"You make known to me the path to life. In your presence, there is fullness of joy. At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
This Bible passage inspired Owner and Creative Director Joe Fitzpatrick to create Path to Life and pursue a new direction in his life. Joe interpreted its meaning as a reminder that by seeking a Higher Power in the world around us, being mindful and expressing gratitude for daily blessings, our purpose in life -- also known as our "path" -- will be revealed. Regardless of your religion, everyone follows many paths in the journey of life, which take us to new places and allow us the opportunity to have new experiences, including happiness, love, fulfillment, financial gains, and personal growth.
Your path is what guided you to start your brand, whether it's your full-time job, your side-hustle, or your passion project, and we want to help you get to your desired destination and achieve your goals. By putting in hard work to follow your path and creating compelling, high-quality content to that your audience can connect and engage with, you will not only find joy and fulfillment, but you will also help others along the way who identify with your values.
Below Joe sheds a light on his story of how his path led him to start the Path to Life brand and where he plans to take it moving forward. We hope that through his story, you will be inspired to shift your focus to a more positive mindset and healthy lifestyle, and as a result, be your best, most authentic self.
DEVELOPING THROUGH THE NEGATIVES
Throughout most of my life, I've struggled with feelings in inadequacy and low self-esteem. I hated myself in many ways, and I was never really comfortable in my own skin. Growing up, my dad had very high standards for the behavior of my siblings and I in school and at home. In his youth, he was a straight-A student, and I know now that his parents were very demanding as well that he succeed in his academics. Both my parents excelled in math and sciences, which were skills that I lacked, being more deft in English and Language Arts. Not being able to naturally succeed in these subjects made my father very upset with me, and he would frequently criticize me for not meeting his expectations. Being a sensitive child, I took it personally and started to believe that I was letting him down which gradually diminished my self-worth and had a profound, long-lasting impact on me.
While I now realize he was doing the best he could to raise me to be strong and disciplined, I felt like my need to have an intimate relationship with my dad wasn't met, and I resented him for years for the hurtful words he expressed to me. I can now admit that it wasn't his fault that I was sensitive, and by holding on to my resentment I did not allow myself to heal so that I could love myself and build a stronger relationship with him.
To cope with my feelings of my shortcomings, I turned to online pornography and other sexual content to ease my pain and numb me out. I obsessively sought out photos from women on websites and social media pages, as well as from other girls that I knew. When my dad caught me looking at porn, he admonished me for the damage I was doing to my moral character. This left the impression on me that my sexual inclinations were to be ashamed of and were damaging to my relationship with God. Despite the shame that I felt from being caught, it did not deter me from continuing to seek out porn. I began to feel entitled to enjoy it as my peers frequently bragged about their sexual activity, and it warped my perceptions of what was "normal." Whenever I asked a girl I was interested in to go out with me, I was rejected, which further hurt my self-confidence and kept me withdrawn inside myself.
In 2005, I attended a local youth conference focused on building a strong relationship with God through praise and worship, as well as a more active prayer life. This reinforced my self-professed virginity, and I found social acceptance through my church youth group which became my core group of friends. Despite my new religious social group, I was still living a double life with my addiction to pornography.
During high school, I started to find myself through punk rock and alternative music, beginning with Blink 182 and Green Day, and that opened my world up to new possibilities and sounds. I sought out angst-filled music I could connect with on an emotional level and covered my bedroom walls with a floor to ceiling collage of clippings from music, snowboard, and skateboard magazines I collected. This was my first creative project I was proud to call my own, and my passion for reading these magazines and adding them to my gallery fueled my interest in photography and music journalism. I started taking photography classes my senior year and shot a few video projects on a Sony Handycam, including a video of my brother's band Common Ground at our high school's Battle of the Bands.
In 2006, I attended Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA. During my freshman year, I still considered myself to be religious and would attend campus church services, and I even played bass guitar in the campus music ministry. A year later, I decided to pursue a career in journalism and started building my portfolio contributing to the campus newspaper as a writer and photographer. While learning interviewing skills, I networked with members of the local community and touring bands that came to the campus and nearby venues. I also met many friends and bands from Richmond, VA, regularly visiting the city for shows, and I fell in love with the city's music and arts scenes, which stayed with me from that point forward.
As a result of my newfound access to local events as a photographer, I started my first brand, Joe Fitz Photography, which I later re-branded as Joe Fitz Media. In this role, I refined my skills as a photographer while also promoting my content on social media. I also started contributing photos and writing feature articles to nationally circulated music magazines, including Hails and Horns Magazine, AMP Magazine, and after college to New Noise Magazine. This was a dream come true! Even though it was mostly unpaid, it gave me the opportunity to talk with my role model photographer Ryan Russell, as well as many other bands and artists I enjoyed over the years, such as New Found Glory, Every Time I Die, The Ghost Inside, and many more. It gave me access for the first time to be a photographer for a few years at the Vans Warped Tour, which allowed me to get up close to the performers for better quality photos.
In college, I joined social groups including a fraternity and the campus rugby club team, and I started partying. Since I was so focused on the party scene and bro culture at the time, I made promotional shirts for my brand that said "Drinking Pitchers Taking Pictures," which were a a hit among my drinking buddies, and I later coined the phrase Defend Brotography to blend my focus on music, partying, and photography while trying to stand out.
After college, I struggled to find a full-time job working as a music journalist, and in between my part-time jobs, I picked up some gigs as a party photographer with a group called Wrecking Crew Nation that photographed nightlife in the Hampton Roads area. This gave me an outlet to do photography, but I recognize that it led to me engaging in unhealthy and unsafe behaviors. It was ultimately a distraction from finding a real job, which I so desperately needed. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the money, attention, and free drinks that I was offered in exchange for my work.
Partying became more of a priority than photography. However, it was a skill I kept in my back pocket for when I needed it. I contributed to AMP and New Noise Magazines for a few more years after college until that too was no longer a priority as well.
I lost sight of my faith and my true self.
Below is a video I put together with my favorite shots from my most active years as a photographer.
THE PARTY WAS OVER
I moved to Northern Virginia in late 2011 to take a job I hated due to my resentment of my parents I felt as a result of shame for my partying behavior and not having landed a well-paying full-time job. I wanted to leave Virginia Beach, and since I was having difficulty getting a job in Richmond, I settled on moving to Northern Virginia. I was very depressed and felt inadequate, and I didn't know what to do to change my situation. I turned to partying and sex to cope, and I turned inward even more.
A year later, still struggling to find my way into a fulfilling job, I decided to start my second brand -- a music blog called Dominion Collective, which featured articles on music and culture from Virginia. I later expanded the coverage to include musicians, artists, and businesses from Washington, DC. It was my goal to use the brand to continue to build my experience as a writer and photographer, while also providing a platform to aspiring music journalists throughout the region in honing their craft, learning more about local bands and businesses, and managing a creative team. As I described in my final article, the brand was integral in my career development in so many ways beyond writing and photography. It taught me about branding and content management. Furthermore, it taught me the value of collaboration with local partners, social media marketing, and digital strategy.
In addition to starting Dominion Collective, I began getting into running as a way for me to be more active and connected to my body. With the help of the app Couch to 5K, I began my journey toward increasing my endurance. At first I dreaded it, but I would rather put my headphones in, turn my music up, and go for a run than lift weights, which made me feel even more awkward.
As a result of my experience gained with Dominion Collective, which provided me with a wealth of writing samples, it opened up doors to copy editing and writing jobs that were in alignment with my career goals. I felt like I was on the right path, but beneath the surface I still struggled with my low-self esteem and sex addiction which I refused to address despite multiple failed relationships.
As the years progressed, I struggled to keep Dominion Collective active in addition to working my full-time jobs with the goal of eventually building up enough experience to land my dream job as a music journalist in Richmond. Even though I projected self-confidence, I was still insecure and unfaithful in my relationships, which eventually caught up to me. My partner threatened to leave me if I didn't deal with my issues, and I hit a breaking point that I can only attribute to the grace of God, my Higher Power. I was finally able to admit to myself that I indeed had a problem and I needed to seek help. I started going to a 12 step group for sex addiction, and I began seeing a professional counselor, which helped me finally address my issues of resentment and self-hatred, understanding where they came from and how to deal with them in healthy ways. My partner and I also sought to improve our relationship by attending and participating in couples counseling, which was extremely beneficial to us.
After a year of therapy and participating in the 12 step groups, my partner felt safe in our relationship again, and we felt ready to move in together. Since we both loved Richmond, we saw it as an opportunity to move there together and have a new beginning in a new city. While we both took risks professionally, we jumped at the excitement of the potential adventure and opportunity.
DISCOVERING A NEW PATH ON THE JAMES
In August 2016, my partner and I moved to Richmond, and even though I didn't have a job in the city, I was excited to finally be living here. However, reality set in when I lost my job in Northern Virginia as a result of leaving the area, so my job hunt intensified and I was forced again to settle for a contractor job outside my career goals to make ends meet. I also took on freelance work and a second job in a restaurant to supplement my income. This ongoing financial struggle and the residual effects of my sex addiction caused tension in my relationship with partner, but we pressed on.
During this process, as a result of my desire to create a new brand and put more positivity in the community, I was inspired to create Path to Life after coming across the Bible passage from Psalm 16:11 that a friend posted on Facebook. I was learning to put my faith back in God and give up control of my situation as a result of learning the Serenity Prayer in my 12 step group. I knew that by starting this project, I would get to where I wanted to be. I started promoting my ideas on Instagram and Facebook, and in 2017, I started a YouTube channel for sharing video projects including the series "Follow Your Path," which features artists and business owners whose creative work inspires positivity in the community.
Throughout the years, I kept running and lost some weight but due to my poor diet nothing significant. In November 2016, I watched the documentary "Food Choices" on Netflix which featured interviews with top endurance athletes, including ultramarathon runner Rich Roll and John Joseph, as well as doctors such as Neil Bernard and Michael Gregor, discussing the health benefits of a plant-based vegan diet. I realized that if I wanted to be a better runner and be more healthy I needed to go vegan, so my partner and I agreed that starting January 1, we would go for it. As a result, I lost about 50 pounds, and my endurance improved so much that I was finally able to run long distances without feeling like I wanted to die. I made it my goal to run the Richmond Half Marathon the following year.
After a year of struggling in our careers, my partner and I started to see our hard work pay off, and I landed a permanent position with my employer. However, the stress and trauma caused by my previous infidelity and the stagnancy of our relationship came to a head, and my partner ended our relationship. There was nothing I could do to change the past, and she was tired of the same old story. Even though I was saddened to lose my partner, the loss of the relationship and the newfound grace I felt as a result of my new relationship with my Higher Power opened me up to the potential of making new connections and growing in my faith. I felt motivated to get back into a church community. With the recommendation of a new friend and fellow videographer, I started attending City Church, which connected me to a new group of friends and a variety of creative individuals I related to on a deeper level I had not known before. As a result, I tapped into this community to feature members for the "Follow Your Path" video series, and I had the opportunity to use my skills as a form of ministry in other church projects such as the church's children's Christmas Pageant.
THE ROAD AHEAD
In November 2017, I successfully ran my first half marathon race despite cramping feet in my new shoes. Throughout the race, I kept reminding myself of the 40 Percent Rule from U.S. Navy SEAL David Goggins: "When your mind is telling you you’re done, you’re really only 40 percent done."
Since starting Path to Life, I've learned the importance of accepting myself for where I'm at now, being grateful for what I have and what I've accomplished, and continuing to strive to be my best self. That is the best I can do, and Path to Life is my way of expressing that mindset. By putting myself out there, sharing my experiences and shining a light on other people and organizations making positive impacts in the community, I feel like I'm moving closer to my purpose.
I plan to keep running, creating, and being the best version of myself possible, and I plan to continue to align the Path to Life brand with others that have a similar mindset and mission. I plan to expand our creative content into other mediums and platforms so that our tribe can grow and thrive in order to make positive changes in the world and in our lives.