Don’t burn the candle at both ends.
How often have you heard this phrase only to wonder about what it truly means?
This popular gem of wisdom also known as an idiom was first defined in 1730 by Nathan Bailey in his dictionary entitled, Dictionarium Britannicum.
At the time, Nathan was in a world without electricity, so naturally the only way to gain extra productivity at night was to light a candle.
Some however discovered that a candle can produce a much brighter light if both ends of the candle we’re producing a flame.
These individuals would quickly learn that this method did very little towards increasing productivity but accelerated the uselessness of the candle, making it a costly mistake since candles also weren’t cheap.
As time went on, the phrase began to be adapted and used in reference to resources available to any individual, more specifically the energy we utilize each and every day.
So here we are, early in the 21st century and still struggling with understanding the concept that our lives aren’t as easy to replace as a candle may be.
Whether it’s within our relationships, work environments, or even in the solitude of our own lives, quality of life is overlooked as the pursuit of success blinds us with its shiny objects and false hopes.
Yet, there’s always that moment that jolts us back to the surface from the depths of the sunken place to a place of actually living in comparison to just breathing and existing.
For me that moment came after a few trips to the hospital due to overworking myself and not staying on top of the little things like drinking water and eating properly.
However, it wasn’t until hospital trip number three that things started to finally click.
As I listened to the medical staff discuss my situation, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d make it out. Things weren’t looking good, especially after becoming aware of the increasing chance of suffering from an aneurysm based on my brain activity.
To say that I was terrified would be an understatement. A flood of thoughts ironically raced through my mind as the fear began to set in, yet the loudest thought was the fact that I wasn’t even 30 yet and this is what I was up against.
Naturally, I began to pray and make all sorts of promises for what I’d do if the worst case scenario didn’t play out. Touching on everything from eating properly to resting, I was going to do it all.
Except, those promises were way easier said than done because going beyond the physical damage there was far more damage to my mental and emotional health than I realized.
All the regrets of not working harder, staying later in the office, and bending over backwards just to keep a job that was destroying everything about me was officially over.
It was as if an angel came down and removed the blurriness from my vision. The urge to rack up 75+ hours a week for someone else’s dream just didn’t appeal to me anymore.
However, the urge to do something impact-driven with my remaining time on this Earth began to grow, the only problem left was figuring out what that picture would look like.
It was time to make another massive transition in my life and to say that this didn’t scare me would be to not to tell the truth.
The thoughts of having a tiny human who now depends on me weren’t ones I could overlook. Each and every step forward would have to be thought out in great detail.
However, before I could even be effective to those around me that were family whether by blood or not, I would have to fully recover.
After the mandatory bed rest that was prescribed by the amazing individuals who were in charge of my emergency care, I had to get back to the swing of things but of course being more mindful of my health.
Physically I was ok but mentally and emotionally I was beyond broken.
The scars of a dark childhood, volumes of broken trust, and being exhausted from trying to balance my sanity alongside the reality of being an immigrant person of color in this life was at times a bit much to endure.
Not to mention the feeling of dedicating over half of my life to an industry with little to show, or so I thought.
Fortunate to have been surrounded by a few golden souls that helped to shift the perspective I was carrying in regards to who I was.
So I decided that each day I’d try to do at least one thing that took my focus off of who I wasn’t and onto the moment that I was. More specifically, on what I was doing to become the person I wanted to be.
Little sparks of creativity began to happen again and even driving in to work started to not seem so bad anymore.
If there was one thing that I’ve come to realize during this time is that simplicity would be key.
Luckily, the answer to that realization didn’t follow too far behind.
Those two simple words jumped out to me as I was taking a trip down memory lane during my recovery.
In a letter I wrote to myself over 12 years prior came back to speak to me that day. It was as if a lightbulb went off and I found a simple thing I could just enjoy.
What I didn’t realize was the impact it would eventually have. The kinda impact that forces an individual to take a step back and truly evaluate who they happen to be.
At first it was exciting to wake up to messages from people of all ages around the world that were passionate about making a difference while discovering their inner creative.
Then it became more apparent that this little project had grown legs of it’s own.
The messages and questions began to get deeper.
People were starting to rely upon the posts tagged #alwaysupward to get them through the day or give them a perspective they’ve never had.
Before I knew it, a whole new world of possibility opened up in front of me and it was unlike anything else.
Besides the chance to make a difference was also the chance to grow, heal, and allow the person I wanted to be meet the person I was at that moment.
It was also about taking my own medicine. The last thing I wanted to happen was to be just another social media personality that “motivated” people. If anything, I wanted to be the opposite.
To me, the world has enough of those individuals trying to be the next motivational speaker or online personality.
Always Upward started as a slap in the face to myself to stay focused on the things that are important and by all means it would stay that way.
If simplicity could bring me joy in this area, what would happen if I applied that concept to my career and life?
The success of over half of my lifetime of work in the technology and creative industries was starting to show, a feature here and interview there soon became the norm and the trust issues began to build as well.
“Lucky you”, many would say in a way that would make my blood boil as I forced a smile and respond with a weak, “I guess”. If they only knew the darkness I fought to be here was often the thought that followed in my mind.
The urge to drop the weight of the world onto the figurative heads of all those that caused me pain was beginning to slow me down.
Not to mention the weight of being an immigrant and person of color in American tech culture made many days downright unbearable.
I was watching myself become an individual that only wanted to watch the world burn in the figurative sense.
Something had to change.
It was time to mow the yard. The grass was at an unacceptable height and the snakes were running free.
Looking back at the blood, sweat, and tears I put into every line of code, pixel, and article, wasn’t for nothing. If anything, it all was in preparation for this next chapter of my life.
Getting to that next level would require just about every ounce of energy I had and frankly, I didn’t have very much.
I came to realize that the darkness I’ve been fighting was only myself.
Torn between wanting to create and replaying the years of being told I’d fail was the tightrope I needed to get off of.
It was time to choose myself. Not in the selfish way but in the way where I stopped diminishing the value brought to the table of life.
No longer would it matter what anyone else but me and my Creator thinks of me because frankly at the end of it all, that’s what matters anyway.
A few months after making that decision, I received a call from the Orlando Business Journal with an opportunity to be featured on the cover alongside individuals that together were considered as disruptors and influencers.
Who would’ve thought that an introvert, completely self taught as a designer, programmer, and simply minding his own business would achieve such a thing.
Obviously my Creator did so I’ve left things at that and have focused on living up to that amazing discovery.
I hope that if you’ve made it this far that there has been something you have been able to takeaway.
If not, depression is a pretty dark place but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Depression will have you thinking you’ve accomplished nothing when the receipts of life show otherwise.
Check your energy.
Reflect on your goals.
Don’t downplay what you’ve been able to accomplish despite the odds.
Above all, keep aiming always upward.
You matter more than you may ever know.
P.s If you’re looking for a way to develop your Loveable Core, you may want to check out The Minimum Loveable Brands Framework.