Saturday, August 20, 2016
It's been awhile, hasn't it?
Literally, years have passed since I last sat down to write anything. The last time SportsKarma made an appearance, Gary Kubiak was just an Aggie doofus with a faux-crewcut, and a facial expression that never wavered off of Vanilla. Now he's a Super Bowl-winning coach, and I just threw up slightly writing that sentence. J.J. Watt wasn't the mayor of Houston or the king of the NFL. Jose Altuve wasn't the baddest diminutive man since Napoleon. He was just a rookie.
The Longhorns got Strong and Smart, but the Longhorn Network has made Texas none the wiser. Barack Obama entered his second term. Donald Trump began his descent into early-term dementia. Poking your friends was a craze. Now it's Pokemon Go, and it's a dead heat as to which one is dumber. (My vote goes to Pokemon based on the fact that I actually watched a kid with his nose to his phone walk balls-first into a post. It was glorious in an Ow! My Balls kinda way.) Most significantly, the last time SportsKarma made an appearance, I had zero nephews. Now I have two. My sister even took up the mantle of writing as she is now a frequent contributor to the Boston Moms Blog.
All this happened, and where was I? Well, I was watching it happen, but I wasn't documenting my thoughts. I stopped writing to focus solely on my career. It wasn't an easy decision, and I even admit that it wasn't the healthiest one either. However, my time away has really given me perspective on art. We need to have art in our lives. Our writings, our paintings, our music, our sculptures, what we build, what we write, what we create for the world to see and feel and experience. It's not there to make us rich. It's there to make us richer.
That said though, just like OU, being a starving artist sucks. You can only spend so many hours a day on the Internet writing about sports and society before you look at your bank account, look around at your smallish apartment and wonder "What the hell am I doing with my life?" Upon that epiphany, I set out to change my life. I abandoned my craft to develop a new one, and it had nothing to do with sports, booze, rock music or anything else I enjoyed writing about. I studied. Lots and lots and lots of studying. For the last three years of my life, that's really all I've done.
My LinkedIn profile says that I earned my CPCU, AAI, AINS and AIS. For those not in the insurance business, that means I'm a Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter, an Accredited Adviser in Insurance, an Associate in General Insurance and an Associate in Insurance Services. With the exception of AAI, I'm guessing that entire alphabet soup means very little to you, and that's totally cool if you're confused by the boring miasma of mumbo-jumbo I just spewed all over the place. But I had to earn those titles for my career.
Don't misunderstand. This wasn't something I arbitrarily chose to do. I had to do this. I realized in 2012 that my career wasn't really going anywhere. I was in tech support for an insurance company, and I was pretty good at what I did. However, it was obvious that if I didn't do something else, I was probably going to reset passwords my entire life.
My 20s were over. I was inching closer to 35 years old, and I had no real marketable skills to put on a resume. After I left radio in 2005, I didn't really have a specific skill to put on a resume beyond the fact that I was good at my job. I studied to go to law school in 2007, but I did horribly on the LSAT. Twice.
Earning designations, including the more prestigious ones like CPCU and AAI, was my single-best option to advance my career, to advance my earnings and to provide a better life for myself. Best of all, my employer was willing to pay for everything as long as I passed all the tests. But that meant I had to study. A lot. I knew virtually nothing about insurance when I started with my company in 2009. I had to basically teach myself the principles of commercial insurance, agency management, accounting and finance, and wait a sec...don't fall asleep on me now! Okay fine, I'll stop, but you get the point. These tests were brutal, and I had to learn what was essentially a new language on the fly. There were many Saturday nights that I spent at the kitchen table at midnight studying actuarial tables and rating principles. I studied contract law, combined ratios, hammer clauses, deemer provisions, balance sheets almost without end for the better part of the last three years.
I admit that during this time, I became the Least Interesting Man In The World. But I had to do this. If I didn't do this, I told myself, where would I really be? What would I really being doing with my life? What would my earning potential be? What would I look like? A sad, middle-aged guy resetting passwords? No thank you.
But there was a huge price. I didn't just quit writing. I deleted all my dating profiles too. I literally had no time for dating or relationships. Even I did get into a relationship, I didn't have the money or the career to sustain anything long-term. So I forged onward amidst a lot of self-doubt that this was really the right thing to do.
I will never forget grocery shopping alone on Valentine's Night 2015. Valentine's fell on a Saturday that year, and I was taking a break from studying Insurance Operations. It was 11 PM, and I was the only customer in HEB. It was a few stockers, a few checkers, a few sackers, and one sad sack in the produce aisle picking over broccoli. That moment, I looked around and in between the emptiness and thought "Damn...I hope this is worth it. Because this sucks."
Truth be told, I spent a lot of late nights at the grocery store. Many nights, I ate way too late. Part of it was that I was so hungry and tired after working and studying for 12 or 13 hours, I felt I needed a reward. And yes, I also drank too much during this period. Part of it was stress. Part of it was also entitlement.
"I deserve to have a drink or two, don't I? I've worked so hard," I would ask myself rhetorically. That drink or two was what put me to sleep some nights. I gained back a lot of weight that I previously lost. I was becoming successful in my career, and I was being publicly recognized for it. But I was also becoming a lonely fat drunk. I was morphing into the sad, middle-aged guy that I swore I wouldn't become.
Make no mistake. Ambition has a price tag, and it taxes you in ways Congress could never devise. Ambition taxes your sleep. It taxes your social life, and creates a penalty for love interests. It taxes your confidence. It audits you for doubt. Ambition has no deadline to collect. It late files at 2 AM, on weekends, and on your birthday.
You own your ambition. But sometimes ambition can make a lousy tenant.
Fortunately, ambition paid up and paid off. I was hired onto my company's commercial insurance team in April of this year. This month I finished a Commercial Underwriting test, and for the first time in nearly four years, I can stop studying for awhile. I am still required to take two courses a year, but I can back away completely at this time and pursue other things. I can actually work 40 hours a week now, and do nothing more than that if I so choose. Ultimately, this is why I have decided to return to writing. I stepped away for so long from my art form that I forgot why we create.
My sister never quit her job teaching, but she's always writing for her Boston Moms Blog. My friend Chris never quit his job as a banker, but he's a phenomenal guitarist. My friend Ramiro never quit his job as a teacher, but still creates beautiful paintings. What we do for a living, and what we create are almost never the same. One thing makes us money, but the other is rarely monetized. But that does not mean that our art shouldn't exist. It exists for us to share our creative selves, to show the world a different way to think. Very few truly make money off their music, their writings, their paintings, but the world suffers without those things as does the artist.
I wrote about the things that made me irrationally happy, and perhaps just a bit implausibly mad. Some of it was great, and some it frankly sucked. I used to worry a lot about whether or not something I wrote was terrible, but now I realize that even Picasso drew a crooked line now and again. Not every sentence Hemingway wrote was perfect, and Adele doesn't hit That Note every time. Art is there to be created, not to labor over.
I can't guarantee you that you will love everything I write. Chances are I won't either. You probably won't agree with everything I say either. That's fine as well. As long as it provokes, challenges, and entertains, I will have done my job. After a long period of work, my career is in a much better place. It is now my time to achieve a balance that I lacked. I don't have any expectations on how often I will be writing. I'm certainly not under any time constraints to crank out material. But I'm happy to be back writing about my favorite teams, my favorite drinks, my favorite bands and whatever else catches me by surprise. I'm also excited to involve my friends in what I create.
I'm pleased to announce that SportsKarma is back. Believe.