It’s 2:30 a.m. right now and outside the wind is howling, the snow falling and I’m thinking.
I’ve spent far too many nights like this over the past six months … alone, awake, thinking, contemplating, wondering, wishing and not sleeping.
Not sure why.
Well, maybe I have a few ideas. That tends to happen with you spend numerous nights knowing you should be asleep unable to drift back into dreamland.
Prepare to read, if you’re really that interested, the long — really long — self-reflective, self-absorbed and selfish ramblings of how I got from there to here and why, I think, I’ve been kind of depressed over these months.
I find myself in a place I don’t completely like to be or want to be.
I liked the lifestyle I once had. I enjoyed the predictable unpredictability of my life. I liked the relative difficulty of trying to coordinate schedules. I liked the work. I liked the chaos. I liked the forced randomness of it all. The forced adaptation.
Don’t get me wrong, I like my current lifestyle — a lot. But it’s not entirely the lifestyle I chose. And that, I guess, is why I find myself up at 2:30 a.m. on a dark, stormy night.
I really liked what I was living — and am still living in large part.
And I think I liked it because, in my mind, it was all for a reason — it had a purpose and a target. A payoff.
Then that target was taken away from me.
And so I am forced to adapt, again, but to what end I’m still not sure.
For the past 15 years I’ve been making various ‘sacrifices.’ I’m not sure that’s the right word, because I think I wasn’t necessarily giving up much, but rather postponing certain objectives.
Sports journalism isn’t the glamor job it seems. There are tough hours, tight deadlines, not a lot of pay and a ton of people that want to do it.
When Shana and I decided that, perhaps, her chasing down a career in medicine was in the plan, it forced a variety of decisions for us — and my career. Once Shana was accepted to medical school there would be no going back. Medical school is a 4-year commitment with another 3-year (or more) commitment after that. Without any flexibility.
You get into a medical school, that is where you go and that is where you stay. It’s not easy.
And it required that I make certain choices with my career, too.
Prior to Shana being accepted to the University of Utah — not an easy task, mind you — I worked to establish my career in journalism. I studied, I worked and I got experience.
I also got a few job offers.
I turned most of them down.
I was offered a job in St. George — Dixie State does not have a medical school.
I was offered a job in Pocatello — Idaho State does not have a medical school.
I was offered a job in Montpelier — Bear Lake High School does not have a medical school.
My career would be dependent on where my wife went to school. And I was very happy and willing to accept that reality.
There was that target, the payoff, down the road to look forward to.
So I continued with my part-time job writing for the Salt Lake Tribune while Shana started school and our youngest child, Kinsey, was still a preschooler. After a couple of years, I accepted another job, also part-time at first, with the Deseret News where the pay was better and the prospects a little brighter.
I worked hard, I tried to be innovative — I was the first Utah sports journalist to publish a blog hosted on the newspaper’s website — and I learned new skills I saw would be needed in the rapidly changing world of journalism.
But, knowing my career was for the most part still on the back burner, with the spoon constantly stirring to prevent burning or going bad, I tried to be patient.
Shana graduated from med school in 2000 and we moved to Pocatello — ISU may not have a med school, but it does have a residency program for family practice physicians — and I found myself changing gears again. Salt Lake City had about 50-75 jobs for sports journalists — Pocatello had three. None of which were available when we arrived in Idaho.
I made myself available to write part-time and begged for assignments to get my foot in the door. My first was to cover the Gate City Grind in 2000 — it was my introduction to bicycle racing — and I find myself grateful for that assignment quite often. That led to a few more assignments and, less than two months after we arrived in Idaho, I was accepting my first real full-time job as a sports journalist at a daily newspaper.
A month later there was a shuffling of the office staff and I was named sports editor. It was the newspaper I grew up reading and delivered to doorsteps as a kid.
In some ways, I thought, the payoff had arrived.
I was wrong.
I was in over my head. Not skill-wise, but time commitment-wise.
Shana, bless her heart, was being forced to work 100-hour weeks during residency and when our second child was born it created all manor of chaos. Though Emily was as sweet and easy going a baby as I can imagine, she still required a lot of attention — babies can be that way.
Between working odd hours, splitting my shifts, sacrificing sleep to get work done from 2-6 a.m. when I had that chance, I was slowly burning out.
After about 18 months as sports editor, I realized I simply couldn’t devote the time or energy to be both a full-time father and a full-time editor. So I resigned, was reassigned, cut my hours back and again refocused my ‘selfish’ personal career goals with a new target farther down the road.
And I was, and still am, very happy to move that target.
The payoff was still there, still within grasp and still very much worth waiting for.
The way we say it, the way we planned it, I would continue doing what I was doing — full-time father, part-time journalist — until our youngest child entered school full time. Having me home with the kids was, and is, more important than any career goal I could pursue.
Sports Illustrated, ESPN and the New York Times weren’t knocking on my door. The Idaho State Journal, Montpelier News-Examiner and places like that were. And though there is absolutely nothing wrong with those jobs, the sacrifice in family concerns wasn’t going to be worth it.
So I worked for the ISJ for another year until we had another child, Melissa. At which time, and because of a few other factors, I decided to leave the ISJ and work as a freelancer — I had developed good relationships with my fellow editors and got plenty of work from a variety of newspapers.
After five years in Pocatello, two of which were spent with my wife working post-residency and after the birth of Samuel, we decided it was time to find our permanent home.
So we searched for the perfect job, if there is such a thing, for my wife and now we live back in Salt Lake City.
Samuel was our fourth child — and our last child.
As such, he represented a milestone. The plan, about 10 years in the making, finally had an end date. The time in which I would allow myself to focus on my career, officially, as a full-time worker — probably in journalism, possibly not. Journalism was perfect in many ways because it allowed a fairly flexible, or at least a convenient, schedule and because I was half-way decent at it.
When we returned to Utah I again took a part-time job with the Deseret News. Over the months and years, that part-time gig grew, essentially, into a full-time gig with new responsibilities, new assignments, new skills and new enthusiasm for it — even with the entire industry seemingly falling apart. I maintained an official employment status of ‘part-time’ to give myself the flexibility to focus on family as needed while still working 40 hours per week most of the year.
It also gave me the opportunity to find a passion for cycling, triathlons and fitness — and led to this blog.
Knowing the workplace was in a transitional state, I worked hard to develop skills that would make me valuable. I thought I was on the right track.
But as the industry struggled the entire office was hit with a wave of impending doom and pressure. One round of layoffs hit and we lost a good chunk of our staff. But still, I felt in a good spot. I could write, I could report, I could edit, I could be the slot (the editor in charge for the day), I blogged, I twittered, I facebooked and I was on the leading edge of technology changes hitting our industry.
Yet, I felt worried like everyone else.
With another rumored round of layoffs coming, I lost motivation for certain things as I also lost the ability to sleep soundly. I got sick, I got injured and I stopped training for races as frequently as I should. I still had the desire, but not the will. It was depressing me in a very real way.
Still, I tried to keep my eye on that target. The payoff.
Sam was ready to enter first grade in August. It was here, at least in my mind, the target and payoff had arrived. At the office, we all knew something was going down. Another round of layoffs was coming and I, a low-paid, highly-skilled part-timer, was in the perfect place to step in after the hammer fell.
Or so I thought.
Less than a week into first grade (the payoff, in my mind) the layoffs came and I was one of the 47 percent of the staff told I was no longer needed.
I was surprised. I was stunned. I was hurt.
It wasn’t so much losing a job that hurt.
It was that for 12-15 years I had a certain expectation of what I was working for. My target, my payoff, was tied to a certain time in our family’s life. I ran with a purpose on a pace and I ran hard.
Then, just when it was time for me to claim the return on our investment, to finish the race and enjoy the payoff, someone decided to not just move the finish line, but to virtually cancel the race while I was on the finishing straight.
And for the past four months I’ve been hurting even more. Confused even more. Sleepless even more.
So there you have it. A look inside how I got from there to here.
I’m still a basically happy person. I like where I am — a lot. My family is amazing. My career prospects are actually pretty good and I’ve got a pretty bright future. I shouldn’t have anything to complain about. My payoff is already HUGE and more than I deserve.
I still love to ride my bike and find as much happiness on it — even if my lack of training has left me slower and fatter — as I ever have.
But when I find myself struggling with motivation, struggling to maintain a positive mood, struggling to snap out of a sort of depression or struggling to sleep, I wonder how I got here.
Maybe this helps explain it to myself more than anything.
Maybe, with the wind still howling outside, the snow falling and the year coming to an end, I can find a way to move that target once again and prepare for a different payoff.
It’s now 4:15 a.m. and I need to sleep.