To this day, I would still declare high school as being the best four years of my life. Other than the time I spent living in Los Angeles, high school was the last solid period where I felt free and void of the concerns that boggle the mind. I didn’t worry about ‘what was going to happen’ or ‘what was going to be’, for I was extremely content living in the present. I was one of the fortunate teenagers who never experienced acts of bullying, teasing, name calling or feelings of being outcast from the student body. Quite honestly, my high school years were written like a classic, 1980’s, teenage drama and I played the starring, male role. I was always extremely popular, respected by my peers, standing center stage at school-wide assemblies, and involved in major extra curricular activities. I ranked in the top 20 percentile of my graduating class. I was voted, Most Outgoing, Most Outspoken and Rebel With A Cause in our senior superlatives. I was almost EXACTLY the same as I am now in my personality and demeanor.
I worked as a Sales Associate at Kay-bee Toys and The Gap Clothing Store during my summer vacations. With the money I made every two weeks, I was able to buy all of the extras; in addition to what my parents were already providing. I took a lot for granted during my teenage years. I grew comfortable with the idea that life would be easy, for that was the reality for me and many of my close friends. We all grew up in households where our parents allowed us to enjoy our childhood. Hardship and struggle were foreign notions. We attended one of the highest ranked high schools in the country and then graduated to attend some of the finest colleges in the nation. For all I knew at the time, by the age of 25, I would be living as a successful, wealthy filmmaker. My feet would be planted on the cliffs surrounding Hollywood, California. I would not have a care in the entire free world.
As I matriculated through my early college years, I developed the unhealthy habit of comparing myself to those around me. I began to mentally and emotionally struggle for the first time in my life. I quietly battled issues regarding my sexuality, credit card debt, not owning a car of my own and being frustrated with my inability to secure an opportunity to make movies. I felt as if everyone around me was comfortable in their lives and content with what seemed to be an air of happiness. I could not understand how at the age of 19 and 20, I did not have what it appeared my friends and associates were attaining for themselves. I could not make sense of why I felt so alienated living in Philadelphia and attending Temple University. Everyone in my life seemed to love their colleges. I wasn’t use to experiencing days of sadness and extended moments of confusion. It was difficult for me existing as a small fish in a big ocean. I was use to being the center of attention; always being clear of my present state and future plans. For the first time in my young life, I was experiencing doubt, confusion and my very first bout of depression.
Amongst all of my closest friends, I have always been the last one to reach the milestones. I was the last one to get my drivers license. I waited until one week shy of my 18th birthday. I was the last amongst the group to graduate from college, buy my first car, move into my first apartment and even get on a plane to travel outside of the Baltimore/DC area. When everyone I knew I was marching right, my life seemed to be drifting to the left. This has always been my existence.
I never made conscious decisions to be ‘different’. I never intentionally placed myself in situations that would cause my life to veer down a zig-zag path. It just seems that the people, places and things that have always been of pure interest to me, don’t necessarily fit the paradigm of what is considered normal or mainstream. There have been moments over the years where Ive tried to force myself to exist day to day and live as normal and pedestrian as possible.
In 2011, I tried to turn my back on the online media platform that I built. I thought my life would be easier, happier, more stable and fulfilling if I simply worked a government job alongside friends, instead of trying to carve my own path in the world.
Many years have passed since I’ve been able to survive the growing pains of my college years. Still, there are times when I gaze off from my lane in life. Everyone around me appears to be sublimely happy and successful. It’s during these moments where it becomes increasingly difficult to continue chasing my artistic dreams.
Despite the contemporary standards of success, I believe that many of us still feel that age dictates where we should be standing in our careers. We measure our present status to the positions held by friends, lovers and associates. We think about the levels that we hoped to reach by our current age. When we haven’t reached that point quite yet, the feeling can be rather daunting.
What I learned during my hiatus from blogging and recording videos in 2011 is that I’ve done myself a huge injustice by comparing my journey to those of others. My gifts and my talents are unique to who I am as an individual. Im guilty of looking at how other people are being blessed and questioning why my blessings aren’t being packaged similarly. Im guilty of dismissing the opportunities that I’ve been granted, simply because they don’t arrive in the form that I imagined. Ive turned my back on people and situations that I now know were sent by God in disguise of an answered prayer. However, because I was so busy gazing off into the lanes alongside me, I missed the signals and signs that were guiding me all along. My road map doesn’t match the directions that people riding in other lanes are following. My journey is different. SO IS YOURS.
We have all been victim to the ‘compare myself’ demon. It becomes tough at times to accept the fact that where we stand in our professional, personal, social and romantic lives is where we are supposed to be at the moment. It’s even tougher to not question why, how, who and when…am I going to be moved from this space? We see how other people are living physically and we often compare our position in life to theirs. However, what many of us fail to realize is that those same individuals are often looking back at us and comparing their situations to ours.
Depending upon what you most value in life, there will always be someone else who would be willing to trade their ‘right way’ for your ‘left’.
As I’ve always looked at many of my friends and wondered why I couldn’t just be happy working from 9 to 5 every day and making a 6 figure salary, many of them look at me and wonder why they aren’t as impulsive or care free in their ability to do the things they most love. Despite the differences in the roads that we each travel individually, we are all riding a similar path.
As we each search for our purpose, it’s important to remember that we can’t travel our journey of discovery by trying to ride in a lane designed for someone else’s life.