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Looking back on a dark moment that led to a new light

My longtime readers recognize the term, “curveballs”, that’s sporadically used throughout my blog posts; in regards to unexpected moments in life that can be good or bad. They may know what I’m about to talk about in this post, given the title, and recall that day one year ago. But for my new readers who found Novatourist, instead of the then-Tripseekers blog, allow me to tell you how it all began. . .

For The Love of the Game

I wasn’t always in shape, in fact, from around 5 years old to 23 years old I was quite the hefty fella. But ask anyone who met me after college, and they’d tell you they wouldn’t believe it. My high school friends know, though, and were amazed by the sudden and quiet transformation that they had no idea was happening. No, there was no surgery, we simply didn’t hang out in months and by the time they saw me again, they were shocked to see a whole new me. But not everything was new since high school; where my love of sports really grew. My interest in sports maintained through all the years, as I had hopes of playing it in college. As a kid, I saw one university – about an hour away from me – win the biggest college football championship of the season. I couldn’t help but think how cool it was a team won that was close to me and represented this state. Ever since then, I wanted to attend that school as a student and join the sports teams. That, of course, did not happen.

Family pressures, tuition, and the cost of moving away led me to attending college here in my hometown. I didn’t have a say, then, about where I wanted to go. However, my school spirit still entailed that other university; even if I also supported the school I went to. This soon led to the grad school I went to, as well. The opportunity to play for a university was over, by the time I graduated with my Master’s, but I knew there was still a chance to be a part of that school one hour away; get a job there.

Remember, I’m someone with multiple goals and dreams, there was never one true desire I wanted to do with my life; besides travel, of course. However, I know I can’t accomplish all my dreams at the same time. I could try, but it’d be such a huge mess. So when it comes to dreams, I try to focus on one, or a few, at a time. After I graduated with my Master’s, I took chemistry courses to see if I could get into medical school before focusing on the Master’s path. It didn’t work, so I knew that dream was not ideal for me, but at least I knew now. So I had a job in mind, that I felt would be a fun one to do for a long time if I got it there. I’ve been working in higher education settings ever since I was 18 years old. I grew into loving it, because universities here in the U.S. are like small towns within a city. All the different events, opportunities and people you come across is incredible! I just didn’t realize how long it would take to get into the university I wanted to go to.

I graduated on my birthday, back in December of 2017, however it would be a year and a half until I finally broke through and got my first full-time job ever. Could I have taken other opportunities? Sure, there were plenty of interviews during that time, but my eyes were set on both that job-site and jobs related to the one I considered. If the latter came up elsewhere, I would’ve taken it. Some of you may recall that I was applying to jobs all over: Australia, UK, Seattle, Colorado, New York, Florida, Texas, and (of course) Chicago. But finally, I had two separate interviews at the university I wanted to attend as a student. One of them was actually a second chance interview, because I interviewed with them before but was rejected. I did not get that job a second time, although it was sort of sweet seeing their facial expressions upon discovering I ended up getting a job there. The other interview was the one that was three parts in one sit-down. I felt really good about that, and soon I would get that call from the director saying I got the job.

The thrill of finally gaining admittance to that school was unbelievable, but I had to reign it in because I only had two weeks to find a place to live in a city that I never really explored before. Unbelievably, I found a great spot on what was apparently the “rich side” of town, and was ready for my first day at my new job. Naturally, I got a little lost trying to find my way around such a big campus but I got there in time. However, the first sign that trouble was coming appeared within the first 20 minutes on my first day; the director that chose and hired me was no longer working there.

Fitting in a Weird City

I was only given one side of the story, but the way it was painted to me was that the director was not doing his job well. However, the ones taking over had big orders on their plate, and placed big expectations on mine. Living alone in a new city was no big deal for me, I actually liked it besides my neighbor making noises upstairs, and learning my way around campus got a bit easier. There was a Target, and grocery store, about two minutes from my apartment which was heaven; you have no idea. It was more about getting to know people in the city and around the workplace that was tougher than I had anticipated. While all of my coworkers were nice to me, I quickly realized that I would have to break through the cliques that existed in this department. As much as I tried, it wasn’t easy to do. Combine that with the pressures of learning the position in, basically, a month and a half and my time there was beginning to go from excitement to stressful. And my friends and family could see that in me; primarily because of the insomnia.

Ah, those long nights of not being able to sleep, I still remember those nights wishing I had a hammock to lay in out on the deck. I eventually got one, and wanted to relax in it during a rainy afternoon. But I spent most nights in my apartment, studying materials for work, trying to get better. To those who haven’t read my posts during my time up there, I worked my butt off to be great at this job. I went above and beyond, taking on presentations and joining different committees. I was actually excited, and nervous, to be instantly named Co-Chair of the Fiesta Committee. It was not so much about parties, that was the Fun Committee I was in, but more so about fundraising money through auctions. That experience was brief, but we’ll get to the reason why. I wanted to explore the city that promotes it’s weirdness and diversity, but I was so focused on trying to get better so that I fitted in with this department. The irony. But the city is also known for it’s concerts, which I love going to, and even those I was unable to attend although I really wanted to go to a few special ones; including one featuring Lauren Daigle.

I would eventually put two-and-two together, along with my former director from my last job telling me the same, that I likely wasn’t my supervisor’s top choice for the position. She would go on to hire the person she wanted, in a slightly higher position, around November. By then, I was starting to feel a little better about my knowledge of what I had to do but, for every area I improved on, my supervisor would mention another to improve that I was told was good before. Frustration set in, because I felt I was spending so much time trying to get better that I couldn’t relax and enjoy my supposed new home away from home. I also had other issues, including my car dying in a scenario that could’ve ended up with me getting killed or seriously injured. But speaking of home, not all was well as my dad was not feeling good. My mom eventually told me that he would require surgery, because the doctors found a growth inside of him. They wanted to remove it to see if it was cancerous. I’ll say it now that it was not cancer, but the surgery was set for December 17th. . . my birthday.

So as December rolled along, I still felt the stress of the job, of my dad’s surgery, and the frustration of not making any new friends since I moved up there. I kept telling my friends and family, back home, that I felt something bad was going to happen. Like in a scary movie, they would be the ignorant ones saying “No, no you’re crazy that’ll never happen!”. I was starting to believe them, because in December I truly felt like I was making great strides in my work and got closer with my coworkers. Even at the Christmas parties, I was able to make a new friend (who loved Harry Potter and trivia nights) and he asked for my number saying we’d hang out. What really had me believing was in a weekly meeting, my supervisor talked about next semester and how I would go solo and get my own day to have quick sessions with students. In my one-on-one meeting with the supervisor, I expressed gratitude and excitement of surviving this first semester. Also, how I was able to make new friends from the Christmas parties to hang out with, and that I felt really good about my performance as we headed towards Christmas break. I even mentioned my dad’s surgery, and how it would be a tough birthday with my mind being elsewhere. However, I had my Christmas gifts ready to give to the children’s hospital on December 16th, and I was prepared for a small birthday party there at work the next day so it wouldn’t be too bad. I had that discussion with my supervisor on Friday, December 13th.

On Monday, December 16th, it was oddly quiet that morning. I arrived early as usual to my office and, oddly, it was a quiet morning. I did not see any coworkers walk by my door to go to the kitchen to put their lunches in the fridge. I paid no attention, as I continued my studying for the day. All of a sudden, a stranger knocked on my door stating they were from HR. As much as I didn’t want to believe it, my fear came true: I was being terminated from my job. The day I was supposed to give children their Christmas gifts at the hospital. The day before my dad’s surgery to see if he had cancer. The day before my birthday. I walked back to my car, with my box of things, and called my friends and family for advice. Then, I headed home. I listened to Lauren Daigle’s song “You Say for comfort. Ironically, that day was a cold and rainy day, and I couldn’t relax in my hammock.

Coping, Acceptance & 2020 Vision

Jumping ahead a little bit, past the struggles of moving everything back home, I was trying to cope with losing my job; my first ever full-time job. For someone who’s been a student with good grades, good reviews in past jobs and internships, it was disbelief to be told you’re not good at this job. So it was a rough Winter holidays, heading into 2020, hoping it would be a better year. If only I knew. As I said, I like to try something once before giving up on an apparent dream. While this job ended up being a failure, I didn’t want to let one bad experience sour an entire profession. But at the same time, it allowed me to consider other doors that I may not have looked at initially. Even though I’ve been blogging for over three years, it wasn’t until this time in my life that people were saying I should pursue writing. I blogged, and I have book ideas waiting to be brought to life, but I never thought about making it into a job. More researching led into the advertising world, including copywriting, and if there was one big thing I learned at my last job was that it’s all about relevant experience. Once you get your foot in the door of something, then you have the opportunity to move up in that world.

And I found a chance when I began writing for a local newspaper here in town. I became Clark Kent. An unpaid internship would be the next chapter of my life, but it had its good moments and fun opportunities to learn new things. My coworkers and supervisor were so chill and funny. But while I added new experiences and skills to my resume, I was still focused on what my next job would be. I applied once more around different places, and had a few interviews. Then word about a virus spreading took over and, before we knew it, the world had shut down.

Many of you know, and relate, to life stuck at home and not being able to do the things we loved to do before. Interviews were postponed or cancelled, jobs were no longer posted, and I even lost a verbal offer on the table. The last one hurt, especially in the economy we are in. Another frustration that made me go to my lake more often to run and clear my head. I was wondering when good luck would come my way. I had to postpone my desire to travel, ever since last Christmas, to who knows when. I began to think if I was on the right path or not. But early Summer, I began to just let it go and think ahead like I tend to do at possibilities. And that mantra of following dreams and doing things before it’s too late came back in. I started to envision a future of all the different options that I actually had open to me, because of my experiences and skillsets. I just needed to finally believe in myself to take that leap of faith.

Finally Becoming a Tourist

You may have noticed no names were given of people or places from that job experience, because I truly don’t speak with hatred or ill-will towards that time. I still love and support the university, and it was just one bad experience. This is all just a story, my story, that shaped and guided my life to where we are now. Today is December 16th, again, in the year 2020. A full year after one of the worst times of my life when everything came crashing down that spanned months of stress, sleepless nights, and no social life at all. A lot has changed in my life, and across the globe.

I finally got a job, still in higher education, that actually involves another area of interest I once pursued. My current supervisor is actually pretty awesome, and we get along amazingly. While my other supervisors from the past, before the one in the other city, were special in their own way, they don’t have the silliness and sass that this current one has. It’ll be interesting to see where this job goes from here, but it’s nice to have my supervisor’s support not just in this role but beyond that. As I said, there’s different options that have always been there for me, but it’s only now that I’m finally taking those shots. You already know most of them including: podcasting, travel series, developing an app, writing books, and (of course) building this blog’s brand. Yes, I’m aware the time management is a work in progress, like getting that podcast up and running, but the fact that we are now in the doorway is a big step. Because in my early days of blogging, we were looking at the door from afar, wondering if we’d ever go through. Well, folks, the door is right around us and had it not been for this virus, we may have had ourselves an adventure sooner, rather than later. I’m curious to see how things will be in another year from this December 16th.

But it’s all part of the story that we write, and I like to think of those who take their own chances; like opening their own business or creating their own product. If you want to go to great places you have to be willing to go the great lengths to get there. That is how some of the recognized ones get to where they are, and where I hope to be one day. In a way, I’m grateful for what happened last year. It wasn’t pleasant at the time, but it helped me discover a path I feel is more proper for me; something I should’ve done long ago. I always was late to the party in life. Speaking of, tomorrow is my birthday and, like usual, I anticipate it being quiet like I prefer. It’ll definitely be better than last year, at least. Then, before we know it, 2021 will arrive and hopefully it’s a whole lot better than this year was. If there’s one bright spot out of it, it’s that it allowed many of us to look within and evaluate where we are in life. You just saw one year of my life in a nutshell, however that dark period most of the time led to an enlightening one as we approach the end of the year. And like a tourist, I now have the opportunity to explore areas I didn’t focus too much on before. I don’t know where any of this will lead, but you’ll be a part of it like always. And if you’re going through similar struggles, hang in there because soon something will turn up; even if unexpected. It’s been a hard road for many of us, these past 12 months, but it made us stronger and helped lead to revelations that might guide us to a more fulfilling life. And if you haven’t taken your leap of faith, then 2021 will be a good time to do so as the world (hopefully) returns to normal. No matter what we go through, it’s all a part of the story, so do your best and go the great lengths to write yourself a good ending. . .

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