SEASON 1 – EpiBLOG 20:

Life is like a huge menu. Like one at the Cheesecake Factory.

If any of you haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy the delicious large portions of food at that awesome restaurant chain, please do yourselves a favor and go… at least once! My favorite dish that they serve is the Shrimp and Chicken Gumbo. OMG… that is so delicious! It’s literally a party in my mouth.

Anyway…

The menu at the Cheesecake Factory is like a book. You have multiple options, which is exactly what you have in life. Pick up the menu to your life and scroll your fingers down the subheadings that read: “career choices,” “girlfriends,” “boyfriends,” “hobbies…”

Glance at any category of your choosing. What do you see on your life’s menu?

Some of you look down the left hand side of the menu and see what you WANT only to find a price that you’re not willing to pay on the right hand side of that item. However, are you ever satisfied with the cheaper item when you REALLY WANT something else? Something that happens to cost more.

I’m currently pursuing my Ph.D. Be that as it may, we all already have a “Ph.D.” in this thing called life… Pretty Hard Decisions that we have to make. Regardless of how difficult our choices are, decisions still have to be made. Not making a decision on what you want is also a decision. And it’s the worst. It’s one without a plan, direction, or focus.

Yes, it’s true. All of my experiences in life up to this exact moment in time has led me to be excited and passionate enough to seek out yet another degree. I began the program on January 25th of this year. Choosing to get my Ph.D. in Education was initially hard, but simultaneously delightful.

What is extremely exhilarating is that my initial reason for making the decision to obtain the terminal degree has changed, which thrills me even more so. More to come on that later.

Getting turned down by that full time position just before my fiancé and I moved out to San Diego was definitely a blow to my psyche. After all, not only did I feel it in my gut that it was “mine” for the taking, I wanted the both of us to arrive in sunny San Diego with 2 awesome high-paying jobs that would allow us to live a comfortable life in the expensive city. And I hate the phrase “everything happens for a reason,” so please don’t ever use that with me. That’s annoying as I don’t know what. Actually, I do know what it’s annoying as, but I decided to keep this blog on the PG-13 level, so I won’t write that word here. People use that weak phrase as a means to justify being okay with not getting what you want or to make you feel better about not getting what you want. Either way, what makes me feel better are solid results.

However, I am okay with the phrase “there must be something better for me.” I’m sure it all means the same thing, but that phrase sits a little better with me. It allows me to move forward with expectancy and zeal without feeling hopeless or helpless.

Panic did start to seep in my mind with that job rejection. If you remember from many blogs back, “Starting Over” was a little scary at first. One of my other issues other than wanting to contribute to my relationship as a 50-50 partner, was I didn’t want to be in a position to financially need my fiancé. This is why the panic button was pressed right before exiting the Arizona state lines. I’ve been financially supporting myself and sharing the financial responsibility of my son with his father in Arizona.  However, the cost of living in California is a whole other ball game. I make inconsistent money in the film industry and teaching at the college level part time does not grant financial independence.

That’s when I had to open up my life’s menu.

The annoying “call” to look from within started to tug at my heart or poke at my gut like the finger on all of those Pillsbury Dough Boy commercials. Except, I didn’t do a quick little giggle.  As much as I felt that I exceeded the minimum requirements for the jobs that I was turned down for even before being granted an interview, I decided that I was going to take action.

I scrolled down my “menu.” I found “Ph.D. in Education” with a hefty price to the right of it.

I began to research many Ph.D. programs. Although the teaching positions that I applied for all required a Master’s degree, which I have, I started thinking that I could open up potential teaching options for myself if I earned my Ph.D. It was even hard just to have the thought bounce around in my mind, as I knew it would be a huge time and financial commitment.

As I investigated the Ph.D., I began to get excited, nervous, and worried all rolled into one big ball of emotion. I was elated at the opportunity to be able to stand in front of the classroom and inspire once again, even though it may require a 4 year incubation period while I earn the terminal degree. I was fired up at the prospect of achieving a goal that so few dare to even attempt, as I love to be challenged and to win.

But doubt seeped into my mind along the way. Is this menu item going to “taste good?”

I was nervous because of my responsibility to all of my awesome students that I’m currently teaching Screenwriting to online. I want to be sure that I give them the feedback and time that they need in order to have a solid foundation in the creative craft. I worried about the money that I would need to spend on pursuing such an endeavor, and would it be worth it in the end? I worried that I wouldn’t have quality time with my fiancé or that I wouldn’t have time to shoot my films and web series. I worried if it would financially affect my contribution to what I pay towards my son’s tuition.

Then I had to remember who I am. I’m a person who sets goals and achieves them. I’m a person who schedules time for those aspects of my life that are important. Earning my Ph.D. isn’t any different. It took me 3 months of research in order for me to be absolutely sure that I wanted to say yes to such a daunting endeavor. But I had to ask myself, “What is the reason that I want this?” The answer 7 months ago was: “I want to teach full time for 9 months out of the year while I write my screenplays, and I want to film one of my projects during a portion of the summer months.”

The research within the Ph.D. program that I’ve conducted over the past almost 5 months have opened my eyes to see life differently, but it also made me feel a little lost and empty. This made me start doubting myself and my decision, accompanied with some simultaneous disappointing news that I had received for a writing position that I had applied for and didn’t get.

Nevertheless, as many of you who are Facebook friends with me know, I had the opportunity to see Jack Canfield – Chicken Soup for the Soul co-creator — speak in person a couple of weeks ago. Because of that disappointing career news that I recently received, my fiancé thought that it would be great for me to get rejuvenated and refocused by purchasing me a ticket to Jack’s event.

I never quit. I kept moving forward, but I could feel the bitterness creeping into my inner core very slowly, like a stalker waiting to pounce when I’m not paying attention, or perhaps when I let my guard down. I was more than willing to stop my metaphorical stalker.

Jack Canfield is exactly who I needed to hear. I can’t ever walk away from filmmaking/screenwriting or teaching, but I needed my mind to be opened to all of the possibilities that are out there for me to share my purpose with the world. His one-day workshop and book on The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You are to Where You Want to Be is a priceless tool.

I always thought that I’ve known my purpose for 20 years, but after listening to Jack, after the countless hours of research in my Ph.D. program, and after experiencing 2 big career disappointments within a 6 month period, I have been able to refine my purpose and discovered new and unorthodox methods for me to tell stories cinematically and to inspire/teach others within their own endeavors. Understand that my goals have NOT changed, but they have been refined for clarity. The doubts and worries regarding my Ph.D. have disappeared. I’m more enthusiastic about completing that degree more than I have ever been. I have figured out an effective way to tie my teaching in with my film career in a way that will work on a whole new level.

The Ph.D. does stand for “Pretty Hard Decisions,” but what it signifies for me already is accomplishment and not giving up, even when I feel lost, even when I feel insecure. I’m moving forward anyway. I have chosen the best item for me on my life’s menu.

I know many of you are dying to know what my newfound plans are, but you will have to continue to read my blog to find out. Just know that there is “something much better for me” than I could have ever imagined, and the same is true for you and your life. Am I scared? Yes. Am I nervous? Yes. Am I going to win? Yes. And the only way to win – to cross the proverbial finish line – is to keep moving forward.

Looking at the workload that lays before me can initially appear overwhelming. However, I’m going to take each challenge and schedule my time accordingly in order to experience all that I’m looking for out of life. I could use the excuse that I’m too busy, too old, that I have a son in college, that I won’t have time to write my scripts, blah, blah, blah.

Instead, as I sit in this awesome Vietnamese Coffee Shop, sipping my Matcha Green Tea Latte with soy, I realize that getting my Ph.D. is one step at a time. Just like the first day of kindergarten when my parents were holding my hands and ready to let go… it all began with me taking my first step into the classroom as a 5 year old.  And I remember having to do the same with my son on his first day of kindergarten. His father and I held his hands, but he had to take the first step into kindergarten for himself. When I logged on to my student portal almost 5 months ago, that was my first step.  I have to remember that I don’t have to do everything all at once… just one step at a time.  And that’s what makes such a hard decision, easier to actually execute.

Today’s LESSON is to always remember that every endeavor starts with choosing what you want off of the menu that is your life, even when you’re scared and even when you see a high price to the right of what you want.

FUN ASSIGNMENT: What endeavor have you been wanting to do, but have been holding back out of fear?  As long as it’s something that’s beneficial to both you and to all those involved, I challenge you to take the first step towards your goal.

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