Monday, February 20, 2017

So Now What?

Coffee makes the world go around. DOH!
We've now hit the third entry in this new blog, and so far I've talked about the forced sabbatical and the concept of exposure bucks. I could continue to rehash this repeatedly as a topic, and while it might be good for therapeutic reasons, it would be redundant for the world at large. Granted, when a significant life change happens, I tend to play the back and forth in my mind like a video and break down every permutation into every little detail. It might seem like a big production, but I judge that I'm not the only person that goes through a similar reaction. How can you make improvements or at the least understand what happened without going through the details? It's often stated that people who don't observe and learn from history are doomed to repeat their actions, but I am trying to learn how to move forward after the process. It doesn't make much sense to pull something apart to learn the nuances if you can't then apply it to your future. It's called paralysis by analysis, and as a person who loves to think, I have to learn to be outside my brain. 

That's the biggest reason for this writing endeavor because while I have spent the greater part of 9 years writing about sports - and mostly about soccer - I don't want this site to be a carbon copy of that. I will be spending time talking about the Portland Timbers here - it's a topic that I actually know a lot about and I want to continue that here. It's not going to be as formal, but I can't post without doing my normal amount of analysis and research to back up my theories. I will miss the game day interactions and the vantage point at the stadium greatly, but there could be freedom in being able to branch out. It's not in my nature to badmouth or gossip, although there is benefit in candor. I've loved this team since the early days of the USL rebirth, and I've not missed a home opener in person since the 2004 season. For the first time this year, I won't be at the stadium in person. I'm trying to come to grips with that, but there are plenty of others that are dealing with far bigger issues that being able to see a sporting event.

I also want to talk a lot about our current world and my small part within it. The political world is complete chaos at times, and I feel that society has lost their ability to find common ground in most issues. This isn't me stating that it's wrong to point out problems or stand your ground, but when groups struggle to find even the most simple of compromises to move forward, it's troubling. Many feel the need to be right - or feel that your perspective is the most correct - rather than look at the bigger picture. I have severe issues with this myself because of years of dealing with controlling personalities during my childhood. Many choices were made for me that in retrospect weren't the best, and as an adult, I tend to be unyielding at times. My hope is that in talking about this, I can start to heal and understand that sometimes finding commonalities is the right choice.

Some of this has been gained with making mistakes. Another big dose was applied when I started doing men's work back in January 2015 with the Mankind Project. Many men struggle with their place in the world within a constant array of changes as society attempts to change to be more inclusive, especially being the product of tough childhoods. Men weren't taught to deal with emotions or feelings but to suppress and avoid, and as such, many are doomed to repeat the mistakes and actions of previous generations in dealing with stress. Another common tactic is to find a target source that triggers reactions instead of looking internally at behavior to try and correct our shortcomings. I'm not saying I'm perfect because as being human, I struggle with confidence and frailty all the time; that doesn't mean that I can find my own target to blame either. Things happen, and we need to learn how to be better humans for ourselves and each other.

I also still play soccer and live with a huge pack of cats, and I want to be able to write about adventures or fun events. I don't want this space to be dour or purely sports, as I'm trying to branch out. It's a scary prospect because above everything else, it's building my own road map. I honestly have no idea where this might go, but I am curious and scared about the twists and turns. It really is a new horizon, and I'm glad I have the support of my wife, my friends and my cats as I embark upon this. While my hope is to publish at least one post a week, there might be times where the entries come fast and furious or there could be gaps in time. One thing I need to remember is suppressing something is never a good idea, and I'm a writer first and foremost - but scheduling inspiration isn't ideal either. So for now, we'll see how this goes, but I appreciate you reading this. Thank you and see you all next time. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Chapter 1: Let me tell you about Exposure Bucks..

Example of an exposure note. Don't print these at home. Seriously.
"If you get enough hits on your posts, we could see about paying you. Right now, we just need to see how much attention it gets."

"You'll be getting so much exposure, you won't know what to do with it all!"

"If you work really hard, you could move up the ladder and onto other opportunities."

Stop me if you've heard this before. I can imagine anyone that has joined the work force in any capacity has heard some of the above statements or similar derivatives, but it's a bit different in the new media world. There are literally hundreds of web sites and outlets that offer writers the chance to submit their materials for consideration, but most of them offer no actual pay whatsoever. There are promises and language about potential payment down the line if certain conditions are met, but it's all thinly veiled in the text. In my career, I've written for different sites that offered the promise of payment at some point, but it's never been actually fulfilled despite my best efforts.

Granted, if this was my only job, it would be very different. However, a big reason why I was able to write for those sites was the fact that I have a full time job at a financial institution. With being paid on a regular basis, I had the ability to then do other things I enjoyed in my free time for whatever rewards that came up because I had a safety net. I've met several free lance journalists whose sole income is for writing for whatever site will pay them for articles, and their submissions are subject to review and approval. It was rough enough at some points to be writing for no reimbursement except for "exposure", but I couldn't imagine the pressure of having to write and hope the final product was good enough to be accepted.

It's not that I have anything against internships, because I understand the struggles of people trying to break into business. Often times, job decisions are made by two factors - what you know or who you know. The who you know factor is something that is beyond most of our control, but it's true that we see nepotism quite often when it comes to filling roles. So if that doesn't end up being an option for getting a job, it falls into what you know. I loved my 4 years of college and I learned a ton of valuable skills, but there were things I wasn't prepared to deal with in joining the corporate world that didn't come up in college - interacting in an office environment, staying on a schedule for example. Internships give people a great opportunity to get a taste of working in an environment and while the job checks them out, the intern can do the same thing in deciding whether it's a good fit.

The problem is simply being paid what you should be for the work. Nearly everybody I know would love to be paid more for their skills, as nobody would say "I didn't work hard so please pay me less." We need money for goods and services, so many of our choices center around ensuring money continues to come in. As much as I loved working hard and researching for hours on each of my posts, there was no way my creditors would accept the "exposure" to pay my bills. They deal in tangible currency, which means that many of us have to make tough choices in terms of our career. It would be great to dream big and shoot for something huge, but the reality is that money makes the world go around.

I did have some great experiences in my media time, and I met some wonderful people who work very hard to entertain and inform us. The hours are long, the demands in time are huge, yet each of them love what they do because it's their calling. I got a chance to taste that regularly, and while it was one of the most amazing experiences ever, it was also one of the most emotionally draining. It was great to do this for the love of team or sports as well, but honestly, this could have been much worse if I didn't have a secure job to fall back on. Dreams and promises are wonderful and I don't want anyone to stop striving for the stars, but there has to be a dose of reality filtered within that. I may write in sports again at some future point, and I'd be honored if that really happened. But this time, I need real currency instead of this exposure...unless somebody knows of a bank or store that will accept it for goods and services. I'm waiting.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Mastering the Forced Sabbatical

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Kesgard.

Sometimes, we get to choose the next chapter in our life. That isn't always the case, however, as most often, choices are made for us as situations and circumstances change at a moment's notice. I know change is a difficult concept for anybody to deal with despite the fact that it's one of life's true constants - we are all in a constant state of alteration yet it seems like in human nature, we cling tenaciously to the constants as they provide some security in a fast paced environment. I attended one college for my undergraduate degree, a few stops for additional education and I've worked for the same company for 27 years albeit in different roles, so my life has been somewhat static to a degree. That hasn't always been the case - I had a brisk bout of new movement when I first met my now wife and we were busy setting up our life together, but I have also had issues reverting back to past patterns. It's a constant battle that I have waged for my now 50 years on the planet, but I will now have some extra time to plan an offensive because I have become the victim of a forced sabbatical. The media outlet that I worked for the past 9 years decided to go in another direction without telling me just recently, so my next chapter in writing begins with this post.

Being in sports for as long as I have, retirements are something that happen all the time for varied reasons. Perhaps it's related to injury as one of my heroes, Timbers center back Nat Borchers, had happen to him when he ruptured an Achilles tendon during a match last July. There was talk that he might try and resume his career in 2017, but it's tough to overcome an injury this severe being 36 years old. Another idol, Jack Jewsbury, hung up his boots after the 2016 season after finishing his 14th year of playing professional soccer to start a new endeavor working in the Timbers front office. The decision was likely made easier after the success of the Timbers in winning the 2015 MLS Cup as a highlight of their respective careers, but at the same point, I can imagine any choice whether to continue playing or not is a long and arduous one. After hundreds of practices, competitive matches and other appearances, it must be hard to reach the conclusion that it's all over.

Then again, the game often reinforces when a player's time is done - injury, age or otherwise. One of my favorite players of all time, Broncos quaterback John Elway, hung up his helmet after winning back to back Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998 even though many thought he still had plenty in the tank. Writers, on the other hand, don't have such scrutiny because it's very rare to encounter such a situation. Sportswriters will continue to produce content as long as they have an outlet willing to publish their work, and it's not uncommon to see writers enjoy careers that span 20, 30, 40 or even more years than that. Even in the day and age where content now is managed and influenced by social media and the Internet, many writers have figured out how to remain relevant for many years. After my lengthy stretch, I was hoping to make the jump to double digits.

The reality is that we live in an age where difficult conversations don't happen for whatever reason. It's easier to avoid the situation and just not say anything versus actually saying a change is needed. I'm including myself in that group because I've avoided several unsettling talks because the outcome is potentially too uncomfortable. I think that choice is overlooking the growth that can come from facing your shadows, especially since for me, complacency or consistency is not my friend. That might seem unusual considering my history, but I tend to follow the adage - if it's not broke, don't fix it. This requires enough insight to know when something might not be working the way you want or there could be room for improvement, and honestly, I've lacked that for much of my life. I stick with the plan come hell or high water, and while it's gotten me to this point in one piece relatively, I also struggle with the tiniest of changes.

Nobody likes to be told they aren't wanted anymore, even if the conversation never actually happens. It might be easier to remain silent, but that doesn't take the hurt or confusion away anymore, and the lack of feedback could actually be more detrimental in the future. I don't think anybody realizes that at the time, and so it falls into the path of least resistance. So now, I get to spend my time honing my sports cliches, doing random research and figuring out the next path on my own. As scary as that prospect might be, it could also be incredibly liberating for many. I will need to tell myself each and every day that this is the right choice long term despite being incredibly scary. It's time to take the training wheels off and spread my wings, or add another crazy catchphrase to this post. I'm not sure exactly where this is going to go, but I'm excited for the ride and to see where it takes me. Thanks for reading this and talk to you all next time.