Keep walking.

This is my faith.

Twenty-six years ago I had none. Since my epiphany, however, I’ve relied on faith to guide me on everything. And since last summer, it’s been tested. Hard.

I woke up this morning in a panic.

No, I don’t want to drink and I’m not suicidal. Those are extremes and frankly not options for me in any capacity. What’s happened to me since about August is different. I’m not being guided as clearly as I have been for so long.

Not that faith works like a light on a path. Hell, most times over the last twenty-six years faith had nothing to do with a well-lit path. Rather, it was like walking blindly and yet with total confidence into the dark and then following sparks of hope.

When you’re rewarded for this kind of faith, the feeling is remarkable. That feeling is what keeps you going when everyone around you is like, “What are you doing? You shouldn’t go that way. Go this way. This is the way everyone else goes. You’re weird.”

Only, since about August I haven’t had that feeling. There have been no sparks.

Since August, virtually everything I’ve done in business and with my side projects has come back as failure. As a result, I start comparing myself to others. I start rethinking my past. I let the heaviness of regret sit on my shoulders.

Had I just followed all the rules like everyone else when I was a teenager, I’d have gotten the right grades to get into the right college to get a career that pays well so that I can be thinking about retirement right now. 

Instead, I’m so far away from anything like retirement that … well let’s just say it’s not even a thing.

My poor wife. The love of my life. The woman who somehow saw something in me as a twenty-nine-year-old, freshly-sober, uneducated guy and then bet against the advice of friends to take my hand. I don’t know what she saw. But lately it feels like I’m letting her and my daughters down.

Nothing seems to be going right. It’s a heavy burden. A burden that I know from experience won’t last. But when you’re in it, the fear can dominate everything you think.

Long ago I tried working in an office. I lasted eighteen months before I was told that I didn’t fit in. After six months of trying to make it on my own, another office job came up. That one lasted three months. Since then I’ve accepted that to earn a living I had to do it from outside the norm. Which lead me to becoming an entrepreneur. Now everyone knows that the life of an entrepreneur is tough. You have to have thick skin. You have to take chances. You have to have a certain resolve that gets you through tough times. Because even when you work like a bloody madman, even when your work has amazing results, there’s no guarantee that things will work out financially. I’ve had to learn this lesson over and over. I was offered a job in an office a couple years back and a lot of money to do copywriting for an insurance company. Despite it being a crazy long commute, I was seriously considering it. But in discussing it with my wife she looked at me, laughed a little, and said, “You’ll go crazy.” She knows. But hey, the lure of the normal path is something that even a misfit has to consider. I didn’t take the insurance job. And even now I don’t regret it. My wife was right.

So I just kept going. Kept walking deeper into the dark with only little sparks of light to guide me. Believing that things would work out exactly as they should—because I knew from experience they would. Even when things didn’t appear to be working out during tough times, looking back I can see that they did. Always.

That’s my faith. That’s believing that if I’m kind and honest and I work hard that things work out.

Even when I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to be doing–except walking.

I woke up this morning in a panic. Over the last three days, four doors have closed in my face. Good doors. Doors that looked like perfect matches a month ago. This morning as yet another door got slammed in my face, it was all I could do not to laugh.

For twenty-six years I’ve let an omnipotent force guide me to a life that’s pretty darn good. Miraculous, even. I have a college education. I am an effective writer. I have a healthy family. We don’t go hungry. We have a warm and dry place to sleep at night. Our bills are paid. But now? Now I feel like a rudderless ship at night. It’s the first time in twenty-six years that I’ve felt this way for so long.

Strangely, this isn’t a pity thing. I know what pity feels like. There have been times since August when pity was hanging over me like a raincloud. But I kept working, kept walking, and eventually was able to identify that feeling for what it is—useless.

No, this morning was different. And then, despite the black wave of panic, something illuminated.

I’m not delusional. I will never become a great businessman. I will never be a captain of industry. I’ll never be a doctor, a lawyer, or a scientist. I am none of these things

I am a writer. A storyteller. This is the one thing I do better than 99% of everyone I know.

And so the only way off of this crazy island is for me to write. To focus on the big ideas saved in files on my hard drive for when I have the time to turn to them.

The time has come.

And the demons of fear come rushing back in. Teeth gnashing, ripping apart the hope I’d just latched onto moments before:

But what of the mortgage? Your business? Retirement? Writing is fluff. There’s no ROI in it. Best stick to the basics, Jim. The stuff everyone else is doing. 

Then out of nowhere, our fourteen-year-old daughter sends me a text of the screenshot below. My fourteen-year-old daughter who is so caught up in being fourteen that we barely speak anymore. She has no idea what I’ve been going through. And certainly no idea that after walking for so long in the dark, I finally saw some light this morning.

This is my faith.

This is why I keep walking.



When Your Kid Becomes a Victim of Bullying

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.