Recently I had the opportunity and the honor of performing and presenting The Gospel According to Josh : Suicide Prevention Program, for four hundred and fifty teens at a leadership conference in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Since I’ve never been to the Hawaiian islands, I took a few extra days before and after my presentation and indulged in a much needed vacation in this tropical paradise.
Early one morning I took a thirty minute flight from the island of Oahu to the island of Kauai—made famous by the George Clooney film The Descendants and where a good portion of exterior shots were filmed in Jurassic Park.
The first thing I made sure to do was drive from the southern tip of the island and up the western coast to view the three thousand foot deep Waimea Canyon, often called “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”
After spending a few hours exploring some of the lookout areas in the lower part of the canyon, I drove up to the top to take in some of the aerial views. I got to one of the highest points (where parking lots still existed), parked my rental car, and made my way to what I thought and hoped was the edge but was actually a man made pathway that led somewhere other than where I wanted to go. I looked back and saw a few more well-worn paths on the other side of the parking lot but this one felt strange and exotic and something like “the road less traveled.”
As I began my hike down this path, the canopy above started to get thicker and only let in a moderate amount of sunlight. Tree roots served as natural steps and the path got steeper and started swerving in every which way. I wasn’t prepared for a proper hike in my water shoes and swimming trunks, but I’d never know the next time I’d be in Hawaii and told myself to keep going. I traveled for about thirty minutes, till I got to a fork in the road. I looked at the time on my phone which was nearly dead and saw that I had about two hours till I had to make it to the other side of the island for a Luau that I paid for in advance and didn’t want to miss. If I turned back now I’d be safe and able to get to the Luau with about thirty minutes to spare. I had to make a decision—should turn around or take a risk and continue traveling through this rainforest on the side of a four million year old canyon.
Just as I was about to turn back, a family emerged from one of the converging paths and told me that if I continued hiking, I’d come across signs that would either lead me to a picturesque view at the edge of the canyon, the bottom of the canyon, or a waterfall. My decision was easy: go find the waterfall, because it’s not every day I’d get to see one.
With great excitement, I hiked for another forty minutes and passed trees and species of small birds that I’d never seen before. The smells and the views were absolutely incredible and finally led me to the edge of the canyon that consisted of loose red rock. I must have taken the wrong path and didn’t have the extra time to turn around to find the waterfall because I wanted to make my reservation for the Luau.
Before I headed back though, there were two male/female couples a closer to the ledge than I but who stopped about twenty feet short of the edge. When I got closer I saw that the actual edge was a little further down, and though pretty steep it was possible to get down there to look down into the canyon.
I gingerly stepped down the steep incline toward the cliff’s edge, lost my footing, and started sliding and stopped only a foot short of certain death. As I regained my composure, I looked to my left and saw a little manmade staircase made of pieces of railroad ties. I took that staircase down the side of the canyon and curved my way down a little further until I ended up at the fifty foot waterfall I had been searching for.
I made my way through some big rock formations and a small stream and put my shirt and phone off to the side on a rock and jumped into a natural pool of water about four feet deep and swam to where the waterfall was spitting into the pool of water and let it splash onto my head and chest. I then swam to the side of the pool where there blackberries growing off of a rock formation and picked some for myself, ate them, and swam around as the chilly water eased my sunburn and helped cool me off after a long hike on a hot day.
And that my friends is one of the reasons why after almost three years, I’m still doing The Gospel According to Josh—but not for the Hawaiian waterfalls. I started on a journey and at various points I’ve hit obstacles, ran into forks in the road that could’ve taken me anywhere, cut myself walking through heavy brush, and at times have nearly slid down the side of a three thousand foot canyon. But I stayed the course and have since discovered numerous waterfalls. I’ve learned so much about myself, and life, and business throughout this three year process. I’ve traveled to new places across the country and performed for conservative Jewish, evangelical Christian, teenage, preteen, and Historically Black College audiences. I’ve been able to make my living as a practitioner of the arts as a working actor, playwright, and producer. I’ve hugged people who are still healing from their loved one’s suicide and made lifelong friends in Ohio, Hawaii, and Colorado. And I’m in the process of editing a memoir that I’ve written based on the show and the show will be opening Off-Broadway in September of 2013.
All of this would never have happened if I’d listened to the voices along the way—real or in my head—that I was crazy because the trail ahead was scary or dangerous or an unsure thing.
Keep traveling along your path. There’s no guarantee that you’ll find what you’re looking for but the real fun (and the test) is allowing yourself to take in all the sights, sounds, and smells around you while you’re on your journey—mine were/are new friends, realized dreams, and self discovery. What’s yours?