State of the TMZ: Life After Milwaukee

Jack with BeardNow that I’m unfettered from blogging about the six huge chunks of Me, I figured I’d check in with a little TMZ life update.

Before you run away for fear of boredom, let me just say that there’s LOST to be found in this post. Oh yes.

This past summer I worked in Milwaukee for this awesome youth missions organization called YouthWorks. For eleven weeks I blogged about my incredible experience there, and over the coming weeks I’ll be re-posting those blogs here for any who might have missed them.

In the coming weeks and months I’ll certainly be blogging more about what I experienced with YouthWorks this summer. Still so much to unpack.

Ever since returning from Milwaukee last month, I’ve been growing progressively restless, aimless, and uncomfortable with my life in southern California. And remember, I’m a wanderer who already suffers with restlessness on a daily basis. I’ve never before experienced this heightened level of “lostness,” and I don’t know how to combat it.

Speaking of LOST, this clip actually sums me up quite chillingly (LOST newbies, beware of spoilers):

With every passing day I feel increasingly like desperate, sloppy bearded Jack Shephard. The above clip comes from the season three finale where it’s revealed that Jack and Kate have actually been freed from The Island’s powerful grip, living “normally” back in LA again.

When Jack tells Kate that he’s been using his unlimited flight pass to fly to random world cities every week, she asks why he’s been doing this. And he responds:

Because I want it to crash, Kate. I don’t care about anyone else on board. Every little bump we hit or turbulence…I actually close my eyes and I pray that I can get back.

My heart jumps at Jack’s facial expression when he utters that final line: I pray that I can get back.

You see, I now view Milwaukee as The Island of my life. Was this summer a difficult, often treacherous journey? Totally. I cried many times, and I often ached for that impossible faraway finish line. My YouthWorks summer was by far the hardest task of my life.

And yet as the summer wound deeper, I found purpose, community, belonging — all foreign concepts which run counter to my long established wanderer mentality.

This summer was indeed an anomaly. So many soul-testing moments, and ultimately incredible. Last month I successfully crossed that finish line, and suddenly…it was over. Grabbed from my grasp, forever. And now that I’m back to LA — just like Jack — I find myself desperately yearning to jump back on that metaphorical plane. So I can crash; so I can return.

Return to purpose. Community.


What’s maddening about my return to California is that it’s not like I’ve lived like a pathetic worthless little boy here; I’ve been so productive.

I returned to tutoring this incredible boy and his sister and finally sponsored a boy in Guatemala through Compassion International. Look for some brother posts on these subjects eventually.

I journal, I read, I run just about everyday to keep my mind and body active. And I, uh, started this whole website and have been blogging up a hailstorm for over a week now.

Meaningless. All is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. That’s how I feel right now, and I’m not really sure what to do. I take aimless walks around the park at night which could certainly parallel Jack’s aimless flights to Asia. I’ve basically taken the most helpless GOD PLEASE LEAD ME approach right now — which, I guess, is oddly comforting, that I’m fully relying on God like maybe I never before have.

Over the next month I’ll be gradually picking up more tutoring hours, so I’m sure that will help alleviate some of my restless feelings.

But only some.

If my “wanderer quotient” could somehow return to my pre-summer levels, that’d be great. Until then, I don’t really know.

But that’s basically the state of Me right now. Wondering where I’m wandering.

  • MLYaksh

    No matter how much we want to wander, it seems we always have this longing to belong with others. Kinda frustrating.

    The hardest part is saying goodbye to a group to which you once belonged- you’re convinced you’ll never find another group that makes you feel the way this one did. Then, before you realize it, that old group is a memory. This new group- THIS is the group of people you will always belong to. And then… life happens.

    My fear has been that getting used to a new area and a new group of people means I’ve lost everything from the former experience. I have this idea that I am almost betraying those other friends and am casting aside everything they meant to me.

    In reality, I’ve grown to appreciate those former experiences more and more. And as I grow in that, I realize that going back would not be as beneficial as I’m thinking- I’m not the same person as I was then. That experience changed me in a way that cannot be done again.

    All this to say, I’m with you. I’m looking at ahead at a huge change in my own life next year. I don’t want the time spent in my current area to pass away- I barely just got here! Will this time be wasted?

    Truthfully, how I handle the next phase of me life determines whether this last phase was actually meaningful. Kinda twisted, isn’t it?

    • tmz

      Saying goodbye and moving on to a new setting with a new cast of characters is both exciting and depressing. I too fall into that trap of thinking old relationships become no more and become only a lost memory. The challenge comes with staying in touch and realizing that people from the past often return to our present in refreshing new ways. God’s a cool story writer like that.

      The whole notion of life and roaming from place to place is stomach-churning and exhausting, but I believe He has a plan. For all of us. And He reveals that story one day/page at a time…

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  • I’m headed to Milwaukee in 29 days with YouthWorks. Nervous, excited, and glad to have found your blog 🙂

    • TMZ

      Oh my gosh, Bree, thank you so much for commenting on my blog! Seeing your comment totally made my day. I’m so unbelievably excited for you. If you have ANY questions/concerns about Milwaukee, please by all means send me an email: tmz[at]thomasmarkzuniga[dot]com

      God is gonna do great things again in Milwaukee this summer!