Tear it down. Start again.

Not long ago, my life fell apart. In a matter of weeks I found myself with no relationship, no office, no apartment, and no real plan of what I was going to do next. I moved back in with my parents, who were thrilled to see their son for more than two days in a row for the first time in years, and setup a desk in the back of their living room. I’m sitting in that same place now as I write this post.

I could not have anticipated most of the changes that came my way, and I certainly could not have guessed how many would seemingly happen all at once. Depression came knocking, but I refused to answer the door. It never has anything productive to offer anyways.

Deep down I knew if there were a way to keep my life and career in tact it would have to come from within, even if I did not know where to find it.

To focus, I stopped…..

-Talking to people who didn’t help me create value.

-Opening Facebook/Twitter.

-Paying attention to politics 24/7.

-Watching T.V. and Netflix.

-Going out to eat.

-Making excuses to spend money just so I had something to do

-Writing about things I knew I did not care about

The first few days were the hardest. Instead of thinking about my situation or the work in front of me I wanted to check in with the rest of the world. The news makes things seem so terrible right now, and to some extent they legitimately are, but I found a sense of escape in occupying my time with the woes of the planet. I escaped further by engaging in conversations about these things, all of which would inevitably amount to nothing more than me agreeing with people who agree with me on things we’ve likely always agreed on. I wasn’t helping them or the planet, and I certainly wasn’t helping myself.

Then I heard a song. I would share it now, but the truth is that the particular track doesn’t matter nearly as much as the spark it ignited within me. I couldn’t shake the song. I couldn’t shake the band. I wanted to know everything about the music and I wanted to tell people everything I was able to learn. Passion had found me while I was busy trying to run from it and here I was, back where I always wanted to be.

When I wrote about that song I felt the freedom that only comes from doing the thing you love for no reason other than your love of doing it. That is what really matters, after all. Money, fame, popularity, even jobs will eventually disappear. The only real reason anyone has to pursue something is because it makes them feel alive. It gives them purpose.

As this realization sat in I began to evaluate how I came to such a conclusion. I thought about my fight with myself to avoid work and the mounting personal problems that needed addressing, as well as why I fought so hard to ignore them. That inner monologue then turned into a post about that subject, which gave way to another, and another, and now to this post.

I had made a classic mistake that many of us encounter when things go awry in our lives: I lost focus of what made me feel alive. Instead of running from that fact I chose to write about it, which in turn helped me find my way back to the thing that first ignited my passion for music and writing in the first place. All the chaos that had kept me up at night stressing over what the future might hold had transformed – through no one’s doing other than my own – into material that would serve as the path I followed back to finding my center in life once more.

There is a great country song that features the hook, “If you’re going through hell, keep on goin’”. That may sound simple to many of you reading this now, but in reality it is not. Keeping on, or in other words moving forward when life gets tough is one of the hardest things we as people must learn to do. If we fail to do so life has a way of consuming us and making us feel small, insignificant, and even stupid, but believe me when I tell you that is not the case with you or I. We are better than that. YOU are better than that. Believe in yourself and stay true to what you know. The rest will still need to be sorted, but as long as you maintain personal your course in life things will inevitably work out. Choose to move forward and wake up every day with the goal of doing just that. After all, what is the alternative?

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.