Growing up, I had a hard time processing negative emotions like pain, grief and sadness in a healthy way. But I don’t think my story is unlike many others across the United States. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older struggle with anxiety disorders every year – that’s over 18% of the entire population! As I approach my 30’s, I’m discovering that processing negative emotions ought to look a lot different from what I’m used to for the sake of my overall health. This cathartic journey has taken several forms – first and foremost being learning how to have healthy, honest and open conversation with my wife Kelli. I’ve recently taken up blogging which has allowed me to rediscover and reinvigorate my joy for writing and storytelling, so now I add blogging to my processing-negative-emotions toolbox. In this article, I wanted to take a moment to unpack some of the tougher parts of my 2018.
First and foremost has been my career journey. Earlier this year, my dad made the decision to retire after 37 years of being a State Farm Agent. Working for the family business was my first and only job since I graduated high school in 2007 and had you asked me a few years ago, I was poised to follow in my dad and grandpa’s footsteps. But that all changed in 2016 when I had what you might call a “mid mid-life crisis.” I was struggling with identity and purpose. Is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life? Who am I? Why am I here…AHHH! These thoughts juggled back and forth in my head constantly until I thought I had found an answer. Since 2009, I had been volunteering at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department as a photographer and videographer. I thoroughly enjoyed serving there because I had found an outlet where my time and talents were needed and appreciated. Being exposed to law enforcement made the prospect of pursuing it as a career seem exciting and purpose-fulfilling at the same time.
I prepared rigorously for what was ahead of me – taking the time to meet with fellow acquaintances of mine who were in law enforcement and enrolling in Pre-Employment for Law Enforcement night classes. I learned that you do not need a formal educational background in criminal justice to pursue a career in law enforcement. Rather, demonstrating that you have deeply ingrained character traits like integrity, responsibility, and maturity goes a long way in proving that you have what it takes to be a peace officer. I was all in and ready for this – wanting desperately to find my purpose through this potential career. What followed next over the course of two years was disappointment followed by more disappointment. I tried pursuing the deputy sheriff route three times in addition to a position within the video unit – somewhere I thought for sure my background would make me a good fit – but it all ended in failure. Frustrated and angry with the outcome, I spent a long time sulking over unfulfilled expectations.
It’s been a few months now and the frustration has slowly been subsiding. But here’s what I took away from the whole experience. I projected way too much of my sense of happiness and worth onto external circumstances. Also, when I started this pursuit two years ago in 2016, my wife Kelli and I had only been dating for a few short months. I selfishly continued on with my own aspirations in mind and never stopped to consider her in the equation. Kelli tried communicating her apprehensions to me along the way, but in my selfish and desperate pursuit of purpose, they went largely ignored. Maybe this whole process was God’s way of saying, “Hey, wake up stupid! You don’t get to make decisions on your own anymore!” Message received loud and clear. To say married life has been a big lesson in navigating expectations and the art of selflessness is a huge understatement. Just this last May, after several conversations about purpose with Kelli, I decided to pursue full time job opportunities in Video Production which lead me to an exciting new career as a Video Producer with Glidewell Dental in Orange County. I left Frager State Farm in July, but I’m thankful for the opportunity I had to take a photo with my dad and grandpa in front of the office the day after my dad retired in November. I’m still settling in to my new position, but I already feel like its a great fit and I’m excited to embark on this new journey.
My parents sold their home and moved to Idaho the weekend after Thanksgiving. My dad has lived in California for most of his life (55+ years) and my mom is a California native. It’s tough coming to terms with the fact that the home I grew up in will close escrow this week and then belong to someone else. I can still remember the joy and excitement I had when my six-year-old self opened the door for the first time and ran upstairs to pick my room. I had originally picked my brother’s room, but my mom convinced me to switch. I’m glad she did because I ended up with a walk-in closet! (Boy how I miss one of those right now…Side Note: mine and Kelli’s current place has like, ONE coat closet). I walked through the house alone this last weekend to do one final walk-through for my parents before it closes escrow. It was tough and I couldn’t help but tear up thinking about all of the great memories there. Before I left, I said a prayer for the new owners – a young family – that not only would they build many great memories in the house as I have, but also cling to their faith during the hard times. I’m choosing not to take this as a loss, but rather the start of an exciting new chapter in life in which we can visit family in a new place.
So, there you have it. 2018 has been a fun roller coaster of processing all these crazy emotions, but there have been several teachable moments through all of the experiences. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and all the best of luck in processing emotions throughout the New Year!