It’s Okay To Say No

Usually when I blog, it is heavy theology. I am going to bypass a lot of that today, and just be real with you guys. This should be something that everyone of us, at least in western cultures, can relate to – just being too busy. And here is the thing – I have heard people speak on this, I have told people this myself. I think the issue is that you just do not realize how busy you are until you have a mental breakdown.

I am going out of town this weekend, and am taking two friends with me. And these are two friends I really enjoy the company of, but we have never done anything outside of school. Why? Too busy. We all have our own lives, and responsibilities to work, church, family, and we neglect our friends.

You know, I haven’t cleaned the house in months. Why? Well one is because I just do not have time. But the larger reason is “Why bother? No one ever comes over.”

I have a friend that I have not seen in 20 years. Best friends in high school. She lives 15 minutes from me. I finally gave up trying to get together, even offered to come up and watch her kids play softball just so that I could say hi. I have never met her kids, and the oldest just graduated high school recently.

The past several months, I have just been so burned out. No energy to do anything, easily irritable, and I just could not figure out why.

A couple of months ago, we had the option to take the Modern Faith Unlimited show to a Christian cable network. Yeah, it surprised me too. There were several odd things surrounding the offer, though. But I will get to those in a moment. First and foremost, I just had a horrible unease about the offer. They were wanting us to give them 26 episodes in six months, so an episode a week. The problem is, I am the only editor, and editing time has gone up considerably after I started choosing my shots in post (looks better, but more time consuming), and utilizing a green screen. Also, I have been looking at lowering the run time to appeal to YouTube audiences, and they wanted us to extend time. This would mean separate episodes for YouTube and the channel.

I also thought it was odd that they kept saying that our show looked great, and the episode they had seen was our worst looking episode. But they claimed they were a startup Christian network, and were looking for content.

I went to go look at some of the other content on their channel. To my surprise, our show, quality wise, was above and beyond anything else on the channel. And then I had the thought “Who is watching this stuff?”

The network claimed to be a startup. However, on the site, a lot of the content was more than a year and a half old. Also, the stuff that was streaming live did not seem to be the same stuff that was being archived on their site. I went to go look at their website, and under the “About Us” section, they claimed that they launched their Roku app in 2007. This shocked me – the oldest content on the app was from 2018, but this would also mean that they were not a startup. I started digging a bit deeper. The Roku app had 12 reviews. The Android app had only been downloaded 50 times. I was the first one to download the Android TV app. And the company had told us that most of their traffic came from streaming viewers and not from people watching their cable channel. My co-host mentioned that he could not get any new versions of the app to install and had to go back to an app that was released in 2010 to find an app that would work.

And that is when it occurred to me that there were more people making content for the channel than who was actually watching the channel.

They had an odd sales pitch as well. So Christian television is not supported via advertisers – the ministries have to pay for the time slots. It is why people are always asking for money to stay on the air. The network said that they would give us a grant for 26 weeks, and then after that, the costs of airtime was $100 a week for a 28 minute slot (which is really cheap). But your ratings would be generated to you via the network.

Granted, they did have an app and a website with the shows available. But it seems that the entire network had less traffic than our show did. In any case, I thought it was a red flag that a “Christian” network was misrepresenting themselves like that. We walked away (I will tell you, though, for several days, we almost took the deal).

I have also been stressed with school. Everyone has been telling me that I needed to take a semester off, but I could not see myself doing that – I take every summer off, which is 4 months, which is a semester. I have not been recovering. Something is wrong.

Every Tuesday, I used to go to the filming of Life Today with James and Betty Robison. This semester, I have been 3 times.

The first big realization that something was wrong was when I decided to get stricter with my Sabbaths. “I am doing no work today whatsoever. Not even laundry, not even dishes. No errands. No reading for school.” And God said to me, “And don’t work on the show.”

And that gave me pause. I enjoy working on the show. Don’t I?

At this point, I started listening to what people were saying. And the main thing I was hearing was that I don’t need to necessarialy cut things out of my life, but I need to get them under control.

Spending was the first thing that hit me was out of control. As I said, I am making another trip out of town this weekend. Now I did have the funds come up to cover it, but God said to me “I want you to think about how much money you have spent on eBay the past six months. Did you need any of those things? How much did it add up to? What are the costs of this upcoming trip?” That was humbling. Turned off e-mail notifications and deleted the eBay app from my phone.

Then I figured out what the issue was with the show – it was a fun hobby at first. Yeah, an expensive hobby, but we are at the point where we are not spending any more money on it until we start getting a ROI from the show, which may be never. Here is the thing, the problem with the show started the moment we said “we will release new episodes twice weekly”. As soon as we did that, the show stopped becoming a hobby and started becoming a chore. And let me ask you, how many episodes have we released in the past 2 months?

We also started over focusing on growing the channel. Now branding is important, and I am glad we have the website, and the brand name, and all of that. But we made the decision in the past couple of weeks to stop forcing the growth of the channel and let it grow naturally. Which it may never do. And as far as our release schedule, we decided “we will release when we have something to talk about, and it will go up whenever its ready”. And that is when I started looking more at the YouTube channels I watch. Those who do release 2 or 3 times a week do YouTube as a full time job. Your vloggers, your professional gamers, your Tech News, they are constantly filming, constantly editing, and that is their job. It takes a lot of work to plan, shot, and edit. We don’t have that kind of time. Those who are doing YouTube as a hobby may release one or two episodes a month, and then you won’t see them for a couple of months. And I realized this was healthy – we will release when we have time for it. No set release schedules or anything.

I also realized that because of these, while I am still going to push for quality on our shows, it doesn’t have to be professional broadcast quality. As such, one episode that I had been working for months on cleaning up, I contacted our guests and asked them if we could release it as it was, and after they agreed, it was released, saving me months of work (we were having gear issues that day, and the audio and video were horrible. Sound had been cleaned up, and I was working on cleaning up the video, which was very time consuming – like 2-3 hours on average to clean up a single minute of work. So its up, and a major stress release for me.

Then I was struggling with a class. It was an accelerated class, and I was falling behind, and I was spending all my free time doing the work for this one class, trying to get caught up, neglecting my other classes, my social life, etc. Then this past weekend, I hurt my back, badly, and was unable to sit up, stand, or even use a laptop while laying down. And then I realized I had not even started on projects or term papers. And God said to me “Its okay not to make an A in a class. In fact, it is okay if you need to drop a class, or even take an F in the class and walk away and retake it later.” Talked with some friends, with my academic advisor, the professor and the register’s office, and I decided to drop the class. I am not sure yet what the fallout from that will be, but I know that probably 90% of the stress that was on me has now been released. I feel alive again, I feel human again. My mind is not in a dark place right now.

So what is the point of this ramble? I did not realize that I was overstretching myself until I had a meltdown. People and friends around me were warning me, and I still did not realize it.

Now that I am starting to recover, I am able to see other friends putting themselves through the same stuff I was, and I can see them breaking. And just like me, they won’t listen to the warnings around them.

Now I am not saying that we need to shake our responsibilities and stuff. I am not saying we need to cut things out of our lives. But we do need to get a hold of the things that are in our lives, and prioritize them appropriately. Many of us have made idols out of things in our lives, and not even realized it. Is Little League still fun, or has it become a chore? How many hours a week is your kid spending at the gym or dance studio? How much money have you spent on travel, dance costumes, gymnastics, private lessons? Do your kids ever get time to play with the toys you have bought them?

Okay, this sounds like I am picking on parents, so let’s pick on others. When is the last time you have done something with your friends? When is the last time you caught a movie, or dinner, or had board game night? When is the last time you played ultimate frisbee? When is the last time you read your Bible, or went to church? You know, most people spend more time on social media in a day than they do with God in a week. And we wonder why our lives are falling apart.

And what about spending? We spend $5 a day at Starbucks, buy that energy drink, grab breakfast on the way into the office, eat out at lunch. Then we need to reward ourselves and spend $20 there, $30 there, $50 there on a gadget or movie or something. How much does that add up to in a day? A week? A month? A year? Then we wonder why we are living paycheck to paycheck, and why that debt is spiraling out of control.

And how much pressure are you putting on yourself or your kids for school? I get it, we cannot afford college, most of us do not get to go unless we are on a scholarship or go into tremendous debt with student loans. But lets face it, most of us are not going to have that 4.0 GPA, and are not going to be getting a free ride to college. For most of us, whether our GPA is 4.0 or 2.0 isn’t going to matter in 5 years. Granted, you don’t want to fail the class and have to retake it, or flunk out of school, but it is okay to make a B. It is not the end of the world.

And I hate to break it to some of you parents, but it is okay if your child wants to be an auto mechanic. They will probably make a heck of a lot more than I am making, and won’t have a six-figure student-loan debt that they have to deal with. It is okay if they don’t make straight As. Just encourage them not to make a career out of working part-time at McDonald’s.

The point I am trying to make is that we put too much pressure on ourselves and on others, and think its normal. Whether or not everyone in our society does it does not mean that it is healthy. Let’s all reevaluate our lives and make sure we are not leading ourselves to an early grave.

And let me ask you, who is it that comes to steal, kill and destroy? Is your joy being stolen? Is your free time being stolen? Is your relationships with others being destroyed because you are not investing in them? Is your relationship with your family being destroyed because you are pushing too hard? Is your health suffering because of the stress you are under? I believe that all these things are open doors to the enemy. We have GOT to get our lives under control.

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