Why I'm Creating a Roadmap for Our Worst Emotions

I’m afraid to tell this story.

It’s one I know well. But sometimes I hide stories that include my faith because I’m afraid of what you’ll think of me. Just remember that I’m not trying to preach to you. But if I’m going to tell you why I’m creating Roadmap, I have to tell it straight. So here goes.


It’s the Fall of 2015 and I’m at my parents’ house. I’ve temporarily moved back after my best friend and roommate decided he wanted to go back home. But at least not everything has changed.

I’m sitting at my desk working on an app called Roadmap -- my latest attempt to help people grow. I had always silently struggled with negative emotions. But four years ago, after my college crush crushed me, I started to write regularly. Writing helped me recognize my patterns, understand myself, and grow. I wanted to help others do the same.

So for the past year and a half, I’ve sat at a desk like this for hours each day. Sometimes it was a desk at our Austin apartment. Sometimes it was the airplane tray table on a work trip. And right now it was my wooden childhood desk.

I didn’t know that Roadmap would never work if I didn’t understand what really drove emotions. I was also embarrassed to tell people that I was working on something that still hadn’t panned out. I’d just be another “boy with an app.”

But this version, unlike the last forty nine, would be a success. It would be so cool to leave my job and work on something with purpose. It would be my life’s work. It would be who I am.

Letting Go

One Saturday, I got up to stretch after working on Roadmap. I’m now so tall that my arms touch the broken toy plane hanging from my ceiling. But before I can lie down on my bed to pray, I hear two words.

“Trust Me”

I look around. But it’s just me. And a familiar friend in His still small voice. The two words repeat. So I tell God that I do. He should know that I do.

“I want you to trust me with Roadmap”

Ok. I can take a break for today. Not a big deal. Or even for a week. That should do -- if He wants.

“No, no, no. I don’t want you to adjust your deadlines. I want you to trust me.”

I get the largest knot in my stomach when I understand what He’s actually saying. He wanted me to stop working on Roadmap indefinitely. My thoughts raced.

Please. Take anything else. I want to keep working on this. I have to. Please. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t working on something. Why was He asking me to do this? I’m so close.

So for a week, I pretended I didn’t hear anything. I prayed for a different answer. But I heard the same thing all week: silence.

After a week of running, I was tired. I keep a journal of everything good that God has done in my life. So in my desperation, I started reading.

Giving me great friends. Helping me overcome jealousy of my sister. Changing my work ethic. Granting me a college scholarship. Blessing me with a good job.

I read that list over and over trying to convince myself that He was still good. The knot loosened a bit. Finally, I decided that if He was good then maybe He was still good now.

So I let go.

The next few months were rough. Usually, I’d daydream about Roadmap at work. And then I’d spend all of my free time working on it. But now after I came home from the gym, I had seven empty hours.

That’s plenty of time to have an identity crisis and worry about who to tell this story to.

Yeah, I gave up my dream because a God that you can’t see or who you maybe don’t even believe exists told me to.

That should go over well.

But one thing was clear. Roadmap had become more than something I wanted. The stress I felt when asked to give it up was like nothing else. And that’s when I realized something.

My extreme desires drive my worst emotions.

Since I wanted Roadmap so badly, I stressed like hell when I was asked to lay it down. And if desires drove emotions on a large scale, I wondered if it was true for daily emotions too.

So every time I felt a negative emotion, I wrote down my thoughts. I found that behind every negative emotion is something I want badly. I’m either extremely afraid to lose it (see: anxiety) or extremely displeased if I don’t get it (see: anger).

But if chasing what I didn’t have fueled negative emotions, maybe remembering what I did have could help fight them.

So when I was anxious about what people thought of my ideas, I’d write about why I thought the idea was worthwhile. If I was angry about someone not being independent, I’d write about a time I’d been helped.

It still took practice. But I found that specific gratitude is the best weapon for negative emotions.

The next nine months were some of the best, most fulfilling days of my life. I still struggled with longing to work on Roadmap. But the more I remembered what I had, the more I realized that I didn’t need Roadmap to live fulfilled. That was the best feeling of all.

Roadmap to a Fulfilling Life

After a while, I did get back to working on Roadmap. But I can put it in its right place because I know it’s not everything.

That’s been the biggest lesson of my life. I often take good things and make them everything. Not only does this drive negative emotions, but I forget what I have while I’m chasing what I don’t.

So now I keep a close eye on my emotions. I constantly discern what I’m chasing and try to focus on the specific things I have. It’s a daily battle, but so far it’s helped me live a much more fulfilling life.

That’s why I’m creating Roadmap -- to help us overcome our worst emotions and live fulfilled. And I’m going to start with the emotion that I struggle with most now: social anxiety.

Every two weeks, I’ll share a Social Anxiety story from my real life, show the reflection method I use to battle negative thoughts, and give example steps I take to live fulfilled.

I hope you’ll come along for the ride!

TiOluwa Olarewaju

TiOluwa Olarewaju

I write about emotions and build tech products to help people live fulfilled. Some people call me sassy, but my friends call me T.O.
Austin, TX