We had the good fortune of connecting with Alexander Mel Estrella Catedral and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alexander Mel Estrella, have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
How do I know when to keep going or to give up? Let’s just say I have a “give up” song I wrote, that I sing at the top of my lungs at least once a week. “It’s my give up day, it feels like everyday, but more like once a week, but this one’s a (insert the day).” To be frank, (I guess he’s a blunt guy) I want to give up almost all of the time for the past 12 years, or at least I “feel” that way. When I was younger I used to thrive and persevere with this belief and ideology that everyone gives up right before they are about to succeed and if everyone just kept going, their dreams would eventually happen for them.
I’m reminded of this image of two men digging a tunnel underground towards an endless supply of diamonds. In one tunnel, a younger man is further behind but relentlessly creating the tunnel towards the diamonds with his pickaxe. The older man below has his head down, turned back in the direction he came from with his pickaxe on his shoulder. Meanwhile, behind him was a thin layer of dirt that separated him from the diamonds. This powerful image shows that if he just tried one more time, he would’ve reached the diamonds.
This alone suggests a lot of different assumptions about success, life, goals, perspectives, societal norms, dreams, etc.. A lot of which I bought into, but without diving into all of it, I’ll touch on where it leaves me now.
Being a first time dad to my now 6 month old son, Aeson, and being newly married about a year and a half ago, a lot of things changed for me. The question no longer is when to give up or when to keep going, but more of what’s most important to me? What am I willing to give up “for now” or “forever” and what can I keep going after? Something always has to give in order to achieve what you’re going after. Dreams and goals evolve and grow as we do, as they should. The unrealistic piece of the “digging miners” image described above is one, the assumption that we’re all longing for wealth/success/fame/etc.. And two, the idea that going all that way is a waste unless you find the room full of diamonds. There is no timeline on our personal journey’s nor is everyone’s journey the same.
I think life and it’s finality has led me to, one, deconstruct the old mindset of “success” and dreams, and two, it’s forced me to challenge what I think is most important. Life has become more about pivots rather than “giving up” or “keep on going”. I am continuously discovering what I am willing to give up and what I am not willing to give up, and that means I always keep going.
It’s more about valuing the clothes on my back, the pickaxe I have to dig with, the ability to keep digging and honestly the ones I get to dig with. All of that means more to me than the goal I reached because there will always be another one. Satisfaction comes in the journey and the process, not the destination. (Obviously the reward is nice and satisfying, but that’s not everything.)
Sometimes a pivot looks like digging upwards and making the path easier for the ones coming next. Instead of turning around, a pivot could look like sitting and resting. In the end, you both could enjoy the diamonds. But the “diamond in the rough” is always you, and you’ll find it’s more rewarding to help someone else, rather than achieve something for yourself. I think when I reach that level of satisfaction, then I’ve truly made it. My life can then be about how I can help others get there and how they do it for others after them.
So, how do I know when to give up or keep going? Well, you always keep going, but also try to be open to changing and pivoting. Giving up is no more about questioning whether you should keep going or not, but more so about whether or not this is the right direction for who you are becoming and who you want to be.
In the end, I’m worth it all, you’re worth it all, your neighbor is worth it all, and that belief alone is enough to keep you going towards whatever you seek. If there is anything to give up, it’s the things that are hurting others.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a Filmmaker, Photographer, and Rap Artist. I’ve had my own business doing video and photography solo for 10 years now, and my biggest take away from it all is I don’t want to do it alone. Relationships are at the core of my values and creativity is my life. I wanted to see those two married, and that’s when “Catedral Collective” was born.
I think what I am most proud of with Catedral Collective is what sets us apart, the relationships. The relationships that I’ve formed through the years and the diversity of each connection, it’s the collective. The more I created and collaborated with each person, the more I learned and the more I began to see a new and different perspective. It helped me appreciate others and their stories, but also helped me appreciate mine. It gave me a stronger sense of valuing stories, especially my own. In return it taught me how to hold and value others’ stories with the same importance and authenticity. The diversity in voices, and the ability to cherish and tell others’ stories is the game changer in my opinion. Empathy changes things.
Catedral Collective is a group of individuals that have a passion to create authentic, genuine, and beautiful art with a vision to build a business that creates a community. One that serves and shapes the culture and communities around us, while building meaningful relationships.
Right now, it looks more like a video production company that serves apparel companies and small businesses through creating engaging video ads and compelling images to help boost their sales. The mission is to help artists and entrepreneurs believe that what they create is worth it, help them make a living from it, and prioritize using it to serve our communities to see them succeed. We want to see the businesses we help win, the communities around them win, and we want to see the artist win too!
We’ve worked with fortune 500 companies, fashion brands, universities, presidential campaigns, small businesses, documentaries, and everything in between. We’ve filmed, directed, and edited hundreds of pieces of video content that has generated hundreds of thousands of video views and dollars.
We love what we do, and moving forward we really hope to focus on more apparel companies, brands, and documentary work!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Man, if you asked me this a year ago, it would be a different story, but with having a little baby things are so different.
First, you gotta have a Filiberto’s Breakfast Burrito, for lunch get some brisket from Lil Miss BBQ, and dinner go to True Food (for all of my food sensitive foodies). Grab some Filipino Inspired Desserts from Desserts RN, and then I would take them to a Bboy jam here in AZ. Probably have them see FTL get down, or take them to Studance Lab owned by the epic Bonita and Gabe to see Blessed Fresh kill it.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Man… (don’t get me wrong, I work hard) but I am not who I am without my community, my family, and my people.
I want to start by shouting out my incredible wife! If it weren’t for her unwavering belief in me, I wouldn’t be able to be where I am today. Every “give-up” day I have, every long day/night/weekend, and every emotional breakdown I have, she stands beside me and reminds me who I am, and why I am doing it. She sees all the gross and messy stuff, and still loves and cheers me on. She also will be quick to call me out, fix a grammatical error, and catch all the details I miss. But, most importantly she’s the best mom to our 6 month old little baby Aeson Alexander James Catedral, and for that alone she deserves a shout out! I love you Deario!
I have to shout out my older brother Carl Catedral, who is literally my hero, and who I’ve looked up to since I was a kid. I wouldn’t be who I am without him as an artist, creative, and just overall human. I love you bro.
To my parents who supported me even when it was hard to, and praying for me without ceasing. Also, for letting me use your credit points to get my first video camera and point shoot!
To Daniel, my cousin, who sees the heart in my art, and reminds me to continue to stay true to it.
To Ethan Gayongala for taking risks with me, believing in the vision, and helping make it all become a reality. You a real one bro!
To all of those homies who were there since Persevering Destiny and helping push the art and the community. Family for life.
To Ian Cardenas for never giving up on me and the dream. (Helping make merchandise a reality!)
To Justice Ott who showed me how to be a 2nd angle and let me watch him edit our first music video on Premiere.
To Brad McKoy who saw 10 years ago what I could do could actually be a business, and help me get my first job. To All of AOX for showing love and support.
To Derek & Erin Davenport who chose to work with me for SYI at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
To Mike Weber for seeing my creativity and always being willing to partake in my wild ideas.
To Gabe Saldana for seeing something in me and wanting me to have something for myself and helping me achieve it.
To all of the Jubilee fellowship of 2016! Y’all are such an inspiration! I love y’all!
To all my family and friends who keep showing love and encouraging me.
To SeungJin Shin who sold me my first DSLR camera in 2008 and hooked me up with a killer deal that got me started on my journey.
The ones who inspire me and the ones I’ve watched pursue and shape the art and culture around me. (John Filoteo, Dillon le, Paul Sun, Caleb Barclay, Bill Taggart, Corey Hour, Julian Andre, Lydia Catedral, Gwen Catedral, Larry Madrigal, Drew, Sentrock, David Wade, Jared Crouse, Michael Giffone, NVWLS, Jen Bascon, Darre’el Caldwell, and the list goes on and on. )
Lastly, to the book Icarus Deception by Seth Godin, that helped validate and give language to how I’ve always seen creativity.
Art is anything that connects us to another person. I am so thankful for each of these people named and unnamed that have contributed to my journey, and have created the truest meaning of art. Connection. I am so glad that at one point in life we shared a meaningful one!
Other: email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Catedral Collective, Ethan Gayongala, Justine Grace, and Katie Catedral