BROKE & BROKE DOWN...BUT NEVER BROKEN!
I’m a blessed guy and I’ve had the opportunity to do some pretty awesome stuff, but I want to be very clear about a few things. My life is not easy, my career is not full of glitz or glamour and luck has nothing to do with what the outside world often perceives as success. I’ve busted my butt for every single opportunity I’ve ever received and even though you might glance at my social media from time to time and think my life’s poppin’…the reality is that I’ve fought very hard for every high point you’ve seen!
I appreciate so very deeply the way people support me and would be nothing without the love of others, but every time I achieve what I consider a moment of success; so many reach out and tell me how lucky I am. I get that most people are saying it in a supportive way, but it still gets me a little salty. I am absolutely blessed, I’ve enjoyed my fare share of privilege, but I am in no way lucky.
It’s so easy to spend our lives wishing for something different, wondering what it would be like if we could step into the life of someone who seems to have everything going for them. Social media can be a lot of fun and a great way to keep in touch with the people we care about, but the dark side of this new reality leads to all sorts of mental slippery slopes. How many times have you scrolled Instagram or Facebook and compared yourself to someone you follow and felt worse about yourself than when you signed on? It sucks, it’s not fun and there’s no sense in doing it. Unfortunately, we all do it from time to time, so the question is, how do we stop?
Well, to be honest, I’m not sure that’s a viable option. I’m not ready to move to a farm in some far off desolate place with no Wi-Fi any more than I’m ready to turn over my iPhone and all of my fun apps, but there are things that I have done to preserve my mental health and I’ll share a couple of those tricks with you below, but first let me tell you how I got to this place.
For now, I’ll just share one personal example illustrating how very different my actual reality is from what you might think it is. Let’s go back a few years…
In January of 2014, while I was working on a little internet show that would one day become Hollywood Today Live, I was invited by a woman, who at the time was working at CBS, to join Entertainment Tonight as a guest on the red carpet for the Golden Globes. She asked me on a Thursday…the event was that Sunday! I said yes, because how could I ever say no, but I didn’t own a tux or dress shoes and had never been on a red carpet in my life. My boss agreed to pay for everything I needed and off I went, running around town frantically searching for a tux to fit my 6’5” frame. Five stores and $1,000 later I found one, but it was now Friday and it still needed to be tailored, because I’m “uniquely” built, so that was another hurdle to overcome. After I found a tailor and got my company to pay an additional $200 to cover the alterations, I was on my way!
So far, these problems are very privileged problems to have and I’m keenly aware of that fact. As the show day approached, shit really started to hit the fan. All the self-doubt started to creep in and it was crippling. I didn’t believe I deserved the opportunity and I certainly didn’t feel that I was prepared for it. I’d spent years studying to become a better host, taking all sorts of free work as I learned the craft. Reading from a teleprompter while interviewing a celebrity in the midst of total chaos all while a producer is constantly barking commands in your earpiece is no easy task and up to this point I’d only practiced it in class. At the Golden Globes, I would have the opportunity to see Nancy O’Dell do it live and in person…as long as I could make it there.
I was driving the same Chevy Equinox I’d bought used back in 2007 and it was on its last leg…errrr wheel. The air conditioning had gone out, the sunroof was stuck permanently ajar and only 2 of the power windows still worked, but this is what I would be driving to the awards show, or so I thought.
I didn’t grow up in a family where material things were sought after, so I never really cared about the fact that my car was really a piece of crap, until I had to drive it to an event where I’d be surrounded by the biggest celebrities on the planet. I was in over my head and I knew it.
The night before the show, after I’d miraculously pulled everything together, I went to wash my car. It was so banged up that I’m not sure what I thought a car wash would do, but I wasn’t exactly sure if I would be parking in a lot or if I would have to drive past the celebrity entrance or worse yet, if I would have to valet. I was trying to muster up pride in any way that I could and washing my car was a small way to do that. There was one minor problem…the broken sunroof.
So, I drove through an automatic car wash, that also sort of turned into an unwanted shower and not only was I now wet, I was also humiliated. This doesn’t happen to people who walk red carpets, so it must be yet another sign that I was in over my head. Actual celebrities don’t even wash their own cars and here I was getting washed WITH mine. It was awful…and it got worse.
I exited the carwash and pulled over to the side of the parking lot, turned off my car and began to cry. I felt like such an idiot because I’d been too broke to fix the sunroof (and still was). I had no right thinking I was worthy of going to such a prestigious event and just knew that this was God’s way of punishing me for actually believing for a moment that I deserved more. I felt like a fraud and I felt like a fool.
Eventually, I was able to do what I'd been taught since childhood; I pulled myself together and pressed forward. In the grand scheme of things, this was certainly not a rock bottom moment, although it was certainly a humbling one. I convinced myself that this was just another test, wiped away my tears and decided that I would push through this roadblock, just as I have so many times in my life. There was a problem though…my car wouldn’t start.
That was that last straw! I lost it. I started crying and this time couldn’t stop. My heart was beating out of my chest. Every ounce of self doubt I’d ever experienced in my life came rushing back and I was paralyzed. I had no money in my bank account to pay for an Uber, my credit cards were maxed out and my old ass car was well beyond its warranty and now I had no way to get to the Golden Globes the very next day. I'd invested everything into my dream and was closer than I'd ever been, but it was all falling apart. I was crushed.
I’d just left my cousin’s house around the corner, where I shared how proud I was of this opportunity I’d been given and she gladly would’ve picked my up and taken me home, but that same pride kept me from reaching out to her for help. She scolded me for it later, because she’s awesome like that. It felt as if the universe was conspiring against me to keep me from the life I’d always dreamt of. I was not worthy.
Luckily, I’d paid my AAA renewal, so I had my car towed to the shop and reached out to my boyfriend. He picked me up, both my physical body and my broken soul, and gave me a ride home, where he reminded me how deeply I am loved by so many and that this was just another test. He gave me the confidence I needed to push forward at a time when all I wanted to do was retreat and hide from the world.
That next day I had the opportunity to interview Sandra Bullock, Chris Hemsworth, Lupita N’yongo and Jennifer Lawrence, all because I was able to push through my fears (and the Entertainment Tonight credential around my neck helped too). I would not have made it to that opportunity, one that has since changed my career and my life, had I not allowed myself to be loved at a time when I felt anything but worthy.
Friends and family reached out to tell me how proud they were and my social media was on fire. No one other than my boyfriend and my mom, of course, knew what it actually took for me to just make it to my very first red carpet. Back then, I was too afraid to show the world my brokenness, but it was only through that brokenness that I’ve been able to find my true self and I’m going to be honest with you…I’m kind of a fan of the guy I discovered.
I’m not a celebrity, my life isn’t flashy and by no means do I consider myself lucky, but I have chosen to surround myself with supportive people who have believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself and I work really, really hard. It’s because of those people and my work ethic, that I am now able to share me heart so easily, hoping that maybe I’ll inspire someone else to do the same. We’re all fighting for happiness every day of our lives, some harder than others and the only way to get there is to lift each other up every chance we get.
So, if you’re comparing yourself to someone you’ve been watching from afar…STOP. You have no idea what’s really going on behind the scenes. For every moment of pure joy you see on someone’s Instagram, I promise you that person has countless moments that they’d never dare share with the world. That’s ok. That’s human. All you can do is focus on your own journey and know that you are right where you’re meant to be.
There are lessons in every experience, but it’s those rock bottom moments that really show us who we are, what we want and how far we’re willing to push ourselves to achieve happiness. I found clarity in that moment and in so many moments since that I am so grateful for at this stage in my life. I live a life of profound purpose that is in no way affected by the lives of those around me. So, the next time you catch yourself scrolling social media to see the awesome things other people are up to, stop and check in with yourself. It’s important to begin acknowledging unhealthy patterns so that we can do something about them. Every time you start feeling a little sorry for yourself, stop and say out loud, “I’m awesome and I am exactly where I am supposed to be!”
On that day 4 years ago, the universe shut my car down to make sure I was completely alone and not distracted. Maybe it was the only way my dense brain could receive the message that I was in fact worthy, capable and ready for the opportunity. I was…I was and I WAS!