12 Chapters
Medium 9781605098258

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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7 Returning a Different Person

Seddiqui, Daniel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The illusory exchange of “will I ever see you again?” still resounded in my mind. A year had passed since Sasha and I exchanged those words outside her apartment complex. Back then, nothing was certain, but I knew I had to leave. I knew I had to retreat to California and figure things out; perhaps, I thought at the time, I could return to Atlanta as a successful, more stable human being.

At the time, I wasn’t fit to stay in my job selling kitchens at Home Depot. I was too shy, too insecure to talk to strangers about something I knew nothing about — countertops, cabinets, and faucets. My salary was 100 percent commission, and on a good week, I would earn twenty-five dollars. I was too ashamed to admit to Sasha that I was running dry. I couldn’t afford to live in Atlanta anymore; I couldn’t afford to be her neighbor.

The truth is that back then, I had nothing going for me. I had no direction. The money I had saved was being chewed away by my lackadaisical life. With every day that passed, I had less money for rent and food, and I was losing weight from skipping meals.

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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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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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8 New Curves and Bumps in the Road

Seddiqui, Daniel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Driving up the coast of South Carolina’s Lowcountry, the region between the hilly Piedmont and the Atlantic Ocean, I could barely tolerate the humidity. I was sweaty and sticky, and at times, the sun was so bright, I felt like I was getting a tan inside the car. But sunshine alternated with dangerous thunderstorms, as the radio kept warning me, and several times I had to pull over to the side of the road to brace myself for the high winds and pouring rain. Thanks to Mother Nature, it wasn’t necessary to pay for a car wash.

I had planned on making a brief stop in Savannah, Georgia, but the city is too beautiful for a passing glance. The neighborhoods are shaded by ancient weeping willows, and everywhere you look, there are outdoor cafes, courtyards with fountains, and well-kept parks and public squares. The residential streets are lined with elegant southern mansions I’d only imagined before arriving in Savannah. So I decided to spend the night and even contemplated staying the weekend. But I knew I had to keep moving to get to South Carolina to start my next job. South Carolina’s welcome sign greeted me as I crossed the border: “Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places.” Perfect. It was beautiful, and feeling lighthearted, I was smiling from ear to ear as I drove through the marshlands and waterways, watching egrets flying above. I drove toward the coast to reach Kiawah Island Resort, where I was scheduled to work. South Carolina is known for its tourism and resorts, so I had arranged to work at one of the state’s — and the country’s — most prestigious golf courses.

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