Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Moving Ahead: Thoughts On 2017 & Beyond

       Man, oh man, what a year 2017 was, huh? It certainly was wild for most of the world, and mine was no exception. As 2018 is but a few weeks old, I can't help but still be in a reflective mood, as well as thinking about what the future holds.

2017 Was a pivotal year in my life. One year removed from the devastating loss of my Mother, I came into the year just hoping to survive, and survive I did. The year started as planned, beginning with my second semester attending Georgia Highlands College, working as assistant online editor on our school newspaper. We actually won the GCPA award for best college newspaper for a community college. Funny enough, my best friend Kenny's school, UGA, won the overall best award, something we were able to share mutual pride in.
But after a night of one too many Jack & Cokes and a fight with a close friend in mid-February (Limit yourself, kids), and the harsh reality of no longer being able to afford classes, I left GHC abruptly. Sure, I was ashamed, after all this wasn't the first time outside circumstances made me drop out of school, but I decided to make one hell of a comeback story out of it.

My miraculous comeback story begins as they all should; at 2AM under the influence at Waffle House. In an altered state, I overheard the night cook talking about how she was "hurting for help" on nightshift. So I slurred, "Hey, I'll put in an application." Fun fact: Waffle House doesn't have real job applications. Instead, you fill out the blanks on a small yellow card and hand it to the boss.
I had joked for a day or two about applying, but after a week went by, I forgot all about it and continued to press on in finding my way.

Ten days later, I was dropping a friend off at home from a night of "Netflix & Chill," as the kids say. I got a call at around 7AM. It was a local number, but still, it was a Sunday. Who would call me at 7AM on a Sunday? Turns out, it was the district manager for Waffle House calling to schedule an interview for later that day. I told him I didn't remember applying, but that I'd be in at 2 for my interview. Skipping NASCAR at Atlanta (A real loss, peeps), I went to my interview. It lasted all of 5 minutes before my new boss shook my hand and said "Welcome to the team." Yeah, more like welcome to Hell.

Training wasn't so bad, even though I couldn't stay awake to save my life. I had to hold back laughter during the cheesy training videos. If you can get your hands on one, they're a hoot and a half of bad acting. The job itself, though was a grease soaked nightmare. Waffle House has its own language, the "Pull, Drop, Mark" system, which really should have its own Rosetta Stone software. (as well as being forced to call buckets Bain Maries at all times, it's frustrating.) Between that and the ever-changing price system, it was impossible to keep up with customers, and I'm almost positive that I was the only worker not on drugs. "You ever smoke the reefer?," asked my trainer as if this were 1929. Not in years, and never would I with you, pal.

My time at WoHo lasted as long as The Chevy Chase Show, and in the meantime I decided to sign up for a media pass to IndyCar at Barber Motorsports Park. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, after all. Eight days before the race, I was confirmed to have a pass. After scrambling to book a hotel room, I rushed to Birmingham. My name was etched in Sharpie, last on the list, but I made it.

There, I met three people who have really changed my life, one of whom is a prolific motorsports writer, one of whom works within IndyCar behind the scenes, one of whom is a fledgling reporter like myself. The trip reinforced the idea that not only could I do what I've always dreamed with my life, but that I'd belong there in doing it. It was three days in Heaven after six weeks in Hell, but life went back to normal soon after.

In May, I said goodbye to a friend who had a profound impact on me as he decided to pursue greener pastures out west, and I continued to plug away in my side-life of standup comedy, but nothing felt the same. Without people you strive to make proud, life isn't as much fun. So, I decided to move to Ohio with my brother and his wife.

Ohio allowed me to breathe and spread my wings a bit. I worked at a liquor store (which actually kept me from drinking so much) and genuinely loved life. I met my friend Paul, who has gone on to be one of my best and closest friends, and I was able to have another eye opening experience, this time freelancing as a journalist at Mid-Ohio's Honda 200.

In October, it was time to come back home. I've spent the last few months ramping up my podcast and bouncing between jobs. The plan for 2018 is to make a few IndyCar races before moving to Indianapolis to finish my degree. But I'm very proud of the things I accomplished in 2017, personally and professionally. A year may not be a very long time, but you can certainly do a lot with it if you know what you're doing.

Keep your eyes peeled like a fresh orange for more pieces this spring. I have some fun stuff planned!

"Hard work pays off, dreams come true. Bad times don't last, but bad guys do."
-Scott "Razor Ramon" Hall