My Breaking Point

This past weekend I did a one hour podcast interview with Kurt Sasso over at TGT Media. The subject was my comic work, specifically The SuperFogeys, but Kurt and I veered off into some deep thematic territory. We discussed aging, retirement, righteousness and endurance. And those two months when I watched movies and did little else.

Kurt asked me about whether or not I’d ever reached a breaking point when I was compelled to make a radical change in my life and behavior. While it’s true my final day of wearing Underoos was painful and a long time coming, it was my two month movie marathon that did the better job of bringing me into a semblance of maturity.

I was 21 and had just gotten off a religious mission. I hadn’t seen one movie or TV show in all that time. I was starving and I had a lot of catching up to do. I also entered into a relationship with a girl and then almost immediately got dumped, hard.

I didn’t have a job, I wasn’t in school, I lived with my mom and the opposite sex had rejected me. I was low and movies were my comfort food.

My brain fried in no time. Remember Joel Shumacher’s abysmal, puntastic, Ahnold-enhanced Batman and Robin? I thought it was good.

After two months, I just snapped. I was sick of myself. I was horrified by the amount of time I’d wasted away in front of the TV and how much money I’d spent on video rentals. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t be that guy.

So, I wasn’t.

I got up, got a job, enrolled in school, gave the other gender a second chance and started my new life as an adult. Two years later, I was married. Three years after that, I was a college graduate. Nine years after graduation, I have three kids, a nice home and I’m the Art Director for a non-profit group.

The biggest reason things have worked out as well as they have (which isn’t to say there haven’t been some dark times–there certainly have been) is because I’ve put my trust in God along the way.

The second biggest reason is because after two months of not working or doing anything of any particular import, I decided I wouldn’t ever be that guy again.  That guy on the couch, helpless and aimless. I decided to work hard and never stop.

And I never have.

Have you ever had a moment of epiphany? When the way forward was clear and all you had to do was decide? What did you do?

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14 comments

  1. Not to mention realizing that you thought “Batman and Robin” was “Good” was definitely a catalyst that you had reached your low point. 🙂

    I love reading your blogs for moments such as this where you speak truth to moments many of us have hit at some point in our lives. For those that are still there hopefully they can take in the message here that you have to tell yourself “enough is enough” and then push forward with ever increasing momentum and not turn back or that couch will look oh so comfortable again.

    A trusting and close relationship with God definitely helps us as believers to pull ourselves up by our boot straps and push forward, knowing the couch is not where God wants our lives to be.

    Those that don’t have a relationship with God I’m sure find it harder to get off the couch, with the way the world just feeds to them to stay complacent and wait for what’s due them. That’s when it’s important for folks who have been through the slumps to reach out to them if you see them sitting on the couch and help to encourage them so that when they do finally reach the “breaking point” they’ll know they are not alone on the other side.

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    1. All I know is that my relationship with God and the light and wisdom his Gospel gives me informs much of my worldview and defines my motivations. I know plenty of good people who don’t believe in God, but, like you, Todd, it’s hard to imagine who I’d be without Him in my life.

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  2. Geez, Brock, I know how you feel. I spent years working a graveyard shift job at a motel near a truck stop and the entire time I felt kind of how I think you did after your mission. Then I met a wonderful woman who got me back into church after my having been lazy about that for… a long time :). A year and a half later, we were married and we moved to Texas. Two years later, we had twin girls, moved back to California, and two years ago I finally came up with the idea for MeatShield (at meatshield.net), which has been slowly making progress.
    I don’t think any of these things would have happened for me if I hadn’t let myself be open to whatever God had planned for me. I would love to say that I had an epiphany, but if I did, it must have been a low-key one. I always thought that an epiphany is supposed to be this dramatic, life-altering event where everything suddenly snaps into focus. It would just be like God (in my opinion) to be subtle about it, just to keep me on my toes. 🙂

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    1. I think you have the “slow epiphany” in common with most people, Rob. I think that’s probably a more effective method of change. For whatever reason, my life tends to get defined by the big moments, but I know that’s not the norm.

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  3. I thought Batman and Robin was good too. Except, I was 9 years old when it came out.

    That aside, I think you have hit on something very key here–something Tyler and I have a lot of experience with right now–which is that sometimes, we really have to hit a low point before we can become our best and happiest selves. And as you have also shown, those low points don’t last forever.

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    1. Absolutely right. The danger is getting trapped in the low point. It would be nice to be able to make dramatic changes without low points, but it’s a rare beast that can do it.

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  4. I think a lot of people have some kind of a breaking point as they transform from youth to adult. It’s the American rite of passage. A lot of the bad stuff that normally leads to a breaking point, hit me AFTER my breaking point. Which wasn’t fun, but it meant I had a sense of purpose and drive to get me through. Most notably, I managed to finish my last 3 units at USC and finally graduate while living out of my car. It. was. not. fun. I wasted a lot of time (more than 2 months) in my early twenties being severely clinically depressed, but I hate asking for help and like to believe I can do anything myself. So my therapy sessions were few and far between. I wish I had moved closer to my family during that time and let them help me. But I had worked so hard to get a scholarship and move out of my parents’ house and out of Clovis, that coming back to let others help me just made me feel even worse. In my mind at the time, coming home would have been hitting bottom. So instead, I spent a couple of years veeeery close to the bottom. Not a good decision. A breast lump and cancer scare finally caused me to live with my family for a few months, get back into therapy, get back into school, and turn my life around. Divine intervention, perhaps?

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    1. Heidi, I had no idea you’ve been dealing with all of that. Thank you for sharing it with all of us. Asking for help SUCKS. It would be nice if we could do everything for ourselves, but that, in my opinion, would defeat the purpose of this life. Not to get preachy (he said, before getting preachy) but the ultimate lesson, really, is to learn to trust God and admit to Him that we can’t do it all alone. The times when I’ve been able to truly do that have been when I’ve seen the most success.

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  5. The breaking point you speak of, a realization that what you’re doing isn’t working and what you’ve got isn’t worth the effort, comes to many of us from time to time.
    Been there, done that, wrote the book, directed the movie, silkscreened the T-shirt.
    As has been said many times in many places, failure is not getting knocked down… failure is not getting back up again. Each and every time. Even if you’re THAT CLOSE to unconscious or dead.
    I got that from the way I was raised, by my Uncle George, who was the commander of a tank destroyer in World War II, had a Bronze Star for meritorious service, a Silver Star for valor, and five battle stars on his European Theater of Operations ribbon. (There ain’t no more…) His credo, which was drilled into me from a very early age, was “Soldier, shut up and soldier.” You keep going, no matter what.
    I still don’t have the hang of it completely, but I’m still working on it.
    Cheers!

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    1. That’s a fantastic motto. “Soldier, shut up and soldier.” Stopping truly is the enemy. I don’t have it quite down yet either, but I’ll get there.

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  6. Oh yes. And it led me to change careers. My memoir is based on this series of breaking points and epiphanies. It’s comforting to know that when you let go of what’s holding you back, the things that are truly yours have a way of finding you again.

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    1. It’s so true. I saw a billboard the other day that made me think of you. It said something like “We should not be afraid of failure, we should be afraid of being successful at something that doesn’t matter.”

      I don’t think my younger self could have understood that, but it really resonates with me now.

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  7. Amen, brother. Amen.

    Reminds me of some very similar times in my own life. Batman influenced my life too, but much different than yours – the Animated Series, as a child, was only one of many things that shaped my ideology of right and wrong, before coming to Christ myself, which obviously did much more for me than Batman ever could, ha ha. But the time in my life I mentioned is, like you, finding myself at a point where I got tired of all the wasted time and money and then motivating myself to change. Unlike you, however, it wasn’t just one summer that lead to the epiphany, but an entire life time of continual change, which I’m positive you can relate to as well. I can’t pinpoint the exact time I made the decision to stop wasting my time and money, but I can tell you that I’m still working on it and I’m all the better for it. Technically I’m wasting time right now, but I need to stop and socialize or something sometime, right? Excuses, excuses… lol. The point is that I’m not going to waste 3 hours typing this comment, which I could easily do, especially if I watched one of the newer Batman movies instead.

    Which, by the way, I can’t stand to sit through. If the movie lasts more than an hour and a half I feel like I’ll go loco-crazy if I don’t jump up and get something important done. Or at least I used to, but I admit I’ve become less jumpy and less hard on myself since whenever that was. I still don’t like sitting through a 3 hour movie, but, if I do, I accept it and move on.

    And, man. Has there been some huge epiphanies in my life I could type about. Really awesome stuff, especially Jesus stuff. But I don’t have that kind of time right now.

    Here’s something cool you might find interesting though – I remember that, back in maybe 2006 or 2007, I had a HUGE artistic break through. I felt for years that I had such a hard time mentally grasping the things I was trying to draw. It was so hard and difficult. But then, one day, I had an epiphany! I suddenly realized – as if God had turned a valve in my brain and the knowledge gushed in, like a light switch was suddenly (not gradually) was flipped by Him, as if supernaturally (but can’t say for sure that it was Him, but I do give Him the credit) – that all line art is just that – LINE art! I suddenly had the revelation that all of the complex comic line artwork I had ever seen was not so complicated, but actually quite simple, in that all of it were simply ink lines on paper – manipulated to form an image the brain would comprehend! That might sound absurdly elementary (it is) to most people, but to me it was the equivalent of E=MC2 or a religious experience. From then on my artistic abilities had been loosed like never before and things flowed naturally. I’ve been able to, especially with practice, draw just about anything whatsoever since then and it’s REALLY helped my artistic confidence.

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