35 mm study :: you matter

There is a cultural narrative floating around, which promises a certain level of success without pressure or hardship. It is attractive and comfortable to define your worth by the importance of the work you do. To this end, I based so much of my worth on the position I held within a Christian organization. I was comfortable, made consistent money, and had all the benefits of the American dream. Yet even in this comfort, there was an emptiness, a certain loneliness, that could not be fulfilled by the lifestyle of a professional Christian.

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In December 2017, I left a full-time career in creative ministry to pursue a passion that has been years in the making: coffee + stories. I traded in an empty office for a portafilter that gathers people around a cup of coffee. As the loneliness of an empty office and apartment seemed unbearable, I contemplated the time I wasted waiting for direction. Direction in life often follows an action—first take a step, then you will know the way. It wasn't until my passion was removed from my job description that I decided it was time to tenaciously create a different life than the one that was being scripted for me.

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I often attribute my days spent enrolled at UNCW for instilling a spirit of resilience in me. As a Communication Studies student, our mantra was Tikkun Olam—contribute to the healing of the world. This Jewish phrase was a constant reminder to always consider how the messages we construct can contribute to the healing of the world as opposed to it’s destruction. With this Jewish phrase engraved on my soul, I couldn't settle for anything less. I was hungry to love and be loved, I wanted to craft real stories that impacted real people, I was ready to take on the world around me, and do whatever I could to contribute to its healing.

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With a slew of experience behind me, I am confident that my story will continue to lead me forward. Pursuing a dream is taxing. There are days when I worry about whether I will have enough money to pay my bills, not to mention fund a retirement plan. There are days when writer's block is erected like a brick wall around my mind and will not budge. There are moments when the dark feelings of self-doubt close in just like the night.

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Despite the challenges I face everyday, I am meeting myself for the first time. All the time I spent trying to find acceptance and purpose in a professional Christian career, I was never able to fully love myself. All I could offer myself was a conditional love that was based on my performance. Constructing my life around these expectations is a bated breath that never has space to exhale. In this place of apprehension, loneliness was my closest friend. Before I could experience any level of intimacy, I first had to walk in vulnerability. When I was constantly hiding behind my identity as a “professional Christian,” every situation I walked into taunted me with doubt and rejection. Today, I can say with confidence that I am inhaling and exhaling as deeply as possible. I am seeing a new life forged from vulnerability and community that chooses love despite how I perform.

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As tasteful music fills the small shop located on 5th and Cotanche, I have never looked back with regret at the life I left in that lonely office. Each evening, the shop slows significantly. Regulars find a place at the bar. Wanderers look for a place to call home. The lonely look for a friend to brighten their world. And as each day brings in people I have only ever dreamed of meeting, my heart fills with a purpose to create an experience for these people that gather around a warm cup of coffee.

Life will always hold burdens. But regardless of the career or environment you are in, you matter. Your story is brilliant. Your worth is not defined by what you do or how others view you. The lies and jokes that people use to taunt your authenticity are just the beginning of a new life that is waiting for you to chase after it. You are worthy of love.

Take a sip.
Share a story.
#LAFLECHA

Study Notes:
Canon Film AE-1
Wesley Lane
Blackbeard Coffee Roasters