Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I’m off to Guam (seriously)

The headline probably says enough, but to elaborate a little bit, I’ve been hired as a sports writer for the Pacific Daily News, which is in Hagatna, Guam.

Guam is an island to the west of the middle of the Pacific Ocean, about 30 miles long by 5 miles wide. It’s 7,500 miles away, 14 hours ahead of Indiana and it’s summer 365 days per year. Somehow, that was a difficult decision, but after listening to all my friends (and people I barely know) it was also pretty easy.

First, a little background:

When I graduated high school, I went straight to Grand Valley State University where I majored in engineering. After about a semester, I decided I didn’t want to be an engineer.

For the next year and a half, I kept taking classes at GVSU but I didn’t really know why. I didn’t have a declared major and I was just kind of going through the motions, which didn’t work for me. I got Bs and Cs in classes that I should have  aced and I was miserable.

At the end of my second year, four semesters in, I decided I was done with college until I figured out what I wanted to be there for. I couldn’t put work into something unless I was passionate about it, and I did not care about college at all.

I decided I was just going to work a fun minimum-wage type job and try to enjoy my life. Then I decided, if I’m just going to work, there is no reason I had to be in Michigan to do it. So I moved to Hawaii*.

(*) I had been to Hawaii before for vacation and always dreamt of living there, so it wasn’t completely out of the blue.

I waited for the Tigers’ season to end and, with only a few days notice, I hopped on a flight to Honolulu on Halloween. I had no job, no place to live and no real plan. It was an adventure and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

After a few weeks of living in a hostel, laying on the beach all day and drinking with people from all over the world all afternoon, I got an apartment a block from the ocean and a job as a chef. Hawaii is awesome.

The chef thing was too stressful for the life I was living, so I quit after a few months and got a job driving a ball picker at a driving range. It was the best job I’ll ever have. From 4 p.m. to midnight, five days a week, I cruised around outside on a sunny 86 degree day, listening to my iPod, and got paid to toss barrels of golf balls around.

There was no stress and I had all morning to lay on the beach (which, again, was a block from my apartment*). It’s tough to live that far away, knowing nobody and being disconnected from the Midwest culture, but it was perfect for me.

(*)My apartment was also next door to the zoo, which meant monkeys screaming all morning. That was less great.

A little while after that, I realized I had a passion and a reason to go back to college. I wanted to be a sports writer, and I wanted to do it as soon as possible.

For the next few years, the bio on my Facebook read:
“I quit school and moved to Hawaii. Then I foolishly quit Hawaii and went back to school.”

I went back to GVSU, reestablished my friendships, embraced being in college, got a couple jobs to pay for it and finished my journalism degree as fast as I could.

It’s not an easy career to find work, but I eventually got hired by the Banner Graphic, became sports editor and started to love the community.

When I saw the Guam job become available, I was a was a bit hesitant but I saw it as a chance to do something I loved in an environment I knew I would love. Guam is similar to Hawaii, culturally and climatologically.

So I applied, had a couple phone interviews and eventually got hired.

It’d not perfect time. I would have preferred the school year finished up so I could follow all the teams and athletes through the spring. There are many, many upcoming teams I’m going to miss and many other opportunities that I’m giving up, but there are a lot of other opportunities moving to a new job opens up for me.

I’ve loved my time in Putnam County and I can’t imagine ever living in a community where I feel as welcomed by the people. Putnam County is a great place to live and a great place to work, but for me, and for Miley Cyrus,

“There’s always gonna be another mountain. I’m always gonna want to make it move. It’s always gonna be an uphill battle. Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose. Ain’t about how fast I get there. Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side.
“It’s the climb.”

p.s. If anyone ever wants to come visit me in Guam, you’ve got a free place to stay. Seriously, come visit. It’s paradise there.