Well pounded with progress.
That would be the best way to describe the past three years [2016 - 2019] for me.
There were downs: pain, loneliness, negative thinking, and tears.
And there were ups: pleasure, connection, positive thinking, and laughter.
That’s life, right?
Fluctuations between the ups and downs, between “too much” and “too little”, between “damn, it feels good to be me” and “why me?”.
These fluctuations are natural, but the cool thing about the past three years is that the ups were more pronounced and longer lasting than the downs.
It’s worth sharing if there might be some golden nuggets in there, right?
That’s where this comes from.
Sharing my story so that others might be able to take and learn from it.
This is part I of a VI part The Past Three Years [TPTY] series. They’ll be released once a week …
Here’s what I’ve done and learned these past three years.
I hope you enjoy!
I returned from my last “jaunt” with a simple list: get a car, get a job, and move out. I’d come home, via a camping and hiking trip with a couple friends in CO and UT, by way of Missoula MT.
I’d called Missoula home for four months. Prior to which I’d spent six weeks in Costa Rica.
Upon leaving Costa Rica, I put my next “home” to a vote. On top of my little website, I’d maintained an email list of readers and family friends. This little group decided between Missoula MT, Salt Lake City UT, and Minneapolis MN for my next living place. Missoula won.
Needless to say, that six month period was quite fulfilling and eye-opening. It was an accentuated sine wave - the periods of excitement were more exciting than usual (ie. cliff jumping, e-publishing, meeting very interesting people) and the periods of boredom and loneliness were also at an extreme I hadn’t felt before.
For the extent of that period I’d been by myself, living as I wanted to. I lived low cost, owned little, read and wrote (a lot), kept plans open and loose, and explored what was around me.
Being that autonomy is a major driver of mine, I loved it. I loved being in control of my time and location. I loved being able to work on what I wanted to when I wanted to. And I loved being able to read books and listen to podcasts and put the lessons right into practice.
This enthusiasm lasted into May of that year (I’d set out in January) but it was ultimately the loneliness, which comes from going out on your own and trying to do things by yourself that caused me to return to the East Coast and a more formal employer.
It was the wild experiences, deep conversations, and “challenging” perspectives that I still carry. I left this period much humbler than when I’d set out. I left this period ready to join a team and work on the team’s projects, to serve a cause and join a community greater than one.
I’d had to set out on my own to learn to better appreciate others. This all led to the main reason I returned East: family and community.
For a sense of belonging. To be a part of something larger than myself.
I’d read this book “Tribe” toward the beginning of June (of 2016) and it really struck a chord. It perfectly encapsulated all the conversations and experiences I’d had out in the big, bad world the past six months, with the main takeaway being that we’re all looking for a sense of belonging.
We all want to be loved. We all want to feel special. We all want assurance.
We all crave community.
It so perfectly smacked me between my eyes that within a month I was back in New Jersey.
I’d begun listening to conversations with this author (Sebastian Junger) shortly thereafter and his perspective largely planted the seeds of my wanting to explore the construction industry.
Why? Because construction work is hard and construction crews work together toward a common goal, through whatever elements or obstacles obstruct their path. All the while, maintaining a sense of team spirit and a healthy sense of humor.
Fast forward to my stepping off the plane (back in New Jersey) and I had a very simple three point checklist in mind:
Get a car.
Get a job.
I’d spent the last six months without a car, walking and using public transportation to get around, and while this in and of itself was incredibly simple and liberating in ways, I wanted to be able to roam further , and to do this you need a car.
The “get a job” point stemmed from a few simple drivers: I wanted to start making real $ again (I never made more than $100/mo from self-publishing), and join a team working toward a common goal. I had the idea of it being geared toward construction but no specifics.
The “move out” point stemmed from the fact that my last 6 months of extreme autonomy had made me appreciate certain aspects of doing things out on my own, and I didn’t want to move home “indefinitely”.
Within a week I was looking at old Ford Escapes for ~$5k. Being that I’d lived very low cost over the course of the past six months (since leaving my job), most of my savings was intact. I was looking at 2001-2005 models with under 100k miles on them and ended up getting a green beauty.
Within a day of driving the car from the lot, the engine blew on the highway. It could have been really bad but I was fortunate that I was able to get to the side of the road while my exhaust was pluming black smoke.
We had the car brought to our family’s mechanic and he deemed that the engine would need to be replaced (expensive …) so I pushed back on the car dealer to do it since he had sold it to me just the day prior. It took them almost a month, and quite a bit of pressure (some of it creative thanks to my Dad) but in early - mid August I got my baby back.
At the same time I was looking at cars, I was applying to jobs in the NYC area. My experience in the Utility industry led me to focus more on Power related jobs, and for about a week I was trekking to the local library / coffee shop and firing off 10+ applications a day while reaching out to past contacts and accepting advice from friends.
Between the end of that first week and start of the second week, a family friend who I’d interned for asked me to come in to discuss an opportunity …
We sat down and chatted about the prospect of my on-boarding to help manage a construction project they were preparing for (in Mississippi). My office pay would be less than I had made at the Utility but my field pay would be better (plus expenses would be covered). On top of the pay and the fact that it was in the construction industry, the project was to last ~4mos, so I would get to sample living in different parts of the US.
I couldn’t have dreamt up a better fit, so I accepted.
I started the following week, and while I was on-boarding with a degree in Electrical Engineering and some Utility experience, I was still pretty damn green.
What made up for it, at the start, was my willingness to jump in to new things and ask the “dumb questions” so that I wouldn’t carry them with me.
Sooo … I got a car and a job within two weeks of returning. Not bad! But what about moving out?
It was July of 2016. The project was scheduled to kick off in September. Being that it was only a two month period, I decided not to push the issue and stayed home. Over the course of the next couple months our project’s start date was rolled into November, so my stay home would actually be about four months but this time around it was nice.
Where I had lived home before, just after graduation, and been nit-picky / unhappy about the situation (rather than thankful that I was saving on rent etc.), this time I enjoyed it more. I enjoyed having meals with family, talking through work and “growing up”, and re-establishing a routine.
While I did get very involved in the preparation for our project, including the pursuit of a contractor’s license, I also had time outside of work. I got re-involved in the community I’d begun to stray from, by helping out at camps, attending events, and planning get togethers with friends.
It was with a newfound vigor and appreciation that I jumped back in. The return from adventuring alone to community, brought with it a fresh, grateful, “Aaand we’re back!” feeling.
“TPTY I: From Jaunt to Jersey to Job” covers July - November of 2016.
“TPTY II: Work, Work, Working Across the Southeast” will come out next Tuesday [October 1st]!
Stay tuned and feel free to comment, question, or otherwise drop a line.