Sunday, December 08, 2013

Where's Jeremy (2013) - Part 4: Emotional reflections, lessons learned, and "what's next?"

This is post #18 in Where's Jeremy (2013)

Creating the casting database took a tremendous toll on my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. I worked myself to exhaustion - one Saturday I had to lie down for bed at 4 in the afternoon (and then rest/sleep until the next morning), because I'd pushed myself so hard the previous week. Emotionally, I lived constantly on the verge of a breakdown, overwhelmed at the enormity of my workload and all I hoped to accomplish. Spiritually I wasn't focused at all on prayer, or worship, and made my database my idol.

In AWAKEN I frequently heard the phrase "look at your life, look at your choices." The context is basically: if you make a mistake and you really should have known better (or say something that right away you know was completely wrong or stupid), then inevitably someone would chime in with this phrase as a joking retort. I'd like to pull a deeper meaning here, though; when I look at my life and my choices, I'm left with this realization: pursuit of the "American Dream" is not worth the sacrifice of self, of fun, of friendships, of well-being, etc. Yes, hard work has a place, but it cannot be my end-all, be-all. My lifestyle choice of working all the time is fundamentally incompatible with my most precious dream of being in a relationship and having a family.

While I remain ashamed of the choices I made to prioritize work over friends, family, and God, it seems everyone understood; everyone's had those projects, big or small, that you just need to get done (I'm thinking like writing a thesis, caregiving for a loved one, filling out your work timecard, tasks large or small that are both urgent and important). So when I explained my situation, how I was dead-in-the-water for casting projects until I finished the database, everyone "got it," no one was mad. Because everyone's been there, to some degree. The lesson: allow myself grace and forgiveness.

In all aspects of life, I'm much better now. Immediately after I finished programming on June 30, a huge weight was lifted. I re-connected with friends, re-committed to attending both my morning and evening churches each week, and relaxed without feeling guilty. The pathway to spending time with God is more open with the database project behind me. When I do pursue additional features on the database (and yes I'm already planning "version 2"), I can do so at my own pace, without allowing it to consume my life. And perhaps most importantly, witnessing Matthew's entire life collapse around him in a single day continues to serve me as a humbling reminder to find my value in who Jesus sees me to be, rather than who [I perceive] the world would have me be.

Now I'll admit, parts of the casting business have been fun, and I've learned so incredibly much about running a small business, about accounting, about managing people, about managing expectations, and so on. At the end of the day, though, the reality remains that the company got dumped on me because I was the most logical choice to take it over, and not because I truly wanted it.

My parents have helped me see my time investment hasn't been [entirely] a no-op - as they pointed out, I've shepherded the company and kept it viable for a future, not-me, owner. I've also continued providing a needed service to the community. The alternative would have been closing the doors on this amazing thing Matthew had built over the past decade. Maybe I could have built the company up to be more than it is, if I'd done any advertising, or spent time and energy meeting people and reaching out to producers. But now I get to pass the company into John's hands, and feel relief. As Anne put it to me, "Jeremy, you've done what you needed to do, and now it's time for someone else to take the reigns."

Talking with my friend Mikaila in June, she said to me "sometimes you do something and it just sucks. You don't get to say 'well it was worth it because this happened later.' Sometimes nothing good comes from it, and that's just the way it is, there is no redemption." For a very long time, that's how I felt about the company. I think now that the end is finally in sight, I can reflect and say I learned a lot of important lessons, including that nothing ever works out the way I think it will. Now at long last, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, and I don't think it's a train.

So what's next? I mentioned before that I've already been planning database "version 2." Though I'm selling the casting company to John, I'm retaining ownership of the software I developed, and will be expanding it to add more features useful for primary casting (auditions), extras casting, and agencies. The hope is to market it to all the casting directors and agents in Minnesota, keeping it free to use for the actors. It will be a massive project, but I will take it in small chunks, and not allow it to consume my life (friends, hold me to this!). A lot of time, thought, discussion, and prayer went into this decision - it was not made lightly.

In my personal life, I'll continue being deliberate about spending time with friends and family. I'm becoming more involved in my evening church (joined one of the take-down teams, and also just joined the rotation for pre-service greeters). I'd like to start taking guitar lessons (I already play, but I want to get better), and spend more time writing music. I also will continue working on accepting when I have to say "no," because I'd much rather say no earlier than have to back out later.

And then of course, there's the whole looking-for-a-relationship thing. Please review this list of the 9 most annoying things to say to a single person (and pay particular attention to #3 and 7). Good, now that we're on the same page, I invite you to read over some thoughts I wrote for a friend when she asked, "what are you looking for?"

That'll be plenty to keep my life busy.

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