My life, right now.
Updated: Jan 22
It's been 5 years since I last posted on my sporadic but well-intended blog. FIVE YEARS, a quinquennial, a wood anniversary, a whole lustrum! It's the standard job interview question – where do you see yourself in five years – in some ways I did see myself where I'm at now, in other ways, I didn't. Spoiler alert, I'm in Paris. But we'll get to that. First, let's power through the chronology leading up to my life right now.
I've warped through nine lives in the last half decade. This is rather fitting because I've come to consider my spirit animal to be closest in line to a house cat. Not just any run of the kitty-mill domesticated feline, more like an older adult house cat, one who can pretty much take care of himself, but it's still better to have someone around just in case. Also, I love naps, I'm a bit moody, and my curiosity has killed me on multiple occasions – but I usually land on my feet.
Winter is slumming
At the time of my last entry, I was just finishing up a slew of contract gigs in Scotland and preparing to head back to the states. My 2014 winter was spent slumming it in the midwest, heavily caffeinated, trying to find a balance between writing quality copy for a nascent client list and stringing together overly formal sentences in the name of education.
To write my dissertation, I borrowed an approach that I've previously reserved for my annual resurgence at the gym. I hit it really hard in January – made sure everyone knew about it by posting a narcissistic selfie on social media each session – then, I was completely over it by March. However, unlike many of my failed fitness aspirations, I did get the results I wanted.
Writing an endless paper with a fittingly endless title; “An Exploration of the Factors That Make Advertising Content Go Viral on Social Media,” can magnify one's claustrophobia and inability to sit still – stir-craziness really started to boil over. It was time to go. I just wasn't sure where, or how. Then, around Christmas time, while walking out of a movie at the cinema, I ran into a childhood friend from Sunday school. After exchanging pleasantries we decided we needed to catch up, over tacos.
As I wolfed down a Chicken Enchilada with the Spicy Cheese Sauce (instead of Enchilada Sauce) topped with Lettuce, Tomatoes, and Sour Cream, my childhood chum told me about a weird job she was working on a beach on some island in the Pacific – and they were hiring.
The timely taco encounter piqued my cat-like curiosity. March 12, 2015, three hours after typing the final words to the first draft and essentially the final version of my dissertation, I hopped on a plane to an unheard of Utopia called Saipan. Technically, it was the first of many planes: BRL>ORD>NRT>ICN>GUM>SPN
For half a year, I spent my days on a rotation of teaching windsurfing lessons, leading snorkel tours, renting out kayaks, belaying rock climbers, lifeguarding the oceanfront, leading activities and entertaining families of Korean, Russian and Chinese tourists.
What happens in Vegas may no longer stay in Vegas, but when you're 7,230 miles from home with no reliable internet connection, what happens in Saipan, really just seems to stay in Saipan – for me anyway. But with boozy coworker threesomes, near ODs even an accidental pregnancy, not every Clubmate shares my good fortune.
The only things that followed me back from my tropical tenure were: a beautiful bronzed tan, a knotted memory that could only be untangled with the gift of hindsight and – the most significant – the realization that I was in love, in love with someone I left in Europe.
All of which have faded.
Step back to step forward
SPN>ICN>SVO>CDG>EDI🎓>DUB>KEF>YYZ>ORD>BRL From Saipan, I took the long way home in order to stop in the UK to graduate with my MSc in Creative Advertising. Humble brag.
And then it was over. No more adventure, no more "glamorous" life living abroad, it was all done. Real life greeted me at O'hare's terminal 5 arrivals gate – she'd been waiting for quite some time.
Realizing that I was returning home with zero US job prospects, no major industry connections, not a single freelance gig on the horizon, student loan repayment in full swing, all of my savings depleted from traveling and education, I decided it was best to line up some part-time work while I scrambled for full-time employment.
During the days I worked at a paint store as a paint delivery boy. I scored the job thanks to my older brother who was already working there – call it redneck nepotism. Each morning, I'd load gallons and gallons of paint into the back of a big blue van, then I'd make the morning runs to local construction sites.
The manager of the shop seemed to be aware that I had dreams bigger than burlap beige and off-white eggshell. He didn't seem to mind changing the schedule when I needed a substitute to cover my shift so that I could take the train to Chicago for an interview. He tended to look the other way when I'd occasionally drift off to take a call or two from recruiters.
Actually, he never noticed when my coworker, Shawna, would spend the first 1-2 hours of her shift in the restroom "finishing getting ready." You could clearly hear the sound of her blowdryer coming from within the lady's room. Another employee would almost always come to work fully baked and way too high to function.
So maybe the manager wasn't sympathetic, maybe he was just a bad manager. Either way I'm grateful.
At night, I worked at the YMCA. Please know, the Village People were way off base. It is not fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A. They do not have everything for young men to enjoy, and from my experience, you do not want to hang out with all the boys, or should I say men, old men, old men who for some reason think it's socially acceptable to do bare ass toe touches while sweating it up in the steam room. #BDE
As a lifeguard at 'the Y', I got a free membership, a wage slightly above the state minimum, and the chance to chat with people who I probably wouldn't normally talk to. Mostly older women. They'd tell me about their single daughters, or their son who was my age, but engineer at GE, married, and expecting his first child with his Fall-loving wife, Hannah, who is also more successful than me.
Monday and Tuesday lap-swim at the Y were much like my family dog Buddy after 'the snip'— a bit quiet, with very few swimmers. I'd utilize the downtime to search for freelance gigs and take calls from prospective clients. It wasn't long before I started nabbing some projects. First, a construction management company, then a yoga studio, then bike rental shop, then a tax office, then a Chinese sunglasses website, then I didn't need to be sling paint anymore, then I didn't need to work at the Y anymore.
Though I'd left the island a few months before, at some point while flying freelance I landed back on a beach. This time I was working as the Social Media Manager of a national home décor company that was launching a new brand of round luxury beach towels.
One slice of my job included building relationships with the who's who of Instagram. To reach the influencers, the self-proclaimed public figures and the bloggers who do not actually write any words, My lexicon included terms like: Product-for-Posts, Paid Partnerships, Ambassadorships, Blogger Events, #Ads Collaborations and Coachella.
Both the towels and the gig were well rounded. Somewhere between creating shot lists, crafting mood boards, building sets, booking models, directing photoshoots, and filming videos, I discovered my love for the production side of content creation.
Chicago, Chicago, Chicago
The best part about being a freelance freebird is that you can spread your wings and fly away when the seasons change. Just as autumn began to settle into winter, I decided it was time to head out.
If Chicago (the city) calls, you should answer. If Chicago (the spawn of Kimye) calls, you should also answer – she's a child, what's wrong with you? In the Windy City, I worked on a couple of smaller freelance projects, but my full-time home was at a boutique agency in a northern Chicago suburb.
The staff of ten-or-so was made up of the most humble, versatile, funny and talented people I've ever met. Our client's weren't the most glamorous; a chemical company, a boiler systems manufacturer, a logistics company ... you get the idea ... but for each, I welcomed the challenge of transforming their B2B boringness into B2B beauty.
Living in the hipster neighborhood of Logan Square was the first time I'd ever lived all alone. Sans-roommates, sans-siblings, sans-parents, sans-everyone, all by my lonesome. Though my apartment was under code, it was above my expectations. Perched on the top level of the building, I had the entire floor to myself. 900 sq. feet with a front balcony, back deck and 1.5 baths. I won't mention it was missing essential things like cabinets and cupboards and had a massive hole in the living room ceiling that would leak water whenever it rained or the snow on the roof melted. It was a luxurious wreck.
From time-to-time, my landlord Mark would come by to fix things, but never actually fix anything. For half an hour or so, Mark would dink around on the roof, supposedly repairing leaks, then he would make his way down to my apartment to chat with me about current events and tell me stories of when he was a young man living in Chicago.
I actually didn't mind Mark's intrusions, the poor guy was lonely and needed someone to talk to. I could relate.
Paris, Paris, Paris
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” ― Ernest Hemingway
Today, I'm just your average modern-day Hemingway feasting it up in the City of Light – which I guess that would make this blog my Old Man by the Sea. There's a myth that Mr. Hemingway's favorite cocktail was the mojito. Unlike Ernie, for me this is a fact. I love them. I have an idea for a blood orange garnished mojito, cutely named the 'mosquito mojito'. Get it? BLOOD orange ... MOSQUITO Mojito.©
An evening mojito on a Parisian terrace is the perfect way to decompress after hanging up my hat at the tech company where I do digital marketing. I know, it's France, I should say wine, red, white, or rosé is my go-to for after work terrace visits, and sometimes it is, but as I continue to integrate into Parisian life, I've learned that what really matters is that you're enjoying a drink of any kind. Seriously, the French love their apéro.
In a way, my life in Paris is actually very similar to my life in Chicago. For example, my Sundays are still spent in the laundromat (laverie in French), because my apartment does not have a washing machine.
And that's pretty much where the similarities end.
So that's the focus of this blog. My new life and different experiences in Paris. The good, the not so good, the mundane, the obstacles and the triumphs of living in a new country.
And trying to find the funny in it all.