I am absolutely delighted – thrilled beyond words – to share energetic space with Josh Rivedal!
I recently discovered Josh and his wonderful energy and very important, expansive message because he was featured as this month’s Evolving Being on Evita Ochel’s website.
Synchronicity! On the same day I wrote Sometimes We Need a Mirror, in which I open a conversation about suicide, I read these words from Josh’s article:
“In 2009 and at the age of twenty-five I lost my father to suicide. At twenty-seven, unhappy with the state of my life—my acting and writing career was not where I wanted it to be, my longterm girlfriend had broken up with me, my personal relationships were nearly non-existent, and I was undergoing a terrible clinical depression—and I started contemplating suicide. Thankfully I reached out for help in the nick of time.”
I contacted Josh by email, asking him to share his message here on my site and to write a prompt for my Present to Possibility in the Gap ecourse.
To my surprise–and joy!–Josh responded right away with this article and a prompt. This quick affirmation, and Josh’s generosity in sharing, show his true essence.
Chasing Waterfalls by Josh Rivedal
In August of 2012, I had the opportunity to present my one-man show, The Gospel According to Josh, along with my message of suicide prevention, to 450 teens at a leadership conference in Honolulu. I had set myself on the path of speaking on suicide prevention, not only because my father had died by suicide, but also because I had struggled with a serious bout of clinical depression the year before and had found help through family, friends, and a therapist. I wanted to spread the word that suicide was indeed preventable, and that I was living proof of this.
Because I’d never been to the Hawaiian Islands, I took some days after my presentation to indulge in a much-needed vacation in this tropical paradise.
Early one morning I caught a thirty-minute flight from the island of Oahu to Kauai.I wanted to drive from the southern tip of the island and head up the western coast to view the three thousand foot deep Waimea Canyon, also known as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”
At the top of the canyon, I took in some of the aerial views, parked my rental car, and made my way to what I thought was the edge, but was actually a man-made pathway that led somewhere other than where I wanted to go. I looked behind me, and off in the distance saw a few more well worn paths, but something about this one felt strange and exotic — something like “the road less traveled.”
I hiked down this enchanting trail, and the canopy above began to get thicker, only letting in a moderate amount of sunlight. Tree roots served as natural steps and the path steepened and swerved every which way.
I traveled for thirty minutes till I got to a fork in the road. I looked at the time on my smartphone, which was nearly dead. I had two hours to make it to the other side of the island where there was a luau I had paid for in advance and didn’t want to miss. My mind considered the possibilities… “Dude, you’ve got to turn back now… grass skirts… coconut bikinis… Mai Tais… Kailua pork…”
Just before I turned around to leave, a family emerged from one of the converging paths.
“Hey there,” I hollered out. “What’s back there if I keep going?”
“Well, eh,” said the young father wearing a baseball cap embroidered with a Canadian flag, “if you keep hiking you’ll come across signs that’ll either lead you to the edge of the canyon, the bottom, or a waterfall you can swim under.”
My decision was easy: It was extremely hot outside, and being the rebel that I am, I decided I would toss the advice of TLC to the wind and would go chasing waterfalls before heading back to the luau.
With renewed pep in my step, I hiked another forty minutes and passed trees and species of small birds I’d never seen before till I found the edge of the canyon, which consisted of loose red rock.
No, wait! I must’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way. Now I didn’t have any extra time to find my waterfall before the luau.
Before trekking the long hike back to my car, I figured I could at least make the best of this disappointing situation by taking a closer look down into the canyon. After all, when was the next time I would be here, right?
I noticed two couples a bit closer to the ledge than I was, but who stopped roughly twenty feet short. Moving closer, I saw that the actual ledge was about ten feet lower and on a sixty-degree slope. My spirit of adventure kicked in; I had to get down there.
I gingerly stepped along the sharp incline but lost my footing and started sliding toward the cliff’s edge, stopping 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 that led down the side of the canyon. I followed the ties to a dirt path that curved down a little further until I found the fifty-foot waterfall I had been searching for.
I left my shirt and phone on a rock and jumped into a natural pool of water about four feet deep. I swam to where the waterfall was spitting into the pool and let the downpour splash onto my head and chest, cooling me off after a long hike on a hot day.
And that is the primary reason why, after almost three years, I’ve stuck with The Gospel According to Josh—but not because of the Hawaiian vacation. I started on a journey, where at various points, I’ve hit obstacles and run into forks in the road that could have taken me anywhere. I 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 throughout this three-year process. I’ve traveled to new places across the U.S. and Canada and have performed for Jewish, Christian, teenage, preteen, and college audiences. I’ve been able to make my living as a working actor, playwright, producer, speaker, and activist. I’ve hugged people still healing from their loved one’s suicide and have made lifelong friends throughout the many venues where I’ve performed. All of this would never have happened if I’d listened to the voices—real or in my head—that I was crazy or stupid because the trail ahead was scary or dangerous or an unsure thing.
My big epiphany? I have to keep traveling along my path. There’s no guarantee of a waterfall at every turn, but the real fun (and test) is allowing myself to take in all the sights, sounds, and smells around me while I’m on my journey. The gifts I receive are new friends, a more fulfilled life, realized dreams, and self-discovery. What might yours be?
Josh Rivedal is an author, actor, playwright, and international public speaker. His new memoir The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah is available HERE. Josh has spoken professionally about suicide prevention and mental health awareness in more than twenty-five U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. He wrote and developed the play, The Gospel According to Josh, which has toured extensively throughout the United States and Canada. He wrote the libretto, additional lyrics, and additional music to a Spanish language Christmas musical Rescatando la Navidad, opening in Miami in November 2013.
As an actor, Josh has lent his voice to numerous national television commercials, audiobooks, and animated projects including the role of Hippo in Scholastic’s Rabbit and Hippo In Three Short Tales, the narrator of Julianne Moore’s Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully, and description for seeing impaired children for NBC’s Tree Fu Tom.
Thank you, Josh!
As you read Josh’s message, what speaks to you? As you travel along your path, what are the gifts that are presented, that you receive into your life, that make it easier to stay on the path?
Thank you for your presence!
Much peace and abundant love,
(To be clear, the prompt Josh wrote for the Present to Possibility ecourse is completely separate.)
Registration for Present to Possibility is open through September 13, 2013.