spend my summer break in a different city away from the normal stresses of S.F.

We all know certain seasons bring with it joy, and mountaintop experiences; and for other seasons it brings pain, and the valley.

And as I think about it now, with all of the different commitments outside of career, I have been able to rest mentally, and more so emotionally, heck, even spiritually.

I have learned now, to take myself seriously. And I don’t mean that I’m going to stop enjoying life, or laughing, or smiling, no. What I am saying is that I am going to start taking my health seriously. I am going to start respecting the boundaries I have set in place. I am going to start taking my mental health seriously. I am going to start taking my goals seriously. It’s time we stop playing ourselves by putting our goals on the backburner. If you have something you want to achieve, take yourself seriously. There is too much on the line for you to not take YOU seriously.

Take yourself seriously.

And what I am not saying is to be selfish. Still love your neighbors. Put other people’s interests above your own. And I think what I am saying is that it’s a tension. And that’s love. How do we love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves?

But at the same time, it was a season to enter into my own mess and humanity so that upon coming back to S.F. and transitioning into normalcy, I would be able to more fully and deeply enter into the lives of others and the communities I am included in.

We can’t love our neighbor if we don’t love ourselves. And maybe that’s why this world is so parched and hopeless. It’s that we can’t love the people around us because we don’t even know how to love ourselves. We’re drunk on knowledge and self fulfillment that we’ve forgotten and are parched for vulnerability and deep committed relationships.

And that’s exactly what this break was. Yes, I was able to spend time with my girlfriend in L.A. and I wouldn’t trade that time for anything else! But at the same time, it was a season to enter into my own mess and humanity so that upon coming back to S.F. and transitioning into normalcy, I would be able to more fully and deeply enter into the lives of others and the communities I am included in.

We can’t love our neighbor if we don’t love ourselves. And maybe that’s why this world is so parched and hopeless. It’s that we can’t love the people around us because we don’t even know how to love ourselves.

Often times we don’t realize that our desert souls and hearts are longing for an oasis. The hard work of entering into this oasis is leaving behind (for a season/moment) our commitments and work. I would argue that if you struggle to disengage from your work or commitments, have you made them a functional savior? Have you turned your work and commitments into idols? Your inability to disengage and rest is a reflection of where you find your identity.

For the sake of our family’s, friends, and communities we are a part of– I urge you, for your neighbors’ sake, to learn how to rest and enter into the desert. The valley. The quiet. The solitude. That is where we find ourselves. That is where the chiseling of character can happen. It is where we learn that we are not, but are more than, our work, and our commitments. It is where we discover our humanity, our frailty and need for others, and love.

Oh, what a year pt. III

Another addition to the mini-series and this is one is all about the blessing of interruptions.

This past year was being able to modify what it meant to go on vacation.

And with the lockdown in full swing, economy shut down, how exactly does one go on a vacation?

Well, we- my girlfriend and I planned a road trip! It will be our first road trip as a couple and it was so, so needed as we were experiencing cabin fever and a withdrawal of being out. I know you know the feeling!

We decided to travel to Utah, and Arizona eventually circling back to L.A., making our way home in S.F.

This trip would be our first time off-roading and dispersed camping. I was always used to camping in sites like KOA and other man-made camping sites. I don’t know how the Youtube algorithm works… but during quarantine I started seeing people on youtube off-roading, dispersed camping and showing their tips and tricks to make it worthwhile and enjoyable.

So, we did our research and purchased the tools and equipment necessary to make our experience a good one.

My girlfriend and I try to travel every year, and we are both very fortunate we are dating each other (haha?) because we are both flexible, able to adapt easily, and up for any adventure!

You know, words won’t really cut it, so here is a photo dump of our time on the road. I hope you enjoy these photos and may it serve as a reminder to remain adaptable, and flexible. We make plans, but sometimes life has other things planned that interrupt us. When we see life as an adventure any and all bumps in the road are opportunities to shout for joy!

Here we are in Utah! Ka’i is not amused.
The Grand Canyon State. Arizona is beautiful
This was right on the cusp of the border between Utah and Arizona. This beautiful piece of land is called Lone Rock Beach Campground. One of the many locations we camped at and this was the morning as the sun was rising. So beautiful, the scene was right outside of our tent.

Another location we stayed. Here is a intimate moment between Katia and Ka’i. We would spend 3-4 hours in the car and both of us knew Ka’i needed to stretch her legs and also eat. This was the summer her diet completely changed to human food!
When I am the driver I tend to make spontaneous stops when I see something interesting. I am so glad I look left and right when driving otherwise we would’ve missed this epic shot of a able-bodied moose! Look at those horns!

We decided to really budget for our meals so we went with veggies for Katia, and I had to have meat. It was super cost friendly making skewers instead of whole meals. Very efficient, very tasty, very cool.
Another example of the spontaneous stops we’d make to let Ka’i run around and to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Precious moments. We would often find her spread out in the backseat. It was always a precious moment to find her resting.

We were so close!!
Katia found a dong lost on the road. The road we were on was windy, and cars were driving fast! She has more of a heart for animals than I so she was persistent that we rescue him and find him a place suitable to stay. Another driver led us to a nearby town where we could drop him off at a center. He was such a sweetheart!

Thanks for stopping by! Some of us may not be as fortunate to be able to get up and go whenever to wherever however. But may we see life as an adventure to be had and not a to-do list to check off. May the people in our lives be our partners on this adventure as well. Holding us accountable, trusting them to constructively criticise us when we stray off of the path of adventure.

Whatever you do, make sure you make it memorable.

An Open Letter to Whoever

What are you afraid of? I know I am scared of spiders, horror movies, and dark corners in dimly lit rooms… I am a big scaredy cat, but I digress…

I am not talking about those arbitrary fears.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

What I am talking about is when world events assume to shake our foundations, and cause us to tremble and run around like chickens with our heads cut off.

When events that happen culturally, socially, and globally interrupt our daily lives, why is it that more often than not it’s the Church that seems to lag behind with answers, hope, sending, activating and mobilizing groups into communities?

Shouldn’t it be Christians mobilizing communities and efforts to care for the needy? To send hope to the ones who cannot fend for themselves? Isn’t it the church that called us to be ‘light of the world?’ and ‘salt of the earth?’

I am perplexed to find that many so called christians are the ones behind the screens, congregating and virtually hanging out instead of being the front line to let the community know that there is a hope, and peace greater than what this world has to offer.

Therefore, we already KNOW there will be trials, and troubles in the world. So, shouldn’t it not be a surprise when something happens in the world?

I say all this not on my own accord, but by the very words Jesus said in John 16:33, Jesus says: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Therefore, we already KNOW there will be trials, and troubles in the world. So, shouldn’t it not be a surprise when something happens in the world?

2020 was… what it was. 2021 can turn out the be same, as it… has so far. Whatever may happen in a given year, we already know that there will be trouble in this world, and yet, why do we clam up, or get shook when something happens?

Christian, why do you fret? The world in which we are visiting has already been overcome by the Servant King!

When we think about playing in a basketball game (for example), the coach lays out the game plan so that if something goes wrong, the team knows to go back to the game plan, the team has a foundation on which to play on. Isn’t this kind of the same thing? For the one that calls Jesus ‘Lord’, and ‘Savior’, He has already given us the game plan to LIFE.

There is no doubt that there will be trouble in this world, but what does Jesus say? He has overcome the world! And more than that, another way to say ‘take heart’ is ‘to have courage’. We can take courage! We do not have to live with shaken knees, or with our heads down… We can live courageously because we know that Christ has overcome the world!

Christian, why do you fret? The world in which we are visiting has already been overcome by the Servant King!

Why do we clam up, or get shook when something happens?

I’m going through a bit of my own deconstruction as I look at the what the Church is and isn’t doing, compared to what the community is doing and there seems to be a disproportion in how the church isn’t showing up and I ask myself… how come?

I’m convicted of the words of Jesus because if I am to take His Word seriously then I have no need to be surprised at what happens next in the world. What is certain? Trouble, trials- that’s for certain. Yet, Jesus throws in a curveball, as if to say these trials and troubles do not have the last word. “But, take heart- have courage, I have overcome the world.” To the Christian, and to anyone fretting over the daily troubles of this world- Someone has brought peace- Someone has walked the earth that you and I walk- Someone has overcome the powers that be- and that’s News that we can take courage in. I rest in that assurance, and walk with my head high because a Savior not of this world has overcome the powers that cripple you and I on the daily.

Oh, What a year pt. II

Part ii of the mini-series. When you reflect on this past year, did the pandemic win? Or were you able to adapt, adjust, and find new unexplored areas of experience?

Before I begin, the intent of this blog isn’t so I could dump all my ‘stuff’ online. The intent is to be more about shedding light in our darknesses and to bring hope and joy.

Enter interruption #2. FAMILY!

With that said, I do believe allowing people into my reflections over this year is valid as we all share in the human experience. If I can go into my own solitude and enter into my mess, and chaos, then that will allow others to do the same, thus creating spaces where people can be free to enter into their own story.

I learned the importance of family, staying together, adapting, and communicating.

Now! To continue on the year. If you read the first post of this series, the year started off with an amazing opportunity career-wise. Being able to work at Equinox was a personal trainer’s dream. Great management, great teammates, and top of the line fitness equipment.

Then… boom. #CORONA.

Enter interruption #2. FAMILY!

I say interruption because if we are honest, we don’t spend all day with our family. Before the pandemic, we worked, went out to bars and restaurants with friends, so it wasn’t like we were with our family for 24 hours all the time.

And that’s an interruption, right? Learning what everyone’s schedule is while we learn to work from home. Not getting in each other’s ways, but doing our best to curb cabin fever.

Forget work, forget all of the extracurricular activities, were you able to spend quality time with your family?

We, like everyone else, had to find a schedule, a routine, and sometimes… we were all over the place!

On the times I would be with my family, my Mom and I made it a point to spend some time together and exercise. Being a trainer, I would give her exercises and create a workout for her.

She would eventually create her own exercises LOL

But, as the summer progressed, lockdown was still in place, I spent the majority of my time in the East Bay with my girlfriend’s family.

We did our best to get some sunshine, whether it was a hike, or going to the beach, we had to do our best to curb cabin fever, cause… it got ugly sometimes.

One last thing- I always found it a miracle that Katia’s mom (pictured right) and I got along, almost right away. – When we first met. So the first three months of quarantine were chill- we played monopoly… a lot. I would either make simple foods, or order takeout for the family, but we spent a lot of the first three months really just, talking over coffee, playing board games, and occasionally I would take her through a full-body workout.

I do hope that, if you are reading this, you were able to spend time with your family. This year really allowed us to shift the way we do life with those closest to us. I do hope that with the interruption of the pandemic closing everything down, that we were all able to adjust, and adapt, and love and hug those we love. If we were not able to, then yes, the pandemic really did win. But to see the interruption as a blessing is to say I’ve gotten a little bit closer to my family because of it. Forget work, forget all of the extracurricular activities, were you able to spend quality time with your family?

My family watching Mulan together

Oh, What a Year pt. 1

It’s been a whole year of being locked down and now I finally reflect on what the year has meant.

As the anniversary of the pandemic reached the U.S. and the anniversary of when S.F. was put into lockdown, I thought I would do a mini-series of reflections of what I have learned over the year. Reflections, laments, joys, surprises- All of these themes I’m sure will come up as I sort out this past year.

It has been one whole year since the pandemic interrupted our lives. Now, before I reflect over the course of this year, let me take you back a couple of months prior to COVID-19 rampaging our country.

I had just left a school I was teaching at and while teaching is my passion and joy, it can sometimes be choked by certain systems. And yet, little did I know that I would be walking into, and leaving shortly thereafter, one of the greatest experiences of management, and team cooperation. The contrast between the school, and Equinox was very noticeable.- Under adequate and healthy management, a team can thrive.

I loved every second of my experience at Equinox. From orientation week- meeting a bunch of trainers from all over the bay all focused on becoming the best trainer, to meeting some high-class managers and top tier trainers leading us in sessions, to the actual experience.

My manager was grade-A. She was kick-ass in all that she did. Monique was phenomenal in her work and I appreciate how she took care of all of us trainers on the daily.

The team around me was also kick-ass. Monique, Morgan, Mikey, they were all a guy needed to succeed.

Needless to say, my experience there was nothing short of a dream job in a dream career in a dream field.

Then BOOM. COVID-19 came-a-knockin’.

I remember the last day I stepped out of those Equinox doors for what it seems to be the last time.

Fishermen’s wharf was EMPTY! And if you know anything about the Wharf, it is anything but empty! I have grown up in S.F. my whole life and I never found it empty, it was always buzzing with tourists walking around, shopping, and locals trying to get some IN-N-OUT.

We ate at an Italian restaurant and they had already closed off parts of their indoor dining and unbeknownst to us, that would be the new norm for a year to come.

That’s interruption #1 and the first reflection of the series. Stay tuned!

The Blessing of Interruptions

How different would our lives be if we started to see the interruptions in our lives as a blessing? An opportunity to nose dive into life and there would we find deeper sources of vitality.

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Now, I know that might sound like a strange title but hear me out–

We all succumb to the ever frustrating interruptions of our daily lives– kids, traffic, illness, weather, — you name it– and that usually sounds like adults who have grown old, and have become bitter.

But what about a global pandemic that literally shifted the way we do life.

This pandemic might be the biggest life-altering interruption we will ever face. Traffic, and bad weather impeding our travel plans seem minuscule in comparison to being locked down for an entire year.

What if the interruptions are actually blessings, and opportunities?

Allow me to submit this- What if the interruptions are our vocation? Vocation is another word for purpose, or mission. What if the interruptions are our work? What if the interruptions are actually blessings, and opportunities?

Henri Nouwen says it best –

“But what if our interruptions are in fact our opportunities, if they are challenges to an inner response by which growth takes place and through which we come to the fullness of being?”, “What if all the unexpected interruptions are in fact the invitations to give up old fashioned and outmoded styles of living and are opening up new unexplored areas of experience?”

And what, exactly, would we be moving into if we saw these interruptions as blessings?

If we have the courage to see the beauty and blessings of interruptions- our lives would move from fate to opportunities, hurts become warnings and boundaries, and stagnancy an invitation to search for deeper sources of life and vibrancy.

Seeing interruptions not just as fate, but opportunities, I can then experience life with a much deeper vibrancy

Maybe these interruptions- however frustrating they might be- are invitations and opportunities for us to loosen our grip on life, and our illusion that we were ever in control of it in the first place; that they are loosening our ties to the ground so our wings can spread freely wherever the wind carries us.

I, like you, am deeply saddened and frustrated at the vision I had for 2020 and the reality that was the pandemic. I take joy knowing that I have something to do about it- there is liberty in knowing I can respond.

When we start seeing interruptions not just as fate, but opportunities, we can then experience life with a much deeper vibrancy; to develop a new style, a new way of living only if we choose to view the interruptions (however big or small) as a blessing, and as an opportunity.

Simplicity

When we enjoy the simple things in life, the world around becomes much more enjoyable.

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Have you ever noticed that it’s the most simple things in life that gives us great joy?

My friend recently gifted himself with an electric bike- He’s been super ecstatic about it and has not stopped telling me about it. I have a one wheel- if you don’t know what that is… Hit me up and I’ll show you how to ride it. It’s a wicked invention! It incorporates surfing, and skateboarding all in one… on one wheel!

Have you ever noticed that it’s the most simple things in life that gives us great joy?

So my friend and I finally decided to go riding together in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park!

Beautiful day it turned out to be and for those of us in S.F., we have the luxury and freedom to ride in the streets of GGP since they closed it off to traffic once the lockdown started. It’s a different feeling riding in the streets freely with no cars.

After we rode around GGP, we stopped in front of Academy of Science- and parked out front are a number of different food trucks!

Knowing us, we had to get a taste of Sam’s Chowder Mobile- seafood!

I say all this to say because on that beautiful sunny day, we did some wonderfully simple things that brought great joy and wholeness.

Now more than ever, we are stuck in front of our screens, and our posture and health are paying the price.

When we enjoy the simple things in life, the world around becomes much more enjoyable.

This is more of a reminder to myself when I say this- let us enjoy the simple things in life. Go for a walk, take deep breaths, laugh, cry, and don’t ignore the activities that fill your soul.

When we enjoy the simple things in life, the world around becomes much more enjoyable.

I challenge all of us to start doing things that bring us joy- talking with a friend, taking a walk, stopping to smell the proverbial or actual roses, these things also bring wholeness in our lives which increases our mood, health, attitude, and outlook on life.

Who are You?

In a world full of voices telling you who to be, this post aims to answer the age-old question, Who are you? Maybe the storms are here to reveal who we truly are.

Who are you, who are you, what you gonna do?- Daveed Diggs- from the musical Hamilton.

That question came as Hamilton was figuring out his next moves but with that question, I ask you.

If I’m honest, our identity is found in a myriad of places- video games, our various addictions, work, relationships, family, accomplishments and achievements, sports, our possessions, etc.

And that is completely human nature. We naturally find ourselves in people, places, and things, but the danger is when those very things that are meant to benefit us, are elevated to a god-like status. Reigning on the throne of our hearts.

So again, I ask you, who are you?

Strip away work, relationships, cars, possessions- who are you?

Who are you?

A lot of us find ourselves also waiting. Waiting for that thing to maybe complete us, or fulfill us. And I’m not gonna lie, I find myself in that position sometimes. Like, maybe I’ll wait for the next workout machine thing to get in shape. Or, maybe if I wait long enough, a situation I’m in might be different.

Furthermore, we wait with our hands in our pockets waiting for the storm we are in to clear. We complain and whine for the storm to go away and we just end up getting soaked, or worse, there is damage all around us.

Now, waiting is good. Sometimes, seasons of waiting can do our character some much needed refinement.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. We are the change we are seeking.

One thing I’m finding out as I journey through life is that, in the waiting, in the storm, who are we becoming? There’s a couple of lessons we can learn, if only we have the patience, the guile, and the resilience, and humility to take the storms as lessons. Who are you becoming?

Maybe, the storm won’t improve, but your perspective might. Maybe, the storm isn’t really a storm but a reflection of the storm brewing in us, and before the world outside us changes, we have to learn how to calm the storms inside of us.

who are we becoming?

Joy in the mid(s)t of darkness

Joy can be our companion while traversing dark seasons in life. Don’t underestimate the power of Joy.

Let me start by saying, Welcome!

The purpose of this blog is to really shed a light into whatever darkness you may or will be in, and to remind you that the light is never too far away. Another thing, writing is a gift that I have been given, and as any gift, it is only beneficial if we actually put that gift to use. With this blog, that is my hope- to put my gift to use, so that readers, like yourself, will be able to harness whatever gift you have been given to better your corner of the world.

Welcome!

I named this blog- Joy in the Mid(s)t of darkness because no matter what season you may be in, joy can be found. Joy can be your companion in the midst of darkness, but the good news is that darkness is mist- it will not last forever. Though your season may seem like an eternity, I assure you it’s not. The light will never quit, which means neither should you.

How I came up with the title?

There was a season in my life where I kept hearing news of friends committing suicide. It was a very peculiar season… and the news of one friend struck a chord. It made me stop in my tracks, and reflect on why many of my peers were committing suicide. After a couple of days, weeks, of reflecting on my friends lives, an idea resonated with me and convicted me to start writing about said idea. The idea is the title of this blog- Joy in the mid(s)t of darkness.

Joy can be found

I hope you will join me as I seek to find joy in the darkness. I do not intend to minimize the darkness, but dare I say, we should not allow the darkness to have power over our lives. Yes, life is hard. Yes, there are difficult seasons where loved ones leave, a storm comes (physically, metaphorically), and we must take care of ourselves and our community when the darkness comes, but I assure you, that Joy is right there in the midst of it. And that darkness is mist, it will pass.

While I am just starting out, please don’t hesitate to reach out with comments, suggestions, questions, thoughts. I, like you, want to learn, and as I learn, share what I have learned with you.

darkness is mist, it will pass.

If you have thoughts on the blog itself- namely, the website, navigating the website, or thoughts on the writing itself, let’s have a discussion. I would love to chat with you.

Please feel free to share this blog with friends and family who might be going through a season of darkness and could use encouragement.