My junior year in college, I organized a charity event called Carnival for a Cause which benefit the National Down Syndrome Society. My older brother has Downs so the cause was easy to choose. I got help from a close friend whose younger brother also has Downs. She helped to promote the event within her sorority and they became title sponsors. #ShoutOut Alpha Phi Sorority.
Just after the second year of the event was when I found myself just a few weeks from graduation without a job. My friend and I were talking one day when I expressed my concern.
I really just wanted to work in sports. The NFL was my goal but I was willing to do anything from being a beat writer for a local paper to working with minor league affiliate teams. I even entertained a couple of high school coaching opportunities. Nothing.
“Well, my dad said he’d hire you.” My friend said.
“I figured you wouldn’t be interested,” she went on to tell me about how her father made a comment in passing about how he’d hire me after seeing me organize Carnival for a Cause in 2010. Knowing that I was set on a career in sports, she never mentioned the comment until all leads dried up.
Was this the right move? A bird in the hand, right? While I had always only seen myself in sports, this job would take me in a completely different direction. Did that mean I would get trapped in this career and never get a chance to work in sports? Should I just wait for this NFL lockout to be over?
Within a week, I had accepted a job to be apart of a sales and sales training program and I’d be living in Orlando, FL for at least the next year. The idea was that the program would teach sales skills as well as how to administer Salesforce with the goal of working remotely for the company after a year.
Just 20 days after graduation, I flew to Tampa, FL to begin my career with four grueling days of Salesforce admin training before settling in Altamonte Springs, a northern suburb of Orlando.
Training sucked. I had no idea what I was studying. I didn’t know where it started, I couldn’t see an end in sight, it was all just terrible. It would be another six months before I would actually understand the contents of my meticulous notes from that training in Tampa. However, there was a point when the lightbulb switched and I not only was able to manipulate the program but I was beginning to envision things; possibilities within the system and complex “what if” questions.
I owe most of it to my co-worker at the time, Alex. He was the only one in the office that understood the program in enough detail to break it down enough for newb creative writing majors like me to understand it. He would let me listen to client phone calls and brainstorm solutions on his whiteboard. It was just the helping hand and vote of confidence that I needed. It wasn’t a relationship that I was seeking, necessarily, but once I got it, I realized how fulfilling it was.
Once I grew comfortable with the technology and had proven my abilities to creatively manipulate it, I set my sights on Los Angeles.
As the year waned, it became increasingly apparent that I wouldn’t be moving out west, not working with this company anyway. About nine months in, I presented my boss with a proposal on what my relocation would look like and what types of accounts I could attract. It was then that I realized that I couldn’t depend on anyone else to have as much faith in me as myself. When the timeline doubled and I was looking at minimum another year in Orlando, I was lost and alone.
I considered scrapping it all, at one point. Orlando had just gotten an arena football team, I contemplated pursuing them for whatever entry level job I could find. At least I’d be back in sports, working towards what I actually wanted to be doing. But I couldn’t supplant the idea of being in Los Angeles, the center of it all.
I decided to ignore the new, significantly longer timeline and dedicate myself to going to California anyway. I had already convinced myself that I could do it in a year so to wait an extra 18 months would have felt like a failure.
I wasn’t being challenged mentally at work so I took on a writing project with my oldest brother which I spent most nights and weekends working on. The idea was to write a book but eventually film or tv show. By June we had self-published a fictional novel called “Why Tell the Truth?” and I needed to be on the west coast for the remaining steps.
I applied to dozens of jobs in California but it was like chasing a jet in snow shoes: between the relocation and my lack of relevant experience, I could never catch up. I had to consider that I was stuck at this job. Then I finally got an interview. Then another. Unfortunately my initial concerns were confirmed, most companies didn’t see a point in taking the risk on me. I just needed a chance to show what I could do.
And then I finally got one. The interview process included a quiz, of sorts, allowing me to show my skills and creativity. I completed it and waited.
I had finally landed a date on Match.com and was waiting outside the bar for this girl when I got the offer. It was the best I had felt in a year. Having no more hurdles between me and chasing my dream, I couldn’t fully conceptualize that I not only could shop my story in Hollywood but I also had the security of a decent-paying job in case it didn’t work out. Within 10 days I had packed up my Hyundai Accent with all that would fit, donated the rest, and drove blindly into the next chapter of my life.