I always hesitate to write about personal matters because I get emails and texts from friends and family worrying. But then I encounter people who say how much it helped them to know there is someone else out there who had gone through what they are now going through. So, we should dive in for those who are going through the whirlwind.
In 2015, the Atlantic magazine ran a multipage profile of me declaring me the most influential conservative in America. The assessment was not true, but I also think it is safe to say it has been all downhill from there in some respects.
At the end of 2015, I left the website I was then operating, RedState, to form this site that I could better integrate into my radio show, which I had hoped to take into syndication. I was filling in on nationally syndicated radio shows, I had a TV contract, I was making lots of money, and then not so much.
My radio show did not make it into syndication, though I expect that is coming soon. My television contract disappeared as did several rather amazing offers that presented themselves then faded away. My income has declined significantly over the last three years. Much of this was because I decided I would not support President Trump in 2016. Standing up for principles has a cost. I still think it was as much the right thing to do then as saying now I will support him in 2020, given the alternatives and his accomplishments.
Oddly enough, having my television contract with Fox News go away was very liberating. While at Fox under contract and not supporting the President, I mostly never made it on air. Being freed of Fox, I have been on television more in the past year than in my last year under contract with Fox. Now, ironically, declaring my support for the President in 2020 has largely rendered me useless to non-Fox programs where a Republican who refuses to vote for the President is the hot commodity.
I do sometimes have to question whether I am doing what I should be doing. I question my relevance. Doubt creeps in. Does what I say matter to other people? Do lack of retweets mean no one is paying attention? I start to question my career goals. I want to syndicate my radio show. But have I reached my peak and must I come to terms with the status quo as the most I will ever do?
Frankly, I get the temptation to say outlandish things on Twitter just to see the frenzy and burst of activity. “Ahhhh…they are paying attention,” you can so easily fall into thinking. I’ve been there in the past. Part of growing up has been learning to not say outlandish crap just for the giggles of riling others up (ok, sometimes I’m still guilty of this). Part of it is not learning to care what random people on social media think of your statements, sense of humor, etc. I see others now who seem to think career advancement or self worth must be measured by their outlandish statements.
The need to get attention is intertwined with a measure of self-worth wholly dependent on the thoughts of others. Twitter can become a drug. You get excited that Jake Tapper tweets you. The next day it is Chuck Todd. But over time, that is not enough. Mentions have slowed. People are not paying attention. Some update their Twitter biographies to brag about who blocked them, which is just a way of bragging about being sufficiently a–holeish enough to people on the other side of the political spectrum. Soon getting blocked by otherwise nice people who disagree with you politically is not enough. The measure of a man becomes the caliber of his trolls. That is no way to live.
I still want a television show and wonder if I need to give up on that. I want a cooking show that is basically like the old Larry King Live show, but in a kitchen — bring in people who may or may not agree with me on politics to talk about life instead. I want to find ways to connect and inspire people to break bread with others. I want people to see that people can find ways to build friendship and spark conversation despite their political views. But is it a dumb idea? Should I abandon the idea? I am beginning to think there are some things I am just going to have to leave behind. Perhaps my TV days are over. Perhaps I have nothing left to offer.
Seminary has, for now, fallen by the wayside. I have discovered I’m a terrible student in independent study and probably do need a classroom structure. Perhaps I should have stayed at RTS and completed my masters instead of jumping into a PhD program. But the PhD is on a scholarship and the masters was not so cannot now be afforded. Still, I am missing the once a week respite from the news and miss not just the studies, but the excitement of the revelations from the studies. I wonder if I can capture that again or must that to be left behind.
It is that sense of leaving things behind that weighs on me at forty-three. But then I must remind myself my career is an accident. I was never supposed to be on radio or television or even to run a political website or have a syndicated column. They were all little providential blessings I never planned for or expected. So instead, perhaps I should let God keep delighting me. Who knows what He has planned.
Doubt magnifies itself through seeing others on social media who seem to be accomplishing more. It is not healthy. None of us should measure ourselves based on the opinions of others or on the number of follows, likes, retweets, or social media interactions we have. We should not covet the curated lives of Instagram that seem more perfect than our own because often the most perfect online are the most in shambles off. We should not seek relevancy through self-promotion on social media surrounded by trolls. But we often slip and do just that. Instead, we should find joy, meaning, and relevance in our families, in our children, and in being.