Just an update

I haven’t had a new blog entry in quite a while [thanks, Capt. Obvious].

Capt Obvs

I tend to have great ideas and not actually go through with them. To me, that’s my biggest weakness – I’m not a finisher.

I have about four books I have opened and started reading, but haven’t finished. I have corners in my home that remain unpainted from when I painted in 2010. I have lyrics and melodies to songs I’ve had in my head for years, but never took the time to try to develop them into anything more.

It’s an issue. I know it. And I’m working on it.

But in the sense of this blog, I think it was more about what I was doing than what I wasn’t doing.

For anyone familiar with me, you know that I was the editor at the West Side Journal newspaper for more than seven years. Before that I worked for the Sun Herald, the Daily Reveille and the Advocate newspapers.

For years, I had story assignments. I had to write this, photograph that; and I always had specific times each assignment needed to be completed. Dreaded deadlines.

deadline-2

And at the Journal, it was a new article each week (which beats daily assignments, but it can still get hectic and frustrating).

So, for seven years, I wrote several stories each week.

Then I quit.

And once I quit, I started this blog. And I had ideas of posting new content once a week. Then I realized that I didn’t really want to be trapped by those boundaries anymore and I would, rather, write when I felt like writing and allow it all to be pretty organic.

Now, several months have flown by and here I am explaining myself to the three of you that are reading.

So, it’s true I wasn’t bringing forth new blog entries – but I was living life. And I’ll give you a quick update on what’s been going on:

-I traveled to Mexico, to Acapulco and Mexico City for a couple of weeks on what I thought was a vacation.

During my stay there, I played guitar and sang in a couple of churches and I preached at a Sunday service.

meGuitar

-I’ve been working extremely diligently on Go Love Africa, the photography mission that I started with Nathan Dewberry last year.

We’ve established a budget for our October trip to Madagascar for six photographers. I’m also trying to promote the organization everywhere I go.

-I have helped put together a fitness even with my CrossFit gym, which will take place in Port Allen at the end of this month, and will help raise money for Go Love Africa.

LeveeChallengePoster2

-I took over the social media services for my band, Rewind, and Go Love Africa and am trying to get more business and more connections through both of those.

-I am still trying to establish myself as an actor and have been in several local commercials, but as of yet, nothing big is happening on that front.

 

So that’s a quick run down of what’s going on in the life of Aaron.

I’m always moving, and never slowing down.

I’m getting back into the swing of things and have decided to write and update more consistently, so you can all look forward to that.

That’s my update – I promise from now on, my entries will be more entertaining and/or poignant.

Thanks for reading!

 

-AW

gimme a break

Gimme a Breakthrough

Two months have gone by since I quit my day job, and my blog seems to have crumbled due to my lack of posts as I feel like I have nothing to say.

But the thing is – it’s not really true that I have nothing to say. I often think about what my next post will be about and constantly come up with ideas that will be entertaining. But then I think about the reason I began this endeavor – to encourage others that are going through similar journeys to mine, and also to have a record of my personal growth from the day I stopped working for someone other than myself.

And I thought I didn’t really have anything to add in terms of either the progress I’ve made in my journey, or the regression that has occurred. Things were moving, but moving at a very slow pace.

It’s always darkest before dawn

Its-Always-Darkest-Before-The-Dawn

In my first blog post, I explained my reasons for leaving my career. I had stopped growing as a person, and life was growing increasingly darker. Then I had an epiphany: quit and be happy.

So I did. And I am.

And crazy things occurred that made me question my decision and my overall financial stability, and though my demeanor remained calm, my thoughts went dark.

What will happen if…? was a mainstay in the recesses of my mind.

Then breakthroughs began.

Some of the breakthroughs that occurred within me I’m actually just beginning to realize. Such as the fact that I came to a decision to simply be honest with people – that’s a huge breakthrough for me!

Honesty comes naturally to some people. Not to me. Not that I lie all the time (though some of my friends would playfully suggest otherwise), but I don’t usually let people into my self. Into my real feelings and my real life.

Throughout the years, I’ve built enough walls to build a fortress around my innermost self, and though I prided myself in being “an open book” when I was asked a question, I would often divert when I was asked about my life. I’d happily share opinions and things I noticed about people/things/life in general, and I’d even try to share what was happening in my mind, but when it came to what was going on in my life, in my family, in the areas of my life that I hold most dear, I would refrain from speaking about it unless it was assuredly positive.

Lately, I’ve made a true effort to open up about my life to others, which has helped bring friendships closer and, in my opinion, made me a more likable person. (Lesson: be honest to yourself and others. If they don’t like the person you really are, why try to fool them into liking a person who you aren’t?)

Other breakthroughs I have seen in the past couple of months include breakthroughs in my mindset, in the spiritual and the physical.

A lot of those breakthroughs came in one fell swoop, dealing with my larynx.

Most who know me that are reading this post know that I am a singer. I became the lead singer of a Baton Rouge-based band called Rewind in January 2013. What nobody knows is that I’ve had a knot in the back of my throat for about two years that has done nothing but grow in discomfort, literally and mentally.

My mind raced for the last year, wondering what it could be. Vocal chord nodules? Polyps? Something worse? Cancer?

I knew I needed to get checked out, but I couldn’t handle it financially, so I just kept singing, and kept thinking terrible thoughts about what could possibly be ailing my throat and voice.

I thought about my lack of healthcare and the cost of a doctor’s visit where a specialist snakes a camera down the throat cavity. That’s gonna cost a lot!

What if they find something? I’d have to get it taken care of, either through surgery or medication, or worse – long stints of vocal rest.

“I just quit my job! The only thing that’s making me money right now is singing on weekends with the band!” I thought. “That’s my livelihood!”

I broke down

breakdown

I got rid of my thoughts and decided to do something to move forward (which is a process on its own – not as easily done as is said). So I made an appointment with a throat specialist. And I prayed. And I began to change my thoughts. And I became more honest with myself.

Long story short: the doctor found nothing wrong with my voice box. I grew, mentally and spiritually, in the process.

Breakthrough achieved.

So things started looking up.

Then another breakthrough!

I received a message from a musician in the Baton Rouge/New Orleans area about a new band:

…has put together an all-star group of talent that is looking to perform for high money corporate events – many of our clients are out of state in Orlando, Atlanta, S. Carolina, Dallas, Las Vegas, etc.

We are looking for a dynamic front man and your name came up in a recent meeting…

I was asked to front another band. [*To all the Rewind folks reading this, no worries, if it happens, it’s a mid-week gig, so my weekends are still clear. We’re all good.]

But simply for my name to have come up in a meeting about an all-star group of talent in the area is so incredibly humbling. I really can’t begin to express how those words made me feel.

I’ve said from the beginning, I’m not sure how this story ends, but from dark to dawn, I’m enjoying this journey.

And I’m so glad dawn has arrived/is arriving.

dawn

dreamcatcher

Dreamcatcher

There are many challenges on every road to success.

And regardless of whether or not my journey ends in success or not, I was completely aware, from the start, that I would encounter roadblocks.

Before I quit my job a month ago, I made sure that I was set up to achieve success in my endeavor. I made up my mind to pursue entertainment as a career, started taking classes to hone my skills, hired an agent to help me book gigs and, after saving money for years, I set aside money to be able to live and work toward my goal of success without have a day job.

As I stated earlier, I was aware that wrenches would be thrown into the cog that would be my road, but in my mind I was sure that the biggest wrench would be my own attitude and willingness to continue forward after rejection. In the entertainment industry, especially television and movies, there is a lot of rejection. In more cases than not, rejection occurs – and I thought that, if anything, the rejection would be a lot for me to handle, but also knew that it was inevitable and it would not deter me from achieving success.

In other words, I was pretty confident that my biggest challenge would be me. I had all the logistics covered.

Then life started happening.

I started to feel downtrodden after I had to spend money on a vehicle, mechanical repairs, home repairs after a crazy incident in the kitchen that flooded my hallway, and several other issues.

I spent more than $12,000 in a month span.

But cooler heads prevail. I remained calm, spent the necessary funds to repair damages, and stayed positive through it all.

I started grinding. I bore down and started working to make money. I booked a couple of commercials, some photoshoots (as a model and behind the camera as a photographer), auditioned for other spots and shows, sold my wrecked car, and got home owner’s insurance to cover the house damage.

So, in my own mind, as aforementioned, the only thing that would stop me was myself – surely money would be no issue for at least another 8-12 months – that’s how I had set myself up.

But I also had in the back of my mind that the only thing that could actually slow me down would be a lack of funds – I simply wouldn’t be able to live without a day job if I didn’t have the funds to do so.

Then yesterday.

Yesterday as I was tearing up floors in my office/small bedroom, I noticed something that could detrimental to my cashflow. The concrete was soaked.

After a few calls, I found out I have a slow leak underneath the concrete slab of my home – a serious issue that could cost several thousand dollars to repair. If I have to pay as much money as is possible in this situation, I could be broke by the end of the month.

I’ve always been the type of person to take my licks as they come and keep moving forward, including right now. I feel like I’m in the right mindset; not ready to throw in the towel on my dreams, but I can’t help but to wonder what will happen in the coming days and weeks, and if I’ll be forced to get a day job or work harder to book more gigs to make money.

The point of this whole story is simply this: When you’re chasing your dreams, there will inevitably be plenty of opportunities to quit. There will come times when you think the best option is to veer from the path you’re foraging.

But I think that if you’re going to catch that dream you’re chasing, do everything you can to stay on the path. Do all you know to do in order to continue putting one foot in front of the other.

This may sound strange coming from the guy who just quit his job – but don’t quit.

When it comes to your dreams; the path you desire to take … don’t quit.

InstagramIMG_20120726_110442

100 percent

Have you ever had to exert all your energy into one action?

It has become commonplace in our culture to say that we’re giving 100 percent of our energy toward a specific goal – but, really, how often do we honestly give everything?

I learned a valuable lesson this weekend, and it all came from , of all things, a Crossfit competition.

Of course it would be something workout/sports/competition related, right?

I’ll start with this fact – I’m an extremely competitive person. Also, I’m extremely athletic – I have been since my early childhood.

Dating back to little league baseball: I remember playing in an age group above my own. At 11-years-old, I was named to the All-Star team of 13 year olds. That was the year I hit my first homerun – during an All-Star game.

Fast-forward to my current state, and I joined a group of people involved in fitness – Levee Crossfit.

I joined the box (or “gym” for all the non-Crossfitters out there) simply with the intentions of staying healthy and fit – I was not interested in doing any type of competition. I just wanted to get my 6-pack abs back from my college days.

Without being prideful, I was confident I was one of the better athletes of the group.

So I worked out, and continued working out somewhat consistently for about a year and a half. Sure, there were times where I’d miss a month because of knee injuries and such, so I’d take a break here and there.

Then it happened.

I got talked into entering into a competition.

I knew it would be challenging. And I think that’s what drew my to entering. I like a challenge, and I thought that with a little work, I’d be able to do very well in the competition.

That ideology turned out being false – because I did a little work, but others did a lot of work, which proved to help them compete much better than I did in the comp.

My focus, at the time, was on my job and trying to get finished so I could leave the newspaper in good condition for the incoming editor.

While others were focused on the exercises of the 2015 Festivus Games, I was spending evening writing, photographing, and doing everything I needed to get a newspaper out each week; and I’d work out whenever possible.

“Whenever possible” turned out to be 2-4 times a week, depending on the week – all while others were diligently working daily to master the movements and pace of the competition.

It wasn’t until the week of the Festivus Games – the week after I had officially resigned from my editor position – that I was actually able to focus on preparing for the competition.

But by that time, it was too late.

The Festivus Games came, and despite everything, I thought I was prepared (maybe not well-prepared, but at least prepared enough) and thought I was athletic enough to push through the challenges and do well.

I was wrong.

I hadn’t given 100 percent in my preparation.

Even in my work outs where I was attempting to prepare for the competition, I basically just went through the motions of the workout of the day. I didn’t push myself. I didn’t “go hard.” But I thought it would be enough, because at least I was doing something.

It wasn’t until after the Festivus Games competition that I thought about it and realized that even though I thought I had done enough, and I had prepared well mentally, I had not truly given 100 percent in my preparation – so when I did give 100 percent during the competition, it wasn’t quite enough.

See, I realized that if I were to have exerted every bit of energy in practicing and preparing for the competition, my boundaries would have expanded. If my limits had been expanded in practice, I would have been able to do more in the game.

So it is with life.

If we don’t focus our energy in the things we love, or the things we value, we only limit ourselves.

Now, despite what I have written, I didn’t do terribly in the competition – but I knew I could’ve done better. I knew that if I’d given more during the “dress rehearsals” that I wouldn’t have nearly passed out during the real thing.

With work, I like to think I gave 100 percent all the way until my last day, but I’d only be lying to myself. There were plenty of times (probably even years) that I did just enough to get by.

But in my pursuit(s), I believe that I now understand the importance of really giving 100 percent, or at least close to it.

Don’t give of yourself so much that you no longer have anything to give – I think that’s just wisdom. Give all you can, allow the wounds to heal, then go to battle.

In my life, I have decided to do everything within my power to be a success.

My preparation has begun.

I must exert an extraordinary amount of effort into the things I choose to do, whether it be my photography, writing, acting, singing, or anything else – the thing(s) I choose to do, I will have to fully commit and give of myself in order to see success.

And I think it’s the same for anyone else who wants to see true success in certain areas of their lives.

To be the best athlete, you’ve got to practice harder than anyone else.

To love your spouse unlimitedly, it will take you exerting all of yourself into that relationship.

To be the best you, exert all of your energy into doing the things that will make you better.

The reserves

It’s been nearly a whole week since my last day of work, and things have more than set in for me. I have come to the realization that I don’t have to go to work anymore (except on weekends – I have a job on weekends).

That is a liberating realization, until reality strikes.

So, I don’t have to go to work … that means, I don’t get paid for the work that I would have been doing.

The first few days of not working, I was unsure what to think or feel. I felt as though I was simply on vacation from work. It wasn’t until my world crumbled in a matter of 48 hours that reality hit; when I really realized I don’t have that security net called a day job anymore.

The World Crumbling

OK, I was being a little overdramatic in saying my world crumbled, but I’ll tell you this: when reality hits you, it hits you hard.

I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, “when it rains, it pours.”

That’s how my weekend went. It started raining (literally and figuratively) and the downpour just kept going.

I’ll try not to bore anyone with a self deprecating pity party of sorts, so I’ll just get to the nuts and bolts of it all – a close relative went to jail and my family was trying to figure out what to do, all while the jailbird is calling all of us to try to post bail; I got a flat tire while driving to New Orleans in the rain and changed the tire to the spare in the trunk, which I quickly found was also flat; I woke up from a glorious Sunday nap to find that a pipe under my kitchen sink had burst and I spent much of the night pulling up wood laminate before the house started smelling of mildew and rot. On top of that, an accident that I got into two months ago provided me with a ticket and a busted up car. The ticket, for “following too closely” I paid today. The car, my Ford Mustang – Betty, was totaled and I had to buy a new car. I bought a used Honda Accord and I scheduled maintenance, including the changing of a timing belt, for tomorrow.

All of those items listed above will take a lot of money out of my pockets.

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” right?

All I have is lemons to work with, here! No sugar! No water! No, wait, there’s plenty of water strewn throughout my kitchen and hallway, under the wood floors and inside the walls!

And THAT is when it hit me – I don’t have a job to help take care of all this, financially. The money I have saved over the last couple of years will quickly be depleted if I have to spend thousands at a time.

After that realization hit me, I did what any normal person would do … I freaked out. I freaked out, I ranted to a close friend, I ate a bunch of ice cream and I fell asleep.

I’m being tested and I don’t like it.

**note: I feel it is important to clarify that I didn’t only freak out, rant, eat and sleep – I did work to pull up wet flooring, and do as much as I could. I just thought that was a fun sentence to write.*

Now, after I’ve woken up, I am trying to have a new, brighter perspective.

It’s life.

Life happens to us all. And yes, it seems to hit us really hard at the most inopportune times, but that’s what you save up for.

And I’m not just talking about money.

We save up great memories and moments with friends and family – and when we start to feel sad, lonely and downright depressed, we dig into that reserve and remember those times, which we use to make us happy enough to start digging ourselves out of the funk.

Spiritually, we immerse ourselves in goodness. In my case, it’s Christianity. I spent years studying God’s Word, listening to sermons, memorizing scripture verses, learning songs – and when I feel an attack from the enemy, I dig into the reserves and am able to use what I know to “fight the good fight.”

Financially, we save money – not just for something specific that you want to purchase – but also just in case something bad happens that you need to take care of.

Those reserve funds, memories, scriptures and songs all played a part in my own tiny resurrection today.

I thought I had figured everything out. I planned to be able to live on my reserve funds for a while while I traveled and visiting friends and family I hadn’t seen in ages, and did other things in my search for happiness – and I’ll still be able to do those things – but maybe not exactly how I had it etched out.

Plans change; life happens. What actually shows your character – what proves what you’re made of – is how you act and react when things don’t go your way, when life happens, all at once. When you’re shaken, what comes out?

If you have an unlabeled bottle, the only way to be sure of its contents is to open it and pour out what’s inside.

Weekends like the one I just had will really pour out a person’s contents.

What are you made of?

psychedelic

Dazed and Confused

I’m confused. Well, my body is … and my brain.

I woke up early this morning, glanced around my dark bedroom and found the red numbers that represent the time on a nearby dresser.

7:30.

Then, without thinking, I reached down to the floor near my bed and checked my cell phone to, again, see what time it was, but also to check for text messages, emails, tweets, etc.

It’s become habitual.

Every day I wake up and check to see if there’s any semblance of news that I need to cover. Or see if I missed a call from someone important in reference to my newspaper.

Yesterday was my last day as editor of The West Side Journal newspaper. Sure, it’s a small weekly paper, but it was my life for more than seven years; and now my brain and body are confused, trying to figure out why I’m not getting up in preparation for the day.

It’s strange, being somewhere for so long, then suddenly not being there anymore. Yesterday was, very much so, a normal Tuesday. I had deadlines I had to meet, stories I had to write, pages I had to lay out.

When it was all said and done, I was in the office alone – well, me and the incoming editor. We chatted a short while. I gave him some advice, and we went on our way.

I left the office for the final time as editor. No big hoopla, no fanfare (why would there be? Editors don’t have fans.), just me locking the door behind me for the last time.

And then it hit me.

No, actually, it didn’t. Nothing hit me.

Nothing had time to hit me. I went straight from the West Side Journal office in Port Allen to Baton Rouge to meet with my “Geaux Love Africa” partner, Nathan Dewberry – we were set to interview a photographer who was considering joining us on our mission to Madagascar in October.

We talked over Facetime with the photographer, as she lives in Illinois, for more than an hour, explaining in detail what we do, the challenges we face, etc.

If that project is something you’re interested in knowing more about, check out www.geauxloveafrica.com

Oh, also, we were on the local news here in Baton Rouge on Monday. Here’s the video:

http://www.wafb.com/clip/11362664/local-photographers-mission-to-geaux-love-africa

*note: I don’t know how to embed the video straight into the blog, so I will just share the link – if someone can help me learn to embed properly, let me know.

Anyway, I went straight from my last day of work to working on my Geaux Love Africa project, so I didn’t give myself time to stop and think about the fact that that was my last day.

Now it’s sinking in.

I consider myself a real doer. I find things to do, I start projects, I’m great at coming up with ideas and making things better. But I am a terrible finisher. I constantly leave projects undone. I never completed the painting of my kitchen, which I started in 2010. I often begin reading books and never finish them. I cut my front lawn and leave the back for another day … or week … or never.

But, with my job, I’ve actually finished.

It’s a bit surreal.

And I thought I’d be ecstatic about it – and I’m sure I will be when I start getting things done – but as I sit here in my bed, thinking about the fact that I don’t have a job on this, my first morning of unemployment, I’m confused as to how I should feel.

I’m not at all questioning my decision, I’m just in the process of figuring out what my next step needs to be in order to find success.

Right now, I don’t exactly have an answer, but I promised myself I would be transparent with this blog, and that I would share my journey with anyone who wants to read along and be a part of it.

I guess when you’re in a place or a situation for so long and you finally get out – whether that place/situation was good, bad, abusive, loving, familiar or indifferent – you’re left dazed. Even if you have a plan in place to be successful, allowing yourself to decompress and setting your mind at ease is something that must be done in order to remain sane (if you were ever sane to begin with).

Keep reading. Hopefully I’ll have some sort of wisdom and insight in the next post, because today I just feel scatterbrained, dazed and confused.

Almost

Almost

I’ve become a master of the “almost.”

Everyone knows life comes with plenty of disappointments; it’s absolutely cliché, but it really stings when you come so close to something only to be told “you’re not the guy.”

And for that to happen so many times to one person – it’s a miracle my self-esteem is still in tact!

 

I grew up in a Christian home. Some would use the terms “ultra conservative” and “sheltered” when I describe my life growing up.

I don’t completely disagree, but I know that the decisions my parents made in how to raise us (my older brother, younger sister and me) were decisions that shaped me into the man I am today.

As a matter of fact, I have a game I play with other people my age who tell me they were raised in Christian homes, or say they were sheltered as kids. The game, which I play in my head, is called “How Sheltered Were You?” I use this game to gauge – you guessed it – how sheltered a person was growing up (Yeah, the name says it all). I don’t always win said game, but I’m always in the running.

I was homeschooled. From Kindergarten throughout my high school career, I was a student at Williams Academy. Mom was the Dean of Students and the professor, Dad was the Principal and disciplinarian. I was the top in my class, and I can guarantee that your graduating class was not smaller than mine – one. The first time I attended a public school was junior college.

I was in church every time the doors opened. Sunday school class, check; Sunday morning service, check; Sunday evening service, check; Wednesday night service, check; any special service that may take place some time during the week, check; revival services, check.

In fact, at one point I literally lived in my church.

When my family moved from Ft. Walton beach, Fla., to Gulfport, Miss., in 1992, one of the first things we looked for was a church home. We found that in Northwood Christian Center. And when we were to move off base from Keesler AFB in Biloxi, my parents had not yet found the house we would spend our lives in. So the pastor of Northwood graciously opened the church doors to us and allowed us to live there for two months (my memory is a little foggy here – I was only 7, but I think it was a two month stay) in the upstairs of the church building.

Okay, so I was homeschooled and lived in church … that’s enough to win the game, right?

Anyway, all that to get to this point – every morning my mother would wake us up and we would grumble and climb out of bed and eat breakfast. Then we would do something that you may find uber-conservative, but I think is extraordinary. We met in the den before starting school for the day and we talked as a family, read the Bible together, and prayed.

My mom made a list (she made lists for everything – typical mom) of prayer requests and people to lift up to God, and also gave my brother, my sister and me something specific to daily pray over the family.

My specific prayer to pray over the family was for a “spirit of excellence.”

Every morning, during our time of devotion, I would ask God to give us, and in particularly me, a true spirit of excellence. That was my prayer nearly every day for years. And I’ll be darned if God didn’t answer that prayer.

I have never been one to brag, and I’m not trying to make this a bragging moment, but seemingly everything I put my hands to, I excel. I have an uncanny ability to see something and be able to do it well. Writing, sports, drums, singing, acting – I’m a jack of a trades.

In my senior year of high school, we found a small private school – Christian Collegiate Academy – that allowed homeschoolers to play on their teams. I played basketball, baseball and soccer that year. I was MVP of the basketball team, Defensive MVP of the baseball team and batted over .500, and was named first team All-Conference on the soccer squad. When superlatives came out for the school, the administration made the students re-vote for Most Athletic, because the students originally named me most athletic at the school, but I didn’t attend CCA.

After high school, I went on to college, and I wanted to play football. I grew up playing community sports and, of course, excelled. So I got somewhat of a try out at Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C.

The coach times my 40-yard dash time and watched me attempt to bench press 185 pounds.

I wasn’t ready.

My 40 time was, like 4.8 – which is a terrible time for someone who claims to be fast. I could only bench the 185 three times – again, terrible. I was too slow and weak to play with MGCCC (though, to be fair to myself, I didn’t have a clue about proper technique of running the 40, so that time didn’t accurately show my real speed).

I got asked to be a team manager. It came with a scholarship, so I said yes. I had access to the team facilities, coaches and food.

But I wasn’t satisfied. I wanted to play, and I knew I was good enough. I started working out. Joined a speed and weight training facility and gained 20 lbs of muscle in a summer.

I came back the next year and tried out for the team, and I showed marked improvement. I was benching 225 up to 10 times. My 40 time was down to 4.5 seconds. And the cornerbacks coach took a notice of my hands while I was a manager – he noticed I caught everything thrown at me. He told me to try out for cornerback.

So as a sophomore, I made the team. But because I didn’t play football in high school, the head coach had no confidence in me. Physically, I was better than many of the defensive backs on the team. Mentally, I was green, but learning more about the position every day. But I didn’t have real game time experience.

I was red-shirted.

After so much work getting to that point, I was told I wasn’t good enough to play that year. But I knew I was! I performed better, in practice, than several of the athletes that made the team – but they made the team because they had played the previous year. I learned it was not only about the talent level – because if it were, I would have been on that team and would have made my way to being a starter by season’s end.

Instead I was sat down. The defensive back coach later told me that the last spot on the team came down to two players – me and another guy. They chose the other guy.

That was my first real taste of rejection.

Since then, I’ve come thisclose to doing something big multiple times, just to be told I wasn’t the guy.

I went to an open casting call for the television show Big Brother and got called back. I made it as a semi-finalist to be on the show. But wasn’t good enough to make it all the way onto the show. Almost.

I got a golden ticket at American Idol this past season. I was good enough to get through preliminary first rounds, but just missed the cut to make it to the tv round of judging – what the world sees as the first round. Almost.

There have been a lot of almosts in my life – and yes, it’s extremely frustrating to be told you’re not good enough, especially when you know that you are – but I’ve found that dwelling on my almosts has gotten me nowhere.

When I dwell on the things I almost was able to do, or the things that were taken away from me, or the times I was made to feel like I wasn’t good enough, I fall into a funk. A depression. A rut. And it happens.

I can’t help but to think back about what could have been if I were just a little better and if I worked just a little harder to achieve a goal.

But you know what?

Those “almost” moments have made me who I am, just as much as my sheltered childhood has.

Excellence is in my veins and I’ve decided that instead of looking at the past and my “almost” moments, I will choose to move forward and pray that one day soon I will be on the other side of that almost – the side where I’m told they almost went with another person, but I’m the guy.

I won’t dwell on the past any longer or wonder what life could be like if I had done more. From now on, I will just do more. I will work harder than the next guy, I will make it hard for anyone to tell me I almost made it.

But it will inevitably happen – and when it does, I will simply get up, wipe the dust off, and keep moving forward.

Why I Quit

I quit my job.

You probably knew that already though.

I’ve gotten a few messages after posting my blog opener. Messages from friends who give me kudos, or to tell me they understand how I felt, or to ask me what my plans are.

First of all – and I felt this way with my newspaper, too, whenever I’d write editorials – I find it wildly humbling, yet also entertaining, that anyone would want to read my drivel. I’m just some strange black kid (well, 29-year-old isn’t exactly a kid, but I still feel like I am sometimes) from Mississippi that learned how to use the English language properly and knows how to write.

And secondly, I want to explain how I arrived at the place I am now – and I absolutely believe there are many of you that feel the exact same way I did.

Stagnant.

I became stagnant where I was, doing what I was doing.

Which is odd, because my job as newspaper editor consisted of coming up with new stories to write every week, new photos to take, new page layouts to design. My job was to be creative; to think of new ways to do things, and to meet people who wanted to share their stories with me.

So I was constantly around “new(s),” yet I felt like I was trapped.

I had worked at the same job since I graduated college. I attended the same church since I moved to the area. I was around the same groups of people I had been around for years.

And then something happened.

While perusing through Craigslist, looking for oddjobs writing or teaching or playing drums, or doing anything I could to make a little extra money, I saw an ad for a band looking for a lead singer.

Sure, it was a little strange. But, I mean … so am I.

So I emailed Mary about the ad. I got an audition. I was told I was to sing three songs: I Feel Good by James Brown; Signed, Sealed, Delivered by Stevie Wonder; and At Last by Etta James.

I knew all those songs! I could do that!

So I did. And I did them well. Well enough to get asked to be the band’s new lead singer.

singing and twirling

That random step in my life was the first step on a much larger path I would eventually take.

So, I’m singing with the band, and loving it. But during the day, I’m still at this job that I once loved and adored, but has become monotonous to me. Everything else in life is the same, but I was getting my “fix” during the weekends, going and singing at weddings.

And then something else happened.

I somehow got connected with a mutual friend who had an idea to create a mission-based project using photography. It was nothing I was looking for, but I knew I had a passion for photography, and I had a passion to simply break the monotony of life, so I went to have lunch with Nathan Dewberry.

Nathan and I, after several meetings in the span of a couple of months, put together a project called “Geaux Love Africa” where we decided to go to Uganda, Africa and take professional portraits of people and print the photos immediately, giving the people their portrait. On the back of the photo, we would put a gospel message and a way to get in contact with a local pastor in their area.

Samuel Muyindah

Not only did we talk about making the trip happen – we actually made the trip happen (I’m sure I’ll talk about this project in more detail later, but until then, if you want to hear more about it, check out www.GeauxLoveAfrica.com).

But once I got back (the Uganda trip was only 10 days), it was back to the old grind. Back to the job I had grown a disdain for; the job I loved once but simply grew weary of.

I was tired of the job. But I wasn’t going to quit. I’m not a quitter.

Plus, if I left, there was nobody that could take my place. I’m the only me. The paper has grown leaps and bounds because of me. If I left, what would happen? Things would go to shambles.

But I was tired.

Then something ELSE happened.

I, in some lapse of normalcy, I let down my walls and told a friend that I was interested in pursuing more avenues in the entertainment industry. Maybe acting.

My friend tells me she had just taken an acting class and gives me the number or her acting coach.

A few months later, I found myself diverting, once again, from my path of monotony. I left my place of normalcy and comfort and stepped out to do something that I thought would be fun – I took an acting class.

Nobody knew about it. I didn’t go telling the world. It was simply for me, not for anyone else but me.

actors

So I went to this beginner’s intensive acting class every Wednesday night for a couple of months, and by the final class, I had a talent agent give me a card and tell me to call him.

Now I have an agent.

Then one day, it hit me … I don’t HAVE to be at this job anymore. I’d hit a ceiling a long time ago, and I couldn’t break through. Because I wasn’t meant to break through that ceiling.

I realized if I’m going to grow as a person and be happy, I have to leave.

So I took a step back and rationally looked at the situation as a whole. I had, since joining the band two years earlier, broken the monotony of life and broadened my horizons to the point that I had a safety net of sorts.

I felt happiness in entertaining, of all things … and felt a strong urge to pursue that passion, whether it be singing, acting, stand up comedy, or whatever. I simply knew that I wanted to try to go after something that had been stagnant in me for a long time that had recently been activated.

This passion was something I’d had for a long time – since I was a child I was fascinated with movies and tv, and loved music and sports and all kinds of things, but becoming a “grown up” caused me to bury that passion, but it was resurrected as I began to break the normalcy of life to try something new and fun.

Essentially, I tried to break the stagnation that was my life, and in the process a stagnant passion was awakened in me.

So, I decided to go after that.

And that’s the story of how/why I quit my job.

Don’t be a stranger

This is an editorial I printed in the West Side Journal newspaper. It ran in the April 2, 2015, edition of the weekly newspaper in Port Allen, La.

My family started a business in 1994. I was a mere 9-years-old, but I remember my father explaining that he was getting out of the Air Force that had stationed us in the Biloxi/Gulfport, Mississippi area just two years earlier, and was going to start a carpet cleaning business.
I’m pretty sure that same tenacity and hard work that my father showed by starting and maintaining that business that remains a way of life for he and my mother, was instilled in me.
As a 9-year-old, I worked with my dad (There are some child labor laws about that, right?). I continued to work with him until I graduated high school and went to junior college – and even then I would come home on weekends and work with him.
Of course I had other jobs, too, as I began my journalism career at the Sun Herald newspaper in Biloxi after graduating high school.
I was a member of the football team at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, which was a full-time job on its own, as well as was being a 3.8 student.
Then came academic scholarships to attend LSU for journalism. While at LSU, I held down up to three jobs at a time all while being a full-time student. I worked as a Residential Assistant, a photographer for the LSU Reveille, an intern at The Advocate and a drummer at a couple of local churches. The GPA dropped a little bit, but I remained an above average student.
Once I graduated from LSU, I accepted the job as editor at the West Side Journal.
That was a little more than seven years ago.
Many of you have reached out to me in the past week after reading my editorial announcing my resignation as editor of the Journal – and your kindness means more to me than I can express in words.
As mentioned in last week’s editorial, this position has meant so much to me the past seven years. It’s been my life. And you all have been my family.
So to know that a few of you speak well of me even when I’m not in the room makes my heart happy.
Everyone whom I’ve discussed my departure with has asked me what I’ll be doing with my time. Well, I’m going to do something that I’ve never done before. Something many have thought to do, but have not done because circumstances haven’t been right.
I’m taking a little break.
Yeah yeah, I know. I’m only 29, but as I noted earlier, I’ve been working since I was 9-years-old. As an unmarried man with no children, I’m going to try to do a little traveling; create some adventures.
But this – the West Side Journal and West Baton Rouge Parish – will always be the place I will call my adoptive home.
I thank each of you for all of your kindness and your generosity.
I’ll still be around the area, and I don’t plan on being a stranger. And I pray that you, as well, will be no stranger toward me.
trip8DSC_0011

Journey

Like many people, I am on a journey.

A journey to find my purpose; to find where I belong.

I do not know where this journey will lead me, but I’m determined to find what I’m looking for – though I’m not even sure for what I am looking.

In the process of my journey, I’ve decided to open myself up to an audience, whether that audience be just one or many matters not. I feel like so many people in this world are looking for something more, or feel like they can be so much more, but never set out on their journey, therefore never find their self.

I will not be one of those people.

So my journey begins.

 

My name is Aaron Mychael Williams. As I write this, I am currently the editor of The West Side Journal, a weekly newspaper located in West Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, the smallest parish in the state.

A long series of events led me to this particular job – and I’m sure I’ll get into that story more later on – but I have now been here for just over seven years and I feel the walls closing in on me.

When I accepted this job right out of college, I was sure it would be my stepping stone to a bigger, better job elsewhere within four years. I had grand ideas for the publication, for the community, and for myself.

I was a go-getter. I still consider myself a go-getter.

Those grand ideas became realities. I won statewide journalism awards, the newspaper was named best in state. And after four years was gone, I was in a place of comfort.

I knew I didn’t want to be at the paper forever, but I was doing well, the paper was doing well, and though I was prepared to leave if a job offer were good enough, I was comfortable enough to refrain from actively pursuing another job.

“If they want me, they know where to find me,” was my general sentiment.

Three years later, here I am.

Plenty has happened in between those years – including a chance-encounter with a band that was in search of a lead singer, which became me – and I’ve become more understanding of the pursuit to find the thing that makes you happy.

So, I have decided to do just that.

I put in my notice at work – yes, I’m resigning – and I’m going to begin a pursuit to be the “more” that I absolutely know that I can be.

The frustration is being released as I journey down this weird path of the unknown. But it excites me.

 

Several years ago, I wrote a poem that began to describe the frustration I was feeling about life – work, church, friends, family, etc.

As time has passed, the frustration grew.

But I’m doing something about it.

 

Welcome to my journey.