Growing up, I believed anything I could dream, I could do. And for the most part, that philosophy proved true throughout high school. By the time senior year rolled around, I was already a paid writer for a weekly magazine, served as co-editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, acted in school productions, started at third base on the varsity baseball team and served as co-captain of the fencing squad. I even captained our unofficial, official roller hockey team and won lots of school awards along the way. Yeah, I was that awesome. I had a little bit of pep to my step and swagger as I roamed the halls. That was unless there was a cute girl around me and then I just stared and didn’t know how to act. (You can’t have it all at once, you know? That would just be unfair to everyone else.)
Success, so to speak, followed me into college. I lost my virginity (great success!) worked as the co-sports editor of our college paper, hosted a sports television show on the Emerson Channel, co-hosted a sports talk radio show, played defense on the club ice hockey team, joined a fraternity and became the social chair, and learned how to lift weights.
Then I turned the legal drinking age, saw the musical that I co-wrote with my former high school English teacher produced and performed at the Toronto Fringe Festival, and lived in Beijing and reported on the 2008 Olympics for the Olympic News Service. I graduated from college a semester early in December 2008 and went from The Great Wall to The Great Fall in my parent’s basement on Long Island. What I didn’t see coming was adversity and the recession that occurred right when I eagerly entered the work force. I felt helpless before my college degree arrived in the mail to my childhood home a few weeks later.
The unemployment numbers between 2008-2009 were off the charts. I applied for many on-air sports reporting jobs before I actually landed one in Casper, Wyoming. People all around me were losing jobs and weren’t able to get re-hired. Here I was with an offer. I first accepted, feeling the urge, the need to take any job I could land. Then I called the news director back and said I declined. He thanked me for calling, accepted my resignation, and hung up.
What did I do? I just gave up on my dream. And I didn’t have any other leads.
So I continued to apply for jobs in other markets, only to find little-to-no luck with landing a position. Weeks turned into months and I tried my best to avoid King Kullen, our local grocery store. I’d always run into my neighbors or parents of high school classmates. They all wanted to know the same thing: what are you doing for work? Everyone asked. And they all offered their opinions and advice, unwanted, of course. And it usually led to, “I know this person. Maybe they’ll be able to help you out.” Then I’d either never hear from them or I’d get in touch with the person who was recommended to me, only for them to wonder who I was and who the person who recommended me was.
This left me perplexed and led to odd jobs as a roadie for wedding bands, a freelance love and sex writer, and a jack of all trades, master of none for a sports start up company that eventually let me go when the site made no money at all. Instead of enjoying being young and lost, I hated it. I was a failure – a 22-year-old, 23-year-old, 24-year-old failure. The worst.
And then I received a job offer to work in sales for a wedding dance band agency, which my dad co-owned. Only he didn’t offer me the job. The sales manager of the company asked if I’d be interested. So, I came in, interviewed with her and one of my dad’s business partners, and was given the position. My colleagues and superiors were incredibly kind and taught me a life skill: how to sell.
I learned different sales techniques, was nurtured, and made pretty good money. I enjoyed being able to put the musicians, who I had become close with as a roadie, to work. I controlled people’s livelihoods and provided the best service I could to our clients. With my success, the musicians would be able to provide for their families and the brides and grooms would have one of the best moments of their lives filled with lots and lots of dancing.
With failure not an option, I took the job extremely seriously and put all of my energy toward it, even though, technically, I was only a part-time employee. Work is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year in today’s climate whether you want it to be or not. The clients had questions on Christmas, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, my birthday, you know – all of the most important days, because why wouldn’t they have questions? For most brides and grooms, it’s the first time they’ve ever been and will ever (hopefully) be married.
I had consistency in my life during this point and a steady paycheck. Why didn’t I feel fulfilled? My inner voice would tell me to write. To create. And I’d listen, but not follow through. I’d always find a way to negate the thoughts. Just what the world needs – another white sports anchor, another 20-something writer complaining about this or that, another stand up comedian, and no matter what I wanted to do, I’d tell myself the world didn’t need me to do that, except selling musical acts for weddings. I protected my current job, even though I didn’t want to do it any longer.
I had one thing and one thing only on my mind: money. It was always money. But I also knew that money would come and go, but it didn’t stop me from thinking about it. I’m not saying you don’t need money to live because you most certainly do. My problem, however, stemmed from the fact that I made money the priority in my life instead of my wants, dreams, and big picture plans.
Eventually, my desire to write and create became more powerful than my reasoning not to do it. After months and months of telling myself I’d quit my job, I actually did. And my fear of leaving my dad’s company in the lurch proved to be a non-issue. I was treated extremely well during my departure with an outpouring of love and support. When I told one of the owners that I was leaving the company to write he said, “Hey, I want the best for you. I knew this business wasn’t your first love, but thanks for your hard work.” I was now able to move forward.
A month later, I packed up my belongings, or whatever would fit into my 2007 Jeep Liberty and drove across the country until I reached my destination in sunny Los Angeles, California. Along the way, I caught up with old friends, made new ones (including a guy who has the same exact first, middle, and last name as me) and fulfilled a childhood dream to explore America.
What have I learned from these experiences over the past few years? If you have a vision for your life, don’t ignore it. It won’t just up and leave you alone. The voice will pester you until you accept. And a magical thing happens when you allow yourself to follow in the direction you want to go. You realize you will actually arrive. It then becomes a matter of planning, commitment, and a constant reminder that it’s okay to bend, but not break.
So, I ask you, what’s holding you back? Don’t let it any longer…