After a brief 12-year hiatus, we're finally back to living in San Diego. Yes, the move's been a bit stressful, I'm super tired, and I might be having some extra anxiety (it's hard for me to gauge, so my family has my back), but I'm just so happy it doesn't take an hour to go anywhere anymore. In the coming weeks, I'll be sharing a bit more about the different facets of relocating and how it's affecting me. For now, it's feeling so good to be home.
When ancient Romans said goodbye, they used a certain word: "vale" (vah-ley'). Translated literally, it means "be strong". When I first learned this, I thought it was the coolest thing. Imagine telling your friends and anyone else to be strong as you part? Be strong against the pressures of the world. Be strong against the internal and external pain you'll experience. Be strong because there's so much wrong with this world. And if we're going to change it, even a little, then we need to have courage. I like it so much I use it for my signature on my personal email. But that's not all. Some of us guys think we need to stay tough during our hardships, and that's why we don't talk about our depression. However, that's not what being strong means. It not only means to keep going when life gets complicated, but also to rely on someone else when the burden's too much for you to handle on your own. I found this out the hard way, and I want to spare you from the same mindset. So be strong through difficulties and don't give up. But also, have someone else cover your back and help you up when you fall. That's what true strength's all about. Vale.
Life is full of mistakes. Some are big like robbing a bank. Others are small like forgetting about the bread in the toaster and having it burn. But whether big or small, we should move on and not make the same mistakes again. After all, who likes messing up? However, some of us make mistakes and feel like we can never be free of them. Imagine how I felt in those first months of recovery after I crashed the van in my attempt. Reality started to sink in. I realized that I not only almost killed myself, but someone else, too. I was under arrest, facing a huge restitution, and I thought I'd have a criminal record for the rest of my life. I felt my mistake was too big, too terrible, to rise from. Not only did I have the consequences I just mentioned and more, but I was also trying to heal from the disease of depression. And as time went on, I wanted to pay my parents back for the financial hardship they were enduring because of me. I wanted to plan a garage sale and a bunch of other things. At the time, I wasn't aware that I was not only trying to find redemption from my parents, but I was also trying to forgive myself. My mom and dad kept telling me that they didn't want me to pay them back for anything, and the damage was so large, there was no way I'd be able to, even if I tried. They just wanted me to live a full and happy life. But that didn't stop me from thinking of ways to make up for the expenses they had incurred. Finally, my parents talked to my therapist about it, and what he said changed my entire way of thinking about the matter: "Do you think your parents would give anything to keep you mentally healthy? And they would have given everything to have you back if you died? They love you more than anything, and they're giving you a gift. Do you pay people back for the gifts they give you?" It was then I realized so many people around me were actually giving me gifts. Gifts of love, time, and in the case of my parents, all that and money, too. So, yes, I did have consequences. Big ones. And rightfully so. I did something very very wrong. But having consequences shouldn't be the focus of life. What's important is that we learn from them, forgive ourselves, and work hard not to make the same big mistakes again.
If you listen closely to how I talk about this ministry, you'll notice that much of the time I'll say "we" have this, or this happen to "us". And you might think that seems strange. After all, isn't this my ministry? No. No, it's not. This mission is ours. This goal of being a beacon of hope to those suffering from a mental illness is too big for me to do on my own. I need help, and that's why (forgive me for being poetic) I encourage you to take this light I'm holding out for you and light your own fire so you can warm the hearts of those in torment. This mission of ours is life and death. We can do so much. How many people will be affected by us?
For a while now, my parents have been telling me something--"You need to manage your time better." And I've known it's true. However, I was recently shown exactly how much more I need to keep track of all the stuff that's going on in the form of not-so-great Spanish grades (try saying that 10 times really fast). So with a resolute heart, I made this over the weekend:
Everyday, once I finish doing an hour of one of my daily tasks, I put an "X" next to what I just completed. That helps me to not ignore necessary responsibilities, and at the end of the day, I can see how much I accomplished!
I now have the same procedure for practicing piano (though with slightly different shorthand) and for my weekly goals. I tend to practice one song a whole lot more than others, so this system has helped me advance in my music, too.
I hope this brings more peace and order into my life. And who knows, it can probably work for you, too. Peace is a wonderful thing.
So now that I've finished this post, I'm putting an "X" next to "ministry".
Yes. This is one more mention of this lovely (pardon the pun) holiday known as Valentine's Day. Many people (especially teens) are worried right about now whether they'll get a box of candy, be invited to a dance, or if they're going to be alone today. Guess what? Getting a box of candy, going to dance, or being with someone isn't proof of love. Sure, they're nice things to do for someone special, but that's not love itself. And how do I know? Because I love you. And I love my parents, my friends, the rest of my family, and everyone else I meet. I know what love is because during my recovery, I slowly felt and saw what I thought I'd never feel or see. Love. I saw people sacrificing for me, going out of their way to help me get better, and that's when I realized what love actually is. It's not taking. But giving.
We've all heard that a million times, but think about it for a second. Yes, giving candy, flowers, time, and energy, but also giving yourself. No matter how hard, how uncomfortable. Love never fails, it never gives up, and it will always remain. I love every human being (on different levels, of course) because every one of you is fantastic, amazing, beautiful, and can't be erased.