Here’s one thing we all have in common.We wake up, everyday. What happens next is anyone’s guess and, quite frankly, nobody’s business.
The difference between any of us is how aware we areof how we act.
The Daily Dog Walk
I’ve had dogs since 1999. My first two dogs were siblings. I’m on my third, and she has a brother. He belongs to a friend of mine so, by proxy, there’s a fourth.
Throughout the past 20 years of my life, dog walks have been a constant.
Dog walks are woven into the fabric of my daily life.
Everyday, no matter what I do, I take my dog on two, 45-minute walks, mixed with some fetch.
There are rarely circumstances that prevent that from happening.
I wake up everyday around 7:30 a.m. I don’t set my alarm and lately I’ve been waking up earlier.
The first thing I do is make coffee, then I pop into my home office. I turn on the lights, open the blinds, and pick up where I left off the day before.
That’s how I “clock in.”
I still have my old desk from the et alia days so there’s a familiar comfort when I sit down to work. On the surface, it’s not a bad gig.
Fact is, anyone can work from home. The problem is making moneyfrom home.
Never under estimate your ability to impact the lives of others.
Then, I do whatever I do all day.
The Road to Writing
I’ve always talked about being a writer, but I never wrote – nothing personal at least. That was a huge obstacle for me in the beginning – deciding what to say, what opinions to share, which vulnerabilities to expose, and most importantly, why.
I’ve written corporate communications throughout my life, but that’s a little different.
At age 40, the right set of awkward situations left me no choice but to explore being a writer for myself.
The circumstances were hard, but the decision was easy.
I didn’t know where the road was, much less where it led. I’m still unsure where it leads.
The reasons why I write, constantly evolve. My enthusiasm for writing ebbs and flows, but my commitment never wanes. To me, that’s an indicator I’m on the right path.
The time was now and four years later, now is still the time.
Aside from writing, every other option felt like surrender, like I gave up on life. Giving up was never an option. Lord knows, I’ve spent plenty of time thinking about it.
Nothing clears your conscience like hitting rock bottom.
I always return to the same spot: No, dumbass, this is what you’re meant to do. Of course it’s hard work, what’d you expect?
Say what you want about hobbies, but this one’s extremely fulfilling, and fulfillment is one of my main motivators. My daily goals evolve with the weather, but my long term goals feel closer than ever.
I live in a desert. Mirages are a problem, or even worse, an oasis.
Nobody rolls their eyes harder at me than myself.
At some point, everything clicks. It can happen with or without a Bible.
Ladies and gentlemen, that’s how Devilish Smirk came to be.
By 9:00 a.m. my dog wants to eat. I turn on The Price is Right. That show takes me to a comfortable place I remember as a child.
I listen to it in the background and I’m usually walking my dog before the Showcase Showdown.
That part of the show always bored me.
That’s how I know I’m on track for the day.
The connection we have with our dogs feels like some sort of magic. Underneath the blue Arizona sky, I’m locked and loaded into the power of collective imagination.
The future I see is brighter than ever. The sky is the limit and, as far as I know, Earth doesn’t have a glass atmosphere.
Whether or not it happens is up to me. That doesn’t mean it’s colorful, bright, and pretty every damn day.
Dead or alive, you are guaranteed a legacy fully directed by the actions you choose.
This kid is reaching for the stars.
My grandparents already had a dog when I was born. When I was three, my dad brought Rusty home.
Spiro was my grandparent’s dog. He was always around, until he wasn’t. I was seven or eight when he died. I remember melting down.
It was one of my first experiences with death, next to my babysitter’s parakeet; something going away to a different place. In real life. And they had him cremated.
And this was supposed to happen to people too? It didn’t make sense. Not nearly as much sense as it makes today.
Still, it’s never a great topic.
Both Denver and Marco were cremated.
Rusty was a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. He loved to hunt; that was his purpose. My dad is a hunter and Rusty was his dog. Rusty was a big part of my childhood, but I outgrew my relationship with Rusty because I wasn’t a hunter.
It wasn’t until a “condolences” card arrived from the vet that I even knew he was gone.
Lumi’s story is a little more complicated. He was my grandparent’s dog at the end of their lives. My grandma died first, and my grandpa followed two years later. Lumi was by both their sides when they passed.
After grandma passed, grandpa slowly, yet all too quickly, lost his will to live.
What about Lumi?
As part of a deal to keep him out of assisted living, Grandpa agreed the family could make some upgrades to his living situation. So long as he could be home, with his dog, that’s the only thing that mattered to him.
My aunt moved in with him for his last year.
By now, Lumi’s out of control. Grandpa couldn’t adequately care for Lumi, much less himself. Lumi started acting out, and regularly peed inside.
Upon replacing the carpet, it was clear that Lumi pissed everywhere, at some point, all over the house.
Lumi was cute, he was a Dachshund. He was not well behaved and never listened. He wasn’t trained any more than two elderly folks can train a dog.
He wasn’t neutered. He had huge nuts and would bite the toes or hump the ankles of anyone seated at the dinner table.
During the process of preparing the house for sale, Lumi was adopted into a new forever home
I’ve written some things about the dogs I’ve had as an adult.
All I know is this; whenever I’m down I stare into my dog’s eyes and everything, for that moment, fades to black, and I feel loved.
There are two types of people in the world. Dogs and cats.
We sniff out shit, smelling and licking each others’ butts along the way. Eventually, we encounter people who send shivers down our spines. Then we react. Instinctually.
I kid you not. Three little girls just explained this to me on my walk this afternoon. Dogs like to lick each others' butts, but not before they lick their own. Oh Scottsdale.
I didn’t ask God for a butthole metaphor when I went on my walk this morning, but he gave me one anyway.
God does what God wants, and I’m not one to argue.
Inspiration can be found in anything – if you look for it.
Life’s an internal journey. Things always get worse before they get better. The “better” part takes forever. Regardless of how long it takes to feel better, everyone can be better than they were yesterday.
Humans could stand to learn something about unconditional love from dogs. Dogs can be as fucked up as people, have anxiety, PTSD, or been abused. Yet somehow, when they’re loved, dogs love back, unequivocally and tenfold.
Imagine what humanity could do with the power of love.
Do all dogs go to heaven? I believe they do. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say I believe dogs are heaven sent.
Shut up, hippie! Communist socialist liberal scumbag! You've gone off the deep end! Fraud!
Dogs 1, Humans 0
The only reason I don’t have a cat is that I’m allergic to them. Literally, I’m allergic to pussy.
Is it weird that Losing My Religion by R.E.M. just played randomly? I think we're done here.
I failed some kind of test during my interview with State Farm.
Also, I have 15 years executive HR experience and Zenefits (an HR services company) didn’t want to talk to me. I was overqualified for an HR company.
I abandoned my focused job search by the end of 2015. All signs in my daily life pointed in the direction to give writing a shot.
Lord knows, I've said I should be a writer enough times throughout my life.
There comes a time when you need to either put up, or shut up.
I had whatever retirement I had, and a house. I reeled in my job search while I figured out what I wanted to do with Devilish Smirk.
I've not been paid for anything I've written. Monetizing words is not an easy order to fill. That requires a lot of energy, along with a solid foundation of content.
My eyes are on content, 100% of the time. Eyes. Plural. Both of them.
All About the Story
I came out swinging.
It’s not always easy to express what’s going on inside one’s head.
Being a writer means you’ll piss someone off along the way. Some say you haven’t made it as a writer until you’ve done so. If that’s the case, then mission accomplished.
I don't think anyone makes it as a writer until their banks and credit cards are pulling them into court. Even then, there are no guarantees.
I’ve been blessed with the attitude and enough conviction where I have no qualms sharing the things I’ve witnessed in life. Especially things I continue learning. I’m 44, I’ve learned a lot, and have a lot of things to say, across the board.
No topic is off limits, especially my own shortcomings. Try putting a label on that. Let’s be honest, we all have stories. Dark ones. Tell me I’m wrong.
This is our world.Join me while I play in it.
This is the only way I can make sense of the world in which I live.
I have a friend. His name is Brandon, but I call him Brand. Much like Darby, Brand’s unemployed. He’s looking for a job, and has a long story of his own.
In case you missed who Darby is, she's the fulltime, unemployed acronym, Dreams Are Realized By You. Here's her history.
Brand hasn’t worked in a while; it’s been about four years. He just turned 48.
The major difference between Darby and Brand is that he's not an acronym. Not yet.
Brand has his own experience with job search chronologies, rescinded offers, and other bizarre shit.
He has ideas about what he wants to do, and has vivid specifics of everything he won’t.
Brand was fucked with from all sides, and then forced to fire his best friend, who became some sort of smirking writer.
Brand isn't one to be fucked with. Why? That will become more clear in future stories about him.
That’s just part of him that people have to accept.
Brand is a Dreamer and, like Darby, his Dream is a Grower
All about the story.
Brand’s been on the job hunt. Unlike Darby, who’s stuck in dreamland, dreams aren’t good enough for Brand.Especially if all they ever amount to are dreams.
Darby's there by choice, by the way.
But Brand doesn’t have dreams anymore. He has nightmares, and Brand’s nightmares are creeping into his reality.
He was applying for what felt like every job under the sun, but nobody was biting.
You're overqualified! I'm sorry, Brand. The offer we extended you 12 hours ago - that's no longer valid. Best of luck, hopefully we can stay in touch. We've opted to pursue other candidates.
Only offer parts of you that you’re willing to give.
If Brand had his druthers, he’d be on some sort of stage, singing. If there’s a constant beat to Brand’s life, it’s that of his voice.
Brand can sing like no other. His talent was apparent early on, but there are reasons for Brand's detour.
A hard stop was thrown in Brand’s path whose tracks took off in another direction.
Denied Days of Disney, Purdue, NASA, Madison, MCAT, Chemical Engineering, SAP, Tellabs, DUCT, ZIM, RAC, Turner, Churchill, Kiewit, InEight, Medical Records, Scottsdale.
The stuff of dreams...
Meanwhile, back in Brand’s reality…25 years later, the U.S.A. is still on that downward detour.
It’s so bad, that Donald J. Trump is the president of the forsaken country.
A Change of Heart
“What the fuck is wrong with me?” Brand wondered to himself.
Oops, we made a mistake, when can you come in for an interview?
Before he had a chance, that last part happened.
Brand applied for five positions at a prominent local grocer. He received eight confusing, seemingly replicated, but differently worded rejection emails.
That company called him.
Two hiring managers, both of them, left Brand voicemails stamped 2:01 PM on the same day. Both locations consecutively changed their minds, simultaneously realizing their previous mistake.
What are the odds? *ahem* Illumiti and Kiewit
Long story short, Brand met with one of them. Don’t interrupt Brand. Bagging groceries *enter sarcasm* is his passion.
Everyone Deserves a Chance
Brand’s life is a real-time saga playing out daily. He wakes up, every day without answers to many of life’s glaring questions.
Just give me a chance! Yes, I may seem overqualified or not fitting exactly into your idea for the role but if you give me a chance what is the worst that could happen? And the best is a big upside! *Fun Fact: Brand has a degree in Chemical Engineering as well as an MBA.*
Brand accepted a position at a local grocery store just blocks from where he lives. He doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but he’s grateful for the step in the right direction. It’s a job and more than anyone else has offered him.
Onward and upward!
Dumb Myself Down? Never!
Dumb it down is a contradiction to every sign along your path to become your best self.
A friend recently muttered these words as advice – some iteration of dumb it down. Why? Because experience excludes me from contention? I don’t know. I guess certain experience can appear intimidating, but nobody should have to lie about who they are.
It wasn't the first time I've heard this regarding a later life job search.
Dumb it down? No. Misinformation about me by my own making? Which version of you is true? Thank you, but no. That’s just bad advice.
People are people and people talk. It's in their DNA.
What happened to being better?
Just because you were a CEO, doesn't mean you weren't one when it comes to getting a job.
It’s beat into our subconscious minds to feel like we have to adapt our persona to fit a situation.
Don’t beat yourself into submission. It’s up to you to not erase your past.
We are our own worst enemies, but we’re also our only advocates.
What’s worse than a kid without talent?
Leashed potential. The unrealized dreams of a dream-filled kid, and the kid always told no.
I will never forget the words, or the magnificent woman who took the time to say them to me in late 2015, after I read an article she wrote about entrepreneurship.
Thank you, Tammy Bleck, for planting early seeds for my botanical growth.
To everyone else, blame her.
My Journey Becoming a Writer
Life isn’t meant to be simple, but I don’t believe it’s meant to be repetitively difficult.
That’s what happens when we all (willingly or not) have one foot stuck in our country’s sphincter, which is worse than quicksand. It’s the political equivalent of being stuck, waist deep, in the mudflats of an inlet, just hours from high tide.
All you can do is watch – and hope – that some kind soul will risk life and limb to cut off your legs in order to save your life.
A writer’s words stem from their own close encounters with painful times. Even the joyful ones.
I was “laid off” on April 13, 2015. I was 40. For the first time in my life, I was unemployed. It felt like my life was crumbling – because it was.
In reality, it was crumbling well ahead of my consciousness of the crisis, and one I haven’t successfully resolved…yet.
At first, I looked for a job, but my heart wasn’t in it. I was freshly flung from my front row seat watching the rapid evaporation of the company I co-founded in 1999.
We sold in 2014 and I relocated to Arizona after accepting a position with the new company. Within 11 months, I was laid offretaliated against.
I never imagined the escalation of HR accusations reported to me, against the CEO, by employees I managed, would result in my ousting. Except, it did.That's another story currently under construction.
Time wouldn’t allow me to “move on” until I understood aspects of my past that were either hidden from me, or otherwise done to me while I wasn’t paying attention.
Letting your guard down is sometimes confused for weakness and that's what predators look for in their next meal.
Want to talk about privilege? Privilege is when you’re comfortable enough to let your guard down regardless of the circumstance.
What’s an Unemployed 40-year-old to do?
I asked myself this question nearly four years ago, but it seems like yesterday. To be fair, I’ve asked myself this question every day since I stopped receiving a paycheck.
Take a step back.
On March 7, 2015, I attended a spring training game with the CEO. On March 9, 2015, I received the official complaint about the CEO. By April 14, I had no job. Regardless of the fact that, within those 11 months, I was promoted twice.
The skills I developed up until the day I was fired, grew from necessity, not love.
A fish out of water, I had no idea what to do. I was a jack of some trades and the master of none. I spent almost 16 years working in an industry that chewed and swallowed me like a piece of gum that didn't end up on the sole of a cheap shoe someone lost at a festival.
For a while, it felt like failure. Until time equipped me with a new perspective.
Turns out, it was the best, worst thing that ever happened to me.
That’s the worst (most simple) advice. It’s convenient and lazy and indicates the lack of interest to understand someone’s situation.
Misunderstanding your past doesn’t fix anything. In my experience, dismissing a situation so quickly is peculiar behavior.It usually indicates something’s not right.
In order for me to reconcile my past, I have to make peace with it and I can’t make peace with things I don’t understand.
One Foot in Front of the Other
Here in an instant, gone in a flash. What have I done to deserve this?
Life was no longer paycheck-to-paycheck. It became early retirement withdrawal after early retirement withdrawal until there was nothing more to take.
Life took a hard swipe and knocked me off my feet and left me leaving a six foot dent in the ground.
For the record, I never filed for unemployment. I still haven't, yet it's been almost four years since I received a paycheck. I'm not complaining. Just facts.
National Emergency vs. Career Crisis
Today, I find myself clawing my way out of a pile of ashes with no financial stability within reach. I’m a living, breathing Phoenix cliché. (Technically, I live in Scottsdale.) As hard as it’s been, I keep my head up. I will get there – or die trying.
That’s what it took for me to realize that my life was meant for more than a supporting role. Making something out of nothing is my only option.
At the end of the day, I want a roof over my head and my dog. All roads lead to there. That’s how it has to be. I didn’t make the rules.
If you want a life of candy, you have to crush it.
Silence speaks volumes, but so do I
I was raised understanding if I want something, I have to work for it.
Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, Off to Work I Went
My first job was a paper route for the Anchorage Daily News. I was 11 and my parents were fine with my new responsibility. After all, I was the one getting up at 5:00 a.m.
At age 14, I had options. I was ready for the wonderful world of fast food! After assuring my parents that Arby’s wouldn’t interfere with my homework, they allowed me to enter the workforce. Arby’s led to TCBY, and TCBY was next door to Blockbuster, but they couldn’t hire me until I was 16.
Wow! What a difference! Blockbuster Video!
I finished my high school years at Blockbuster and I only quit that job because I left the state to attend the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (UWM).
Off to School I Went
I took a break from work my freshman year of college as I was busy keeping my head barely above academic probation. I received my one (and only) “F” that year. Math wasn’t my strong suit.
By the end of my freshman year, I hadn’t declared a major. All that mattered to me was that I had friends, I had fun, and I liked this new life.
Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, Back to Work I Went
I spent the summer of 1993 commercial fishing near Kodiak island off the coast of Alaska. It was the longest, short stint of my life, but it paid well. It was rough work and I appreciate what that experience did for me.
Hopefully that's the last time I go 28 days between hot showers. The option was freezing Pacific salt water with a bar of Lava.
1993 wasn’t a great time to deal with being gay, much less in a place as isolated as Anchorage, Alaska.
Feeling like an outcast in Wisconsin was enough, and that flame was burning hot and fast. What Wisconsin had over Alaska was that none of my family lived there.
There’s a lot to be said for confidence that stems from a fresh start; one from which you cannot be shamed into submission.
I came out to my mom in September 1996. I remember it well. It was one of those "pivot events" in my life that changed my life's trajectory. I plan to write the story. Mom, you've been warned! It's actually really fucking funny but, right now, I need to bring this back to my career crisis.
I can’t remember exactly when I declared myself a Journalism major, but there was a deadline and I didn’t want any more math classes.
Back to School
My sophomore year, I worked at a campus night club. Also that year, I became a Housefellow (Resident Advisor) for UWM’s Department of Residence Life (DRL).
I spent two more years living (and working) in the dorms. But unlike the previous two, I was responsible for the behavior of 70-80 others.
The Journalist in Me
Newspapers are a recurring theme in my life, although I never wrote for one like Clark Kent. I landed a position in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s marketing department through a temp agency.
I graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism supported with a bouquet of public relations classes.
After graduation, I was offered a job at a small marketing firm. For two years – I wrote and edited for corporate publications. After a very brief stint at Manpower, I resigned to start et alia, llc. with Brad Nicolaisen.
The et alia Years 1999-2014
Right By Writing
Passion is rooted in love, and I love writing. I love everything there is about storytelling and the emotions they trigger.
I started my journey by starting Devilish Smirk, and this summer marks its fourth year anniversary.
That's just, ok, wow...yea, no comment.
If anything it’s been one hell of a way for me to organize my thoughts. My notebooks look like a toddler got a hold of them.
Some hit a little too close to home, but life is messy like that. Nobody’s perfect and anyone who claims otherwise is full of shit.
A Devilish Perspective
When I was 24, the decision to start a company was easy. It was a no-brainer! Why? It’s simple. I was naïve as fuck.
When I was 40, it took me becoming unemployed to consider writing. I finally hit the “now or never moment”, and I chose now.
Regardless, what’s done is done. I feel like I understand strife in life. At least, I think I do.
I only know how I feel.
Sometimes I feel like the only person in my head, and that scares me. I doubt myself a lot and when I do, I always return to the same place:
I didn’t come to exist and settle for anything less than the best.
America, I'm just sayin' we could have a better president tomorrow. Let's grow the fuck up for a minute. My world is part of this galaxy too.