Monday, May 22, 2017

Life's Next Chapter Begins

Greetings, hello and howdy all- It's been quite a long time since I've posted anything on my blog so I wanted to put together a post updating you all on what's been going on in my life.

First thing, I moved! I'm now living in an apartment (with an abundance of hardwood floors) in a neighborhood north of downtown Milwaukee called Shorewood. After living in rural Ozaukee county for a few years, it was about time to move down to the city to be closer to my best friends, family, hobbies and just that 414 life I miss. And to my benefit, my apartment is within a quick walk of two beer gardens, a great county park and the Oak Leaf Trail which I can't wait to start biking and (err) running on. I'm about 99% moved-in and unpacked and finally have working internet. Time to get some trips planned out pronto, I've been slacking. Fun fact. the storage unit in my apartment is monstrous, therefore I don't need to feel guilty about accumulating more outdoor gear. Second and probably the most exciting news is that I'm starting a new job! I recently accepted an offer for a journalism job at a magazine. Starting June 5, I'll be the Assistant Editor at Scale Auto Magazine, a super-cool publication that covers all things model and die-cast cars. I've been aching to get back into a career that allows me to use my college degree everyday. Now that's going to happen and I am so, so stoked. The third great thing is that my mother just finished her last chemotherapy treatment which marks the end of her second fight with breast cancer! I'm so proud of my mom for again being such a strong person through these past few months. It hasn't been easy on her or our family but we pulled together and she finished like a champion. And when big life changes happen, I like to reflect and write about them.

Let's talk about Steve. So when I interviewed for this magazine job, one of the questions I got asked was "Tell me about the best boss you've ever had and why?" Honestly, I knew instantly who I was going to talk about- Steve . Here's why. When I decided to jump and take a seasonal job out in Colorado for six months, I was nervous, unsure but also excited. I was literally breaking out of my comfort zone, 100%. I was ready for a fresh start and fresh challenges. When I arrived at YMCA of the Rockies, Snow Mountain Ranch in the town of Granby home to 1,808 I was given the opportunity to work on the Y's dogsledding team, under the direction of head musher and Chaplin, Steve Peterson. True, I was terrified of dogs up until October 2014 when I unloaded my station wagon and moved into the Fraser Valley for this job...but something nudged me that I had to give this a shot. That's when I met Steve and his nineteen Alaskan huskies. Steve is one of the hardest-working, most dedicated and compassionate people I have ever met. In between wrangling a dogsledding team, all the religious-based programming and services at our YMC and his own growing family, Steve keeps his head held high. I've seen him straight-exhausted, stressed, tired and angry- but I've never seen him shy away from being compassionate towards one in times of need. Whether it be a phone call, quick talk over chili and beer or inviting me over to him and his wife's log cabin for a home-cooked meal. Steve always, always makes himself for other people. He listens, counsels, strengthens and brings calm when it's needed. He taught me the importance of teamwork, patience and trust. He taught me the importance of having a faith and maintaining it. I owe so much to Steve, who has not just inspired me but helped push me through many quests and challenges in both my personal and professional paths of life. It's an upmost honor to call Steve a close-friend. Yes, that's a true Colorado bluebird sky you see when you're living at 8,000ft of elevation.... and yes I'm that tan.

I'm glad I rolled the dice in my twenties. Okay, so I'm twenty-seven and my twenties are still far from being over...but now that I'm returning to an actual adult career life, I'm reflecting back on the past few years and the choices I've made. My littlest brother Jamie, graduated from University of Wisconsin- Madison with a journalism degree last weekend. His commencement speaker? Legendary comedy writer and winner of nine Emmy awards, Steven Levitan who stressed the importance of 'rolling the dice in your twenties' to a crowd of 7,000 graduates. I blogged awhile back about chasing passion versus a salary, where I discussed how I gave up a pretty good, well-paying, white-collar office job in Chicago to follow my passion for outdoors. For almost three years, I worked at different seasonal, contracted jobs teaching outdoor education at YMCAs or diving head-first into the outdoor recreation field on the government side at our state parks. There were some awesome memories and I'm beyond grateful I got to do things I never would have pictured myself doing back in May 2012 when I walked across the stage in a maroon robe to collect my Advertising and Public Relations degree. Sure my yearly pay depressingly dropped to a crazy low but gosh I had fun and had so much time to figure out what I want in life, what I want to do and what I need to do differently. I had no real strings attached. I could bounce around from seasonal job to seasonal job, living out of my station wagon as I learned new things and met tons of new people. It was fun wearing flannel shirts, steel-toed boots, harnessing huskies in the Colorado mountains, teaching pond science to groups of elementary school kids, eating gross and questionable cafeteria food and living for dirt cheap in community housing. I'm glad I had the chance to try out living and working the seasonal jobs lifestyle. It was so much fun and a chapter of self-discovery that I really needed after getting burnt out from my first job post-college. That first corporate-y job ruined my taste for getting another office gig, but I needed to give it another fair shot down the road. I knew at some point, I had to get back into the real world. I was tired of busting my butt off, making only $9.45 per hour and having to worry every six-months if my contract would be renewed. It's fun working in parks and recreation but when the state pays you less than what one could make hourly at a fast food joint or as a grocery store bagger, it's a huge, comical slap in the face. Especially when you're put in charge of managing all of a state park's accounting and financing yet the second you go into overtime- you're at risk of being terminated. But this past fall, I felt like I hit a plateau...and it was a long, long, long plateau. It was like, boom, as soon as I returned from Iceland I had a wake-up call and realized I needed to make some big, big, big changes in my life ASAP.

I consistently set very high standards for myself and if I'm not meeting them, I have to move. For months, I felt as if I was foolishly wasting my time, not bettering myself professionally, not challenging myself. Life was 'too' easy. It was discouraging and my motivation was plummeting, affecting other parts of my life outside of work. You should never compare yourself to your best friends but at times it's very hard not to. But after a while, I realized this wasn't a comparison, rather encouragement to step it up. Seeing some of the closest people in my life rise to the top professionally and personally gave me that fuel and drive to do the same. I had to catch up. Had to. Not for their sake or approval, but for my own self. I needed to be proud again of who I am and constantly have pride for what I do everyday, on- and off-the-clock. That's why I knew deep down that I needed to get back into a career field that I know and one I'm really good at. So I started applying to various marketing, advertising, public relations and journalism jobs. Those are all things I went to school for and proudly earned a degree in. I remember in all the classes I took in the School of Communication at Loyola just killing it. Acing projects, papers and exams. Even after college and in my first journalism job... that skillset, knowledge and experience put me at my peak performance and I've been craving to get back into that 'young professional' lifestyle ever since. I'm not ashamed, nor embarrassed for taking a few years off from a 'real' career. Yeah, I tried out a different career path for a while, thinking it would build me up and help me shine in a different spotlight but realistically that wasn't the case. I wasn't meeting my standards for personal growth and it was driving me absolutely nuts. But I credit that risky life-move if anything, because it helped re-direct me towards my strengths and point me in the right, best way to better myself professionally. I'm glad I just bit the bullet and decided to turn things around in a completely different path. For years, people have told me I have a gift for writing and I should make a career out of it. After blogging in Iceland and seeing how much people enjoyed reading my travelogues, it clicked that that was where I needed to land a job again- journalism. My immediate goal was to get back into a full-time journalism job in a continuous effort to become the best writer I can be. Now I have that golden opportunity. It's hard to explain fully the emotions I have about starting a new job in a career field I've missed so much and a field I'm good at. I get to write every day!!!! I'm insanely proud to be starting a job at a print magazine. I'm really, really happy to be using my Loyola degree again (it actually makes me smile when I think of it). I'm pumped to get more into photography and editing. I'm stoked to dress in business casual and have a normal work schedule with weekends off (Yes! Yes! Yes! A real social life! More travel!) I'm relieved to finally collect a paycheck that allows me to live comfortably and enjoy some of my hobbies to their finest and fullest extent.

I'm ready to own this job and be the very best I can be.

I've reached the end of that plateau. Let the climbing begin.