This week is a pretty significant week for me and the world. It seems to be a distant memory with all that is going on, however, I always talk about my planner journey starting when I was in Hollywood, and today I want to share why.
Yep, you heard right; I lived in Hollywood, California - but not for the reasons you think. I wasn't there to become a movie star or famous musician. I was there to help people. In my former life, I was a minister/pastor.
In 2001, I went to Hollywood to be a missionary - yep for a church. In fact, not just any church, a purple church right on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and the 101 Freeway.
I’ve talked about thisin my previous post - This is Me, but I felt it timely and poignant to elaborate onthis specific part of my journey, which I believe is the ‘birthplace’ of the planner..
In 2001, I was working for a church in Perth, as an assistant chaplain for the local school and youth leader of about forty kids.
Every year the church held a week-long camp called Big Camp in each state, and this particular year a pastor named Dan came from the USA, specifically to preach in our 'tent' for young people for a week.
Around this time, I had a friend who was already living in USA and was working as a missionary. He had previously suggested missionary work as a way to strengthen my ministry.
What is a missionary, you might ask? A missionary volunteers their time for a year or so to work in a church or for an organisation. They are paid a small stipend and are hosted by a local family of that church or community activity.
I pulled Dan aside and asked him about his thoughts on being a volunteer and missionary work. Unbeknown to me, he happened to be the senior pastor of all the pastors in Southern California. He said that he would see if anyone was interested in hosting a volunteer when he got home and said "If you feel called to stay, you can stay; otherwise, you've had a free trip to Disneyland."
Who doesn't want a free trip to Disneyland?
Fast forward September 5 2001, I arrive in Hollywood for what I classify as the most transformative experience of my life.
My first day of work was September 11 2001.
What happened that day changed me on so many levels - mentally, emotionally and spiritually. For many years I've struggled with the meaning behind that experience.
I was 23 years old when I arrived at the church to start my year. The pastor who, in the interview, promised he would mentor me, sat me down and said, "I am suffering from depression and need to take a sabbatical, and I am grateful you're here to help with the ministry load while I take time out".
Wait. What? What happened to the mentoring?
That in and of itself would've been a shock to the system, but this was also the day that the world as we know it changed. On my way to work, I got told that the twin towers had been bombed. Even though I was on the other side of the country in Los Angeles, there were bomb threats, Anthrax and general fear that war was imminent for the months to come.
In hindsight, it seems silly, but I honestly felt like the world would end, and I would never see my family again.
Hollywood changed me.
When I got into ministry, it felt like every cell in my body was meant to do that. But when I finished my year and returned home, I was so burned out that I couldn't even open my bible. I was so angry and completely lost. Instead of continuing my calling, I took a secretary job at KPMG. I went from preaching to sometimes 600 people to fixing tax documents to make them look pretty.
Do you have a story like this? Where one moment changed you?
My year in Hollywood was full of oxymorons.
I got to meet Tom Cruise, go to Sheryl Crow's 40th Birthday, eat at restaurants with famous people sitting at nearby tables, visit movie sets and go to Oscars parties. In between these moments, I was depressed, constantly crying for the first three months, and filled with incredible fear and anxiety.
The planner story starts here because it is when I first realised that if I didn’t look after myself, no one would.
I realised that I couldn't look after everyone else wholeheartedly without judgement if I didn't take the time to look after myself.
For years I was angry with God and people for not looking after me and for not taking care of me more, and yet, it wasn't their fault; it was mine.
I think sometimes we imagine that if we focus on ourselves, then we'll become selfish. What happens if you give too much of yourself? You get to a point where you have nothing left to give… and you’re left with what is called compassion fatigue.
At the end of the day, if we aren't looking after ourselves, we'll get caught in resentment and frustration and anger of those that take advantage of us, but it's not their fault; it's ours.
It's ours for not respecting ourselves enough.
It's ours for not knowing when enough giving is enough.
It's ours for not managing our time, and listening to the queues our body tells us when we should or shouldn't do that thing that someone else us wants us to do.
My love language is Acts of Service, but service shouldn't be a sentence that we hold around our neck like a badge of honour.
How do we look after ourselves and still serve and give to make the world a better place?
How do we look to manage OUR priorities but still feel good about serving others?
One action at a time.
It seems so simple, but it starts there. It begins with writing down something you can consciously do for yourself each day - just one thing.
- Take 10 minutes for a coffee
- Or a bath without distraction
- Yoga for 20 minutes
- Go for a walk
- Maybe it's 20 minutes playing candy crush
- Do some online shopping for something nice
Whatever it is, it's for you—just one thing.
There are 168 hours in a working week, and we struggle to find just an hour for ourselves. Why is this?
Because you don't plan it, and you are always an afterthought.
So, my challenge to you is to create a list of things you love to do that fill your cup. Each day allocate that one thing and acknowledge it. If you don't acknowledge it, it hasn't happened.
Hollywood changed me, but after 20 years I realise the experience was to teach me that I needed to look after myself and serve, and I can do this without feeling guilty or that I’m letting someone else down.
Looking after myself and serving both have a place in my planner. Both have my equal respect, because I know I can do so much more when they're both a priority.
So now I've finished this blog. I am off to sit outside in the sun with my coffee to reflect on what I've written because it's literally taken me 20 years to write it, and it’s an ongoing lesson.
And now I want to know, what do you do to look after yourself?
What are you going to do?
I can't wait to hear about it - comment below! 👇