12 Chapters
Medium 9781605098258

10 Hitting Curveballs

Seddiqui, Daniel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

You’ve gotta come to Newport by Sunday morning,” Tim urged. It was Saturday night, and I was standing in Times Square on my second date with Tara. I wanted to stay through the weekend and spend more time with her. There seemed to be some potential, and I found myself wondering if she would become my girlfriend.

“Looks like I have to go,” I told her. “But I’ll come back.”

Tim Walsh, Ambassador of Tourism for the city of Newport, had e-mailed me months earlier about working in the tourist industry at the Visitors Bureau. He didn’t specify the exact job I’d be doing, but it didn’t matter — after reading his e-mail, I was convinced he was offering me a job in the right industry for the state of Rhode Island. Tim had contacted me while I was still trying to figure out what kind of work best characterized the Ocean State. My research and the advice I’d solicited from local residents had not been sufficient, and Tim proved to be persuasive.

“Great interview on NPR. You should work for us when you come through Rhode Island. Which month will you be here?” Tim wrote. He even offered to arrange for me to stay with a local family for the week. I’d never before relied on a stranger’s input to help me choose a job, but Tim sold me on his proposal, to work during the “Blackships Festival” in July, when, he pointed out, Newport is “the sailing capital of the world.”

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2 Hitting Rock Bottom and Rebounding

Seddiqui, Daniel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Though I enjoyed Nebraska, I didn’t mind leaving. I was passing back through South Dakota on my way to Wyoming and looked forward to visiting the new friends I had met a few weeks earlier. The Klein family was out of town on a hunting extravaganza, so I drove 550 miles straight to Rapid City to visit Sugar Ray.

It was a long drive and I couldn’t help reminiscing. I thought of everything I’d been through in such a short period: wrestling a steer at the rodeo, the plane ride over Fargo, my farewell party at Metal Craft, hauling hay in Nebraska. This is just the beginning, I thought. I could feel myself growing comfortable with life on the road and perpetually being the new guy in town.

I was mostly lost in such pleasant thoughts, except for an aching dose of reality: I had been waiting for Sasha to return my call since leaving Omaha that morning. It was unusual and unsettling not to hear from her by midday. I knew something must be wrong, and as time wore on, I grew more concerned. I tried calling again, but without luck. I had no choice but to wait.

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Experience 1 Reality Hits But No Turning Back

Seddiqui, Daniel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

As he handed me a check for $250, my dad made no effort to hide his doubt that I could complete my journey. “See you in three weeks,” he uttered skeptically. With tears in her eyes, my mom sprayed Windex across my car windows and promptly wiped the glass clean. Standing beside us, my brother videotaped my departure with the precious Sony camera I had purchased on credit just a few days earlier. I took two cases of water from my dad and put them on the floor of the car. With every move, my body shivered. Anticipating the journey ahead, I was shrouded in uncertainty. My throat choked up as though bricks were stacked from my stomach to my neck. I swallowed the emotion, climbed in my Jeep, and reversed out of the driveway.

This is it; no turning back. My mind raced as I repeated the words: No turning back. I was scared. I knew there was a chance I wouldn’t succeed, but I had flushed the possibility from my mind. Failure simply wasn’t an option, no matter what obstacles I encountered over the next fifty weeks. While I drove slowly through the familiar streets of my hometown toward the on-ramp of the highway — the on-ramp of my journey — the car was silent. I had turned off my cell phone. The radio was off. But my mind was rambling. Where am I going to end up tonight? Where will I eat? Do I have enough money to eat? Should I cash the check my dad gave me? Ambivalence hammered through my thoughts like static noise, and I needed to drown it out before it got the best of me.

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11 Finishing a Journey and Embarking on New Dreams

Seddiqui, Daniel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Waiting in a terminal at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, I watched eager passengers standing in line to board my plane to Anchorage. Most were elderly white-haired men carrying fishing poles onto the plane. This reminded me of passengers boarding my flight to Vermont with their skis. Just before boarding myself, I made the last call on my list of photographers in Alaska, hoping one would pull through with a job offer by the time I landed in Anchorage.

As with New Jersey, I was headed to Alaska without a job already lined up. But unlike New Jersey, my flights were booked and I only had one shot, one week, with no backups. At this point, I was utterly exhausted from the forty-some-odd weeks before. I wasn’t in the mood to make endless calls or to sell my project again. This time I was going to cross my fingers and hope for the best.

In Anchorage, I got off the plane and walked through the terminal, pausing beside a stuffed fifteen-foot grizzly bear. I anxiously dialed in to my voicemail. “Hi Daniel, this is Clark Mishler. I just got your message. Let me know when your plane lands and I’ll come pick you up.” Clark is a successful and very well-known National Geographic photographer. All my worries about finding a job, finding a place to stay, and even about having to relocate within the state, immediately dissolved. I called him right back to tell him I had arrived. I didn’t want to admit how desperate I’d been, but I knew he was my savior. I had depended on fate in Alaska, and my good fortune surpassed my hopes. My week could not have gotten off to better start.

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4 Not Just about Me Anymore

Seddiqui, Daniel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Show me what you’re doing here. Show me how to weld,” the reporter commanded. It was my first day working for Local 83, and I had little idea about what kind of work a boilermaker actually does. Regardless, there I was standing in a welding lodge with a reporter from a local Kansas City TV station. Luckily, I had taken metal shop in high school, so I knew how to strike up a torch and cut through metal; and for everything else, I had Randy Cruse beside me to explain it to the reporter.

“We build and maintain power plants throughout the Missouri Valley,” Randy noted. Randy, the president of the Brotherhood for Boilermakers, was to be my mentor for the week. “We are employed in repairing, repiping, and retubing commercial steam and hot-water boilers used for heating and domestic hot water in commercial buildings and multifamily dwellings,” he elaborated. Though I grasped the basics, I was eager to know how all the pieces of this profession worked together. In many ways, the job of boilermaker reminded me of my project. Though I knew what I was doing on each particular day, I didn’t always understand how everything fit into the big picture until more time passed.

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