Posts Tagged ‘ cars ’

Making The Distance A Little Smaller…

I have this fantasy (it’s a goal, actually) that I’m currently working toward, as I find my footing in the real estate business.

Black circles are where everyone’s from. I want us all in one place some day!

 

See, all of my family, and most of my wife’s, live in the Chicagoland area.  I’ve lived away from the Chicago area for a sum total of nearly ten years now–2 of them in college, and the past 8 for various reasons–and it has made things difficult when it comes to having access to family.  When I was living in Salina, KS during college, I couldn’t make it in for several cousins’ weddings, and one cousin’s funeral because I had no money or transportation.

Having further lived in Wichita, Tucson, and now outside DC does not make things easier.  In December of 2009, Alli and I went home for a week for Christmas.  When my Dad passed away suddenly the next month (January 2010), I dropped everything and drove home for a week.  The following month, I went home to see my brother marry the love of his life.  Three trips home in three months.  I had no paid time off built up for any of it.

The goal that I am working toward right now will be one of my life’s biggest accomplishments once it happens:  I want to get everyone I care about in one place for at least a weekend–a ski trip, or maybe a cruise.  I was thinking about what it would take to accomplish this a couple of days ago, and I didn’t realize the sheer magnitude of the number of people I would want to be there.  My extended family on both sides is enormous (I grew up with 22 aunts and uncles, each with two to four kids), and Alli’s whole family would probably be another  thirty to forty people.  But beyond that is how scattered everyone is.  I haven’t made any kind of head count yet, but I personally have family or dear friends from the states of IL, KS, AZ, OK, TX, VT, WI, VA, CO, LA and FL.  Eleven states.

It’s been my goal since I got into real estate to make enough money to fund quicker and easier access to friends and family, but it just hit me recently how cool it would be to make my wish of having everyone in the same place actually come true.

There’s one key point about this goal that will make me happy to see it all happen:  As my wife mentioned, “Well, I’m sure you’ll reach your goal if you die.”  Heh…the goal is to be alive for it the first time.  I guess she’s right, though–part of my legacy has been set in motion already, and I have no real control over it.  *wink*

And Now, For Some Clarity.

Having been on the trail lately for a job which will keep me a little closer to home, I am often asked in interviews, “OK, so…what’s your story?”  I usually explain, “Well, When I got out of high school in 2000, I went to Kansas State at Salina to learn to fly, got my Private Pilot’s License, then switched majors and moved home to go after my mechanic ratings”–at which point, I usually hear, Why?

I have several answers that I give for conversations’ sake, but the honest answer is simple:  I have no idea.  I’ve thought about the why for ten years now, and I still cannot put my finger on it.

Me and Bryan, ca. 2004-05

I guess the simple answer is that I wasn’t sure how to be a man yet, at that point.  I had all this freedom, no one to answer to, and despite being there for school, no clear goal.

When I watched the rest of my family drive off down the road that first day after they moved me down, I remember feeling a little trepidation, a little sadness, and a level of excitement and adventure I have only felt a few times in my life (one of them was my first solo).  When I met my roommate Bryan–who could have been my twin brother–I knew we would get along well, and there wasn’t a moment to waste.  We were both very outgoing–the ones with our dorm door open on move-in day, getting to know the other residents as they passed by.  We found collective ways to get involved–with student government, with our baby at the time, Phi Delta Theta, and secondarily, with our classes.

We did all the fun and dopey things you do when you are newly placed into the microcosm of a satellite college campus in the country.  We went “Puddle Jumping,” whereby you run out and jump into the biggest puddle of water you can find after a good rain, even though it was 37 degrees outside.   We piled into the back of a guy’s truck and literally chased thunderstorms, trying to get a glimpse of a real tornado after the sirens went off in town.  TOP GUN was almost never turned off the lobby TV, if it was on when you got there.  (Neither was it changed from CNN for five days after September 11 happened.)  We grinned knowingly at the Wal-Mart checkout lady as we innocently picked up some supplies from the automotive section–an oil funnel, some plastic tubing, and a shutoff valve.  I picked up smoking at eighteen, and we would spend hours–hours–at Russel’s (the restaurant/truck stop right off of I-135 on Salina’s north side) smoking, drinking coffee, and hammering out the issues at hand, whatever they were.  Many times, we’d have as many as twenty people there, and we’d end up staying through the shift change.  (It was really ignorant to do that, but I didn’t know it back then because I hadn’t had a server job yet.  We tipped as well as we could.)  We invented The Cigarette Olympics, whereby two people at ends of a long table would toss a cigarette at each other, and the goal was to catch it in your mouth.  We spent long hours talking each other through life’s biggest plans (Bryan’s island–“Hinnland”), and grandest failures (Bryan and Delton were instrumental in getting me through them at the time, as was my old friend Kevin).  Those people are still my dearest friends, even though life took us on different paths to different states.

Since KSU-Salina was an old Air Force base, whenever something big was happening, we’d filter out to the runway to see it.  My fondest memories are standing next to the runway (though it was fenced off) and watching the Navy slam their planes into the numbers in preparation for actual carrier landings, or standing literally under a B-2 Spirit at about four hundred feet as it slowly lumbered into the air on takeoff, bound for wherever in the broad daylight.  There was an old Lockheed Constellation who was a resident there–named “Connie”–and her four huge engines never left the ground in both of the years I was there.  If you Google Salina, KS and zoom in on the airport in Earth view, she’s still there on the north end of the ramp, as a matter of fact.  (You’ll also see a bunch of buildings to the right of the North/South runway; that’s the Kansas-State at Salina campus.)

"Connie" the Constellation

I had such a great time there, so why’d I move back?

Well, for one, I was slacking in school, and hadn’t yet developed a work ethic related to studying properly.  By the end of my time there, my grades had gone down hill, I was broke (aren’t we all at that age?), and I had begun to really miss the friends I left behind, and the house I grew up in.  I returned home confused, aimless, despondent, and (by my own standards) a complete failure.  It hadn’t helped much that my own Mom, to combat her feelings of embarrassment among our extended family and friends, griped that she’d “sent me down there to learn to drink and smoke.”  The worst part was that she was right, and I knew as much as anyone else did.  I was as lazy in grade school as I was in college, and I’d given up trying to impress my parents long before, but that first night I slept in my own (old) bed was a new low for me.

What I hadn’t realized at the time was that I was trying to figure out what kind of man I wanted to be.  Did I want to be like my Dad?  What felt normal?  What felt right?  What do I stand for?  What’s this politics stuff all about?  How do I feel about one night stands?  How do I feel about people who continually threaten to commit suicide when it’s so obviously for the attention?  How do I feel about a friend getting an abortion?  How do I feel about driving drunk, or being around those who do?  How do I feel about drugs?  How do I feel about a friend being a closet alcoholic?  I had a relatively uneventful teen-hood, and all of a sudden, I had an adult lifetime’s worth of situations before me that I was completely unprepared for.  

I didn’t know until after I’d already made the decision that I’d done the right or wrong thing.  Once, I went by a girl’s house whom I’d met at a movie theater while waiting in line.  I found out after I got there–and after she’d changed into the stereotypical “something more comfortable”–that she was engaged (the electric guitar gave her away).  I knew I had a decision to make, and twelve years later, I still feel good that I left.  Twelve years later, I see how stupid it was to have blown a portion of the rent money on beer, and to waste the chance of a lifetime–an essentially all-you-can-fly school program–in the endless pursuit of instant gratification.  I now see how sleeping in front of a toilet because of alcohol was not a bragging right.  How not remembering the night before isn’t funny, nor is puking in someone’s car.  How making nearly zero progress in two years was not helping.  How publicly embarrassing an ex-girlfriend to people she didn’t know was still hurtful, even from three states away. How being friends with everybody wasn’t paying my bills.  How taking your family for granted was foolish.

I finally kicked smoking for good about six years ago, and I haven’t shotgunned a beer since I lived in Salina.  Now, I tip for a server’s time, not for the $1.65 cup of coffee I drank six cups from.  I came out of A&P school with a 3.47 GPA in 2004, and have finally picked up the drive and motivation to develop myself into anything I want, knowing full well that it will take work.  I’ve tried a couple of times over the years to apologize to that ex-girlfriend for what I did, but I’d be surprised if she’s genuinely forgiven me for it.  In her shoes, I probably wouldn’t.  She’s part of the reason I try so hard to treat my wife well, though, I can tell you that.  My sister has made me an Uncle twice now, and I make it a point to call her, my brother, and my Mom at least twice a month–even if it’s just for a couple of minutes catching up.

So, why did I leave Salina, KS instead of getting my act together and finishing what I started?  Heh…your guess is as good as mine.  I guess it’s possible that without failure, there can be no success…but I’m sure it’s something far simpler than that.

“You’re Trying To Run Before You Can Walk.”

I’ve addressed this in a past post, and I was just thinking about it some more.  When someone says this adage to you, what is your first reaction?  I’ll tell you mine:

“So what?”

Am I a complete idiot for already having accepted that I’ll trip up and fail a few times?  Any time I do something new for the first time, I fail at it in some form or another.  If there’s a certainty in my life other than death and taxes, that is it.  When I picked up a straight razor for the first time, I nicked myself more than a couple of times.  When I snowboarded for the first time, (after literally falling off the lift chair at the top) it took me two and a half hours to get down the hill.  I hadn’t taken a class, just jumped right in.  When I was learning to fly, I managed to almost injure myself and the school’s airplanes several times.  The first time I tried to replace the E string on my guitar, I tightened it so much that it snapped on me.  (I maintain now that it was a faulty string, but I didn’t know any better at the time, so for all I knew, I did it wrong.)  The first time I ever drove a stick shift was when I was in college, when I was the only sober one to drive home.  I knew the mechanics of it, but it was a long and uncomfortable ride for the others in the car as I figured it out.

Shall I continue on with all of the mistakes I’ve made along the way?  “Run before I can walk?”  Give me a break.

The second time down that mountain on the snowboard, it took me just fifteen minutes, and I was far more controlled about it.  Things like driving a manual transmission and restringing my guitar are second nature for me now.  Shaving has actually become a soothing time for me, now that I know what I’m doing with my razor.  And if you think the mistakes I made as a flight student make me a terrible pilot, you’re dead wrong.  In fact, you want someone who made some mistakes and seen some things–those are the people who know what they are getting into ahead of time.  I’m not current right now, but at the time I was flying regularly, I could do crosswind landings in my sleep.

What have you failed at?  How miserably have you failed, and then crawled back from the dead to succeed?

Why do we demonize risk and failures, and then remain unable to figure out why things don’t change?  How else am I supposed to grow?

To be clear, I realize now that there is in fact a smart way to approach new things, one that mitigates some of the inherent risk:  Education.  Education is the best way to get a leg-up on the task at hand.  I know that when I have prepared for the task at hand, trying something new becomes an exercise in honing the craft instead of merely surviving it.  I will still fail, just in fewer of the more painful places to.  I will still trip, but I’ll have already put on kneepads and gloves.  At that point, all that’s left to do is stand back up and begin moving forward again.  Some days, simply standing back up will be considered successful, but it doesn’t matter.

At least I had the courage to show up.

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