Roller Coaster

Imagine you’re waiting in line for the world’s tallest roller coaster.
You love roller coasters. You have since you were a little kid. But you’ve never ridden anything like this.
People talk about this coaster from all over the country. It is legendary. To be honest you’ve wanted to ride this coaster your entire life. And you find out that this year, the ride is having a grand Re-Opening!

So naturally, you plan a trip. You take all your best friends and when you get there the line is HUGE. It’s so long you can’t even see the ride. But everyone is laughing and cheering getting off it so you go ahead. And you end up waiting in line for three years.

But you get on the ride! You strap in. The operators do their final checks, the safety floor drops, and the ride is in motion.

This is it. The anticipation could not be higher. You shoot forward and bound down a chute around the first turn…

To find out you the hill is so high–it will take you another two years to reach the top.

That’s how excited I am to see my friend on Friday.

His name is Luke Skywalker.
And when I was growing up, he taught me what it meant to be a hero.

It is very hard to accurately describe the joy and catharsis that will come from my simply witnessing the original actor reprise this very fictional character.

I don’t mind to underplay the actual friends and family I’ll be visiting this Christmas.

But it is like reuniting with an old friend. Inevitably you will discover some things have changed. But the event of spending time in that world again isn’t really about reliving old times. It’s about enjoying any opportunity you have to gain more joy with something that inspires you, or “gets” you.

Maybe that meeting will be awkward, or not as classic as before. And you’ll get to talking and it’ll of course be over so soon.

It’s still worth it. You don’t judge when it comes to matters of ritual, or family, or love. You’re simply glad to have what time you’ve been given, and grateful that in an ever changing chaotic world there are some things that stay the same.

Some Frank Words about Anxiety

People tell me I am a very open person.

Presumably this means I am more willing to be vulnerable—though I think this isn’t quite right because true vulnerability—by definition—is always uncomfortable.

I actually don’t think I’m open enough. And I’m nearly always uncomfortable, but not over writing introspective confessionals. I want to unpack these thoughts because by sharing ourselves, we can be better understood.

It’s true I wear a lot of my emotions on my sleeve. Whether that’s a sign of strength or a lack of restraint is for debate. I am direct. I try to resolve conflicts by communicating my own feelings.

I am obsessed with fully knowing myself to be the best person I can be. (I don’t know if it’s narcissistic to think publishing my insights could help others, but I’ve heard encouragement on this before.)

Perhaps one of the reasons people are hesitant to reveal an insecurity or potentially “ugly” part of themselves is that those confessions can be misunderstood. This happened to me last year when I shared something with my film class too early.

It was an insecurity I had claimed as part of my life, but not defining for my life. I don’t know if I had mentally articulated this distinction yet, though, so I put too much prominence on it. From then on I felt in conflict between the class’s perception of me, and my own intuitive understanding of my identity.

This is a conflict I’ve experienced many times, so I’ve thought a lot about those two concepts (Self-definition, and Public Perception). I’ve concluded that “identity” is only really as useful as the self or others make it out to be—so both yourself and others can be wrong about it.

But not all our weaknesses or insecurities need to be feared. By naming them for ourselves we can cement them and turn them into workable metrics for our growth.

For me, talking about my weaknesses helps me accept that they are part of my life. It helps me better accept myself and that I’m still imperfect. And so those areas stop being vulnerable for me.

—-

I turned 24 this year, and the truth is there are very few days when I honestly feel I am okay.

As I said before, that doesn’t mean I’m not okay in reality.

I don’t know if I have the psychiatric condition of “anxiety.” But I deal with a lot of anxieties in my life that someone in conversation might not immediately realize.

One is an anxiety about the gap between who I want to be and who I currently am. I am a perfectionist who despite knowing perception is uncontrollable, desperately wants the “Garrett” you encounter to be the one I know I could be.

For this reason I have difficulty in accepting failure. In a job interview someone asked, “How do you handle failure?” And I talked for six minutes about everything but the question. I am my own harshest critic, but that doesn’t make it easier.

I have an anxiety over time, particularly how I am spending my time.

Netflix breaks me. The idea that I have instant access to shows from the 70s alongside the whole last season of This is Us, or a rewatch of Breaking Bad, and no matter how much time I spend, I will never see it all—is terrifying. Same thing goes for classic literature alongside modern hits in libraries and bookstores.

It often seems imperative for me to always spend my time in pursuit of self-advancement, and ironically, this has led to a lot of wasted time trying to make a decision. I have actually gone to bed early rather than decide how to spend my night—on multiple occasions.

One part of accepting the world as it is is acknowledging that most parts of it are fundamentally uncontrollable. If you are religious, you might say that as humans we are meant to give control to God. If you are not, you might say this is because the world is chaos.

But I sometimes see the random pieces of life as working in opposition to my achieving my lofty goals. Life is messy, but I wish my circumstances were different and better. I have difficulty distinguishing what I can actually do to better myself and what I should relax about.

Though it is ridiculous to have a midlife crisis at 24, I have seen life as a ticking clock since 9th grade.

I see most positive things that happen to me as undeserved. I do not always see the qualities that my friends love about me as I already am. I worry that even if they could understand me they would not care, or that I am fundamentally different from every other person. (This last one I’ve heard is a common anxiety.)

People say I overthink things. I would propose instead that I consider more or different details than what is average. The fullest version of myself and the gift I wish to bring the world is being someone who does consider those details and knows which are relevant.

For all these reasons, I find myself talking at times I wish I were quiet, or quiet at times I wish I would speak up. I do not act like myself.

These anxieties have put a huge toll on my ability to claim personal happiness, and claiming happiness is the only way for anyone to have it.

—-

This last year might have been the worst time in my life. Upon finishing 4 1/2 years of college with a great record, wonderful friendships, and clearly defined life goals, I traveled across the country to educate myself on the television industry in Hollywood and learn how to be a single independent adult. I knew my first year would be challenging, but I resolved to keep my mission simple: find a job in LA and survive for Year 2.

What I didn’t realize was that back home, I was probably exploiting my friends as a crutch for personal therapy or real personal growth, and being so far away with no collegiate/institutional structure would force me to face the dark parts I saw in myself.

The human body is designed to avoid pain at any cost. I learned this because of the spiderweb of destructive behaviors I’ve used to avoid actually confronting my issues. And I’ve realized my anxieties are in reality coping mechanisms.

These are traits about myself I’m not proud of. They don’t constitute my identity, and I’m not obligated to leave room for them—either through self-pity or making excuses. But they have been part of who I am for a long time.

There is no real conclusion to this essay. Just know that if you’re a person who has similar anxieties that have prevented me from seeing you—I see you now. I hope by examining my anxieties I can eventually redeem them, and by defining them myself, I will not be ruled by them.

Me Too

MeToo convicted me in unexpected ways this weekend. Women, I heard you and I’m listening.

It’s not your responsibility to absolve me of my sins.
But I want to publicly apologize for the ways I have contributed to rape culture and perhaps signal my brothers who haven’t felt the beginning of that change yet.

I am a guy who looks too long. Call it what you want–leering, gawking–mostly when I think women haven’t noticed.

Unfortunately, I can’t apologize to every female I’ve done this to in a coffee shop or stranger I’ve passed on the road without making things further about myself.

But by looking at your bodies instead of your eyes, I objectified you, for which there is no excuse. I am sorry for every curious look which made you feel more unsafe in the world, satisfying my desire at the expense of your privacy.

I am sorry for frequenting websites that attempt to dehumanize you, thus encouraging the assault on your humanity which is not Men’s to give and take.

To some this might seem innocuous. “It’s just a look.”
No. It is using sex in a way it was never meant for, and it normalizes that unhealthy interaction for others.

EVERYONE can do more to help stop the problem. I resolve to change.

If you are a woman who follows me who I have affected this way, you don’t need to respond, but I’m sorry.

Mentors

Everyone wants to make a Yoda or Mr. Miyagi mentor scene work in their story. But a lot of times these come across really cheap.

Some of the best conversations I’ve had with mentors in my life came from a true dissonance in expectations. I went into the conversation wanting one thing, but the mentor forced me to reframe my view on the situation a different way.

Two different tracks of mind, incompatible with each other.

It’s not that the mentor didn’t see what I wanted or where I was. But they knew it’s not what I needed to succeed, and they didn’t waste their time answering it. They didn’t always explain themselves either.

The lesson would not be learned unless I recognized the futility of my own thought for myself. In fact, I could not benefit from the new thought pattern until this happened, because being on my own train–I would naturally dismiss others as incorrect.

So the mentor has to believe and train the student’s own ability to grow and re-align with new, unnatural forms of thought.

Search for Wisdom

I came to Hollywood seeking significance, but I lacked wisdom.

Over the past 12 months, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many people. Some were writers, actors, directors, cinematographers. Others were pastors, mothers, doctors, lawyers, baristas, yoga instructors. Not one could teach me the meaning of wisdom.

Yet I sought desperately the way to be happy. I sought the knowledge–artistic and spiritual–necessary to become a great artist. And more than that, a great man.

I learned to be an intern. I asked the executive what it meant to actualize your inner truth. And she sent me to the manager.

I learned how to get a manager. And I met managers. And they told me to go to the indie filmmaker.

I befriended the indie filmmaker. I asked him, “What must I know to succeed?” And he told me to go to the networking lunch administrator.

I went to the networking lunch administrator, who meets in the back of the Chinese restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard. And she sent me to the virtual reality expo.

I witnessed the virtual reality expo in 3D Atmos Surround. Along the way I met Anne Hathaway, who could not teach me the meaning of wisdom—only the difference between Versace and Valentino.

I studied the greats: Fellini, Coppola, Scorcese. Lasseter. I resolved to write every single day until my fingers bled and my heart exploded in authenticity. This authenticity I believed to be the secret to enlightenment. If I died in the street one night they would find a 350 page unsigned manuscript strapped to my hand I swore in the name of art.

I visited the Dreamworks Lot, the Writer’s Guild Library, and the CAA Building. I don’t know if you know this, but the Creative Artists Agency represents over 3,400 of the most influential filmmakers in Hollywood. Forbes Magazine estimates that it is worth over 5.39 billion dollars. If you’ve never been to the CAA building, it’s this big white complex full of agents scurrying about, split down the middle with this sweet garden. It’s a cold mix of Monticello and that 2000 crime drama “Boiler Room” starring Ben Affleck and Giovanni Ribisi. It is not a popular place for tourists, but I’m not just any tourist.

Today I visited the CAA Building, and between those long, wide halls, past the elevators and security guards, by the garden there was an open door. And no one was looking (everyone’s attention was on an event they were setting up for later), so me, not knowing really where I was going, just sort of slipped in.

And I went down a staircase, and it got sort of dark, and when I reached the bottom there at the other side of the room was Steven Spielberg.

WOAH. I was in the same room as the director of JAWS. And let me tell you. When you reach that point, you stop caring about propriety. I had to shake his hand, at any cost.

I’m not going to pretend he was paying any attention to me. He was talking to someone—probably a writer friend. But I got a grip and I was dressed pretty nice, so I skirted past all the tables in the room before he could leave and I said something like, “Mr. Spielberg I’m a huge fan. I so respect your work and what you’ve overcome in the industry. It’s an honor to meet you.” And he smiled. He was pretty creeped out. He wasn’t keen to like, shake my hand or anything.

But SURPRISINGLY, he engaged me. “Who are you?” He said.

“I’m a writer. I want to write for science fiction and fantasy television or the CW,” I said. “Can you give me any advice?”

Steven Freaking Spielberg said, “I’m about to meet my agent. But you’ve got guts. I’ll give you one tip on the walk over.”

So we went out the back of the room, into this dank hallway, and there were all these pictures of Hollywood greats lining the walls. I didn’t know what to say. Should I go for the practical or the personal? What would you say? We reached a wooden door studded with gold around the frame, and behind that was another door, which was purple, and he pulled out some keys and opened that one to reveal an office with a silver table and a bowl full of fruit I had never seen before.

I said, “Mr. Spielberg, can you tell me just one thing, out of everything in your long career in entertainment. What is the secret to wisdom?

There was a twinkle in his eye as he leaned close and whispered,

“Rey is a Skywalker and Leia’s her mommy.”

Self Loathing Emergency Kit

Self Loathing Emergency Kit:
1) Are you believing the lie that your success is directly proportionate to the amount of effort you put into it?
It is not. The world may not recognize the achievements you made in even attempting what you did. But you can. Take some time and be proud of yourself for your effort.

2) Are you believing the lie that you deserve more?
You don’t. Every opportunity is a gift from God. Take some time and list your blessings.

3) Are you believing the lie that your self worth is dependent on how much you physically achieve?
Remove that thought.
Your value is eternally and exponentially greater than you or I can even imagine, it is granted and judged by The Lord, who has prized you highly enough to die for. As bad as you may esteem yourself, you do not have the authority to strip away that value. Practice seeing yourself as Christ does you.

4) Do you believe that you’re a piece of poop 💩 who can’t or won’t ever do anything good because of some internal flaw?
Also untrue. Everyone grows at their own pace, in a spiritual journey that is determined by God and will be brought to completion. (Phil. 1:6)

5) Do you believe any other lie, in short, that places control of your life in your hands, and not the Father’s? Meditate on growing closer to Him and not inflating or deflating yourself.

Lazy

I want to speak out on something. I’ve decided I no longer believe in lazy people. There are only people who are meeting their goals, and people who haven’t started yet. I woke up this morning and said “I’m a lazy writer. I’m depressed. I’m sick. I’m addicted to Facebook.” I am tired of wonderful people being sabotaged by themselves, when you should be your own biggest champion.

No. Everyone is valuable. I am no longer accepting the lie that for some reason you are not entitled to your personal happiness–and thus, I might not be as well. Quit telling me you’re out of the game.

Life is like a gym, and you’re the kid that can’t lift the 5 lb. bar. The first day you go in, everyone’s going to laugh at you. But if you go in every day, you’ll move up to the 10, the 15, and the 20, and you’ll still be working the gym when everyone else stopped showing up.

Everyone has different challenges. And yeah, it’s going to be hard. But it’s going to be a lot harder if you define yourself by those challenges, and that’s not how Jesus sees you either. Every day and every second can be a new beginning. I am no longer accepting negativity in my life.