~ Shitty Times ~
2010 was a very transitional year for me. A year of “searching for meaning” and “figuring shit out” and “staying on friends couches on Saturday nights because that’s when my 85 year-old roommate has her boyfriend over for… well, uh, yeah. You know, typical 33 year old stuff.
I spent most of 2009 and 2010 barely scraping by as a freelance video producer and editor while minimally keeping my foot in the door in the comedy world. Like always, I was filled with hundreds of ideas and big plans, but with no real vision, focus, or passion, I was unable to start or complete any projects. On top of everything else, I gained a ton of weight, while battling cigarette and frozen yogurt addictions. Given this state of existence, I’d become miserable, ambitionless, cynical, and I physically reverted to the husky days of my youth.
And I wasn’t been alone. Lots of my peers had been dealing with many of the same issues: Depression, anxiety, and an ongoing struggle to figure out exactly what it is they want to do with their lives. Even many of my more “successful” friends, the ones with lucrative careers and families and luxuries I could only dream of, like “taking vacations” and “relatively new socks” were struggling as well. We’d discuss all sorts of theories about why we lack clear direction: diminishing attention spans as a result of the Internet, coming up victims of a lackluster educational system that rewarded low achievement, a generational malaise ironically brought on by being told we could do anything we wanted, and of course, ganjah. I’d never doubted that some of these things contributed to my personal issues, but the more I stewed in WHY I was where I was, the more I knew I had to focus on HOW I was going to move forward. But first I had to hit rock bottom.
~ Rock Bottom ~
Rock bottom for me came just as the Spring flowers started to bloom. I mean, the irony, right?! On paper, my rock bottom wasn’t very exciting. There were no hard drugs or suicide attempts, and I didn’t join a gang. Which in some ways I regret, because shit, if you’re going to hit rock bottom it might as well involve some opiates and/or some time in The Greybar Hotel. No, for me rock bottom was just a month and a half of self-loathing induced personal paralysis punctuated by several nights of driving across the San Fernando Valley for hours on end waiting for my Grandma to fall asleep so she wouldn’t catch me coming home reeking of pot and cigarettes. Yep, there’s nothing quite like driving past closed El Pollo Loco’s on Saticoy at 11:30pm on a Tuesday night, listening to sports talk radio whilst stuffing your face with a to-go cup containing 8 flavors of fro-yo with 12 toppings, wondering why you have the only Grandma who goes to bed after midnight, and then thinking “This is literally my life.” It’s worth mentioning that my Grandma is the best ever, and living with her was an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. Nonetheless, I’d trade that experience for 4 bucks and an autographed headshot of Alan Thicke if it’d have meant actually being where I thought I’d be by this point in my life. That is, being a functioning, contributing adult. But everything for a reason I kept telling myself, stoned and/or drunk.
~ The Quest ~
After a few weeks of these depressing late night drives, I finally decided I’d had it. It was time to fully commit to figuring out how to be happy, focused, and productive in this world. I read dozens of self-help books including volumes on Zen Buddhism, positive mental attitude, and living in the moment. I pored over hundreds of online articles on productivity, focus, and spirituality. I experimented with meditation and mantra. I had countless all-night conversations with friends and family about the meaning of life. I even attended several self-empowerment seminars. I stopped at nothing to figure out what it would take to get back to being the joyful ray of rainbow-smile-sunshine I feel I once was.
It took some time, but I started having little breakthroughs and realizations. And over time they became bigger and more profound. Don’t get me wrong; I am not fully enlightened, or claiming to have found the meaning of life. I still have A LOT of work to do. In fact, one of the biggest discoveries I’ve made is that happiness requires a lifetime of work. And when that discovery was made, the quest shifted from finding happiness to finding the types of work, or practice, that will get me to it on a consistent basis. And thus was (re)born IMMACULATA.
~ Immaculata ~
The concept of Immaculata was initially conceived in the year 2000 (jetpacks, etc.), in my first year post-college. I’d just moved to Berkeley after 9 months in San Francisco, and like the past couple years, I was miserable and didn’t know what to do with my life. I was also as fat as I’d ever been, after subsisting on a diet of Mission district burritos, candy, and bread bowls of chowder. With a new start in Berkeley, I decided it was the perfect time to make some changes. It began with a 30-day jump-start plan (inspired by 8 Weeks to Optimum Healthy by Dr. Andrew Weil) including healthier eating, more exercise, no alcohol, meditation, and a commitment to adding more awesomeness in my life. I decided to call this plan Immaculata, because I intended to live, by my high standards, immaculately, for those 30 days. I also called it that because it seemed like a sweet title to give to something.
Sure enough, after 30 days of Immaculata I’d lost several pounds, I was far less miserable, and had significantly more clarity, confidence, energy, and ambition than I’d ever had before. It set off a new moderate lifestyle in which I was more in control of the way I lived my life. Over the next few months I was less stringent with the “rules” of Immaculata, but I continued living healthy, lost even more weight, and my renewed perspective and lifestyle fueled my passion for comedy and production, and thus my eventual move back to Los Angeles.
Los Angeles has certainly provided a lot of great experiences, but over the last few years my practice slowly faded, my renewed vigor atrophied, and my passion for life slowly went bye-bye.
So with my current quest for happiness underway, I finally decided to turn back to my old friend Immaculata for another much needed 30-day jump start into awesomeness. In September 2010, I abstained from alcohol and drugs. I quit smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee. I cut out all fast food and sweets. I committed to exercising for at least 20 minutes, 6 days a week. I engaged in practices to be more “in the moment” and tried being more cognizant of what I was giving back to the world. Ultimately, I wanted to become a living example of mind over matter. I wanted to prove to myself that I was bigger than the desires and cravings of my mind. By constantly proving to my mind, hundreds of times a day, that I could override it’s constant babbling, there was no doubt that I’d emerge with the confidence to finally pursue the bigger things I knew I was capable of and finally live up to my potential.
The first week or so was a struggle. It goes without saying that any major lifestyle change is going to be a challenge, let alone several. But once I got through that, and once I started not just feeling better, but actually GREAT, it became easier and easier. Just like the first time, I lost several pounds, my energy levels were through the roof, and everywhere I went people told me I had a glow.
~ The Immaculate Future ~
And so is born IMMACULATIZE.COM. A site dedicated to Immaculata, which at it’s core has come to mean “the art of living the most awesome and enchanting life possible.” It is the practice of overcoming our own minds, which forces us to get so caught up in our personal issues and dramas that we forget that WE LIVE IN THIS AMAZING WORLD WHERE ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE AND WE ONLY LIVE ONCE SO THERE’S NO REASON NOT TO BE DOING AWESOME STUFF AND MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE AT ALL TIMES. Seriously. This is an enchanting-ass world we live in. We have the capacity to train our minds to do whatever we please. That’s so cool to me. And it only requires practice. My goal is to make the practice more relatable, and more fun.
The website and concept will evolve considerably in the coming weeks, months, and years (fingers crossed!), and to be honest I am really nervous about launching the site because it’s still a work in progress. But given what it is, a quest for truth and knowledge and productivity, I am comfortable sharing the evolution. I want to create a community of others who are also interested in these things. With this site I want to write about my continued journey. I want to talk to others about how they find happiness and inspiration, and are able to focus and maintain productivity, even in the face of the countless distractions of our culture. Most of all I hope that by documenting my quest, and sharing what works and doesn’t work, I can be an inspiration to others to make positive changes in their lives as well.
And like I said, I want it all to be fun. Because at the end of the day, that’s really all that matters, right?