Monday, July 18, 2011

One Year In Kentucky

As the moving truck pulled away last July I wondered just what was going to become of me, and how I was going to deal with Kentucky. I had some sort of dark, grim thoughts on my mind, that's for sure. I guess you could say it was black humor, or at least I would like to think it was.

"Next time you see me back East," I told my friend Mike, who had helped me move, "it might just be in a body-bag."

Okay, maybe not the funniest joke. But my world had turned upside down. I moved from a dynamic, vibrant city and neighborhood, filled with friends and family nearby to a big fat question mark. An apartment complex whose pavement was as smooth and undisturbed as glass, on a lazy, hot July day. No one was out, life seemed a good deal emptier than I knew before. How, I wondered, will I ever be able to survive this? Survive moving, in effect, to the suburbs. Survive rebuilding my life, despite myself?

One year later I have some of those answers. The truth is that while I did not physically die as I joked with Mike I did sort of die in other ways. The me that I had clung to is gone. In its place is someone different in many ways. I hope better, but I know different in many important aspects.

After we first moved here Randi and I had a few weeks to get settled in before her academic year began. I was bitter, and frustrated by just about everything. Envious of the perceived success of everyone else. Here I was, 38, unemployed, a failed journalist (I thought), a failed everything (I thought). And not even a particularly great dad for Stella, because I was consumed with anger over ending up in Kentucky.

I tried for us to have good days, Stella and I, and I even succeeded, but I was in a bad period, a dark time. There were many afternoons I simply did not feel up to "parenting" her so actively and let "Sesame Street" do the job for me, with its accursed Elmo. Or some other cartoon, I became pretty familiar with most of them, and can still sing the songs.

I looked for work, without much success, unsure of what I even wanted to do. I wrote a pair of cover stories for highly regarded local publications, but these did not lead to job offers. I had been at Forbes, an editor at the website no less, and I could not get a job anywhere in my new town. It was a letdown, and a big blow to my ego.

I started to see a psychiatrist that I found through Angie's List, because I didn't know anyone to ask. He turned out to be wonderful, and, surprise, not only also a Jew, and one native to Louisville, but an active member of the synagogue we started to gravitate to, Adath Jeshuron. Louisville, I started to understand, was a very small world.

At AJ the cantor, David Lipp, a wonderful man, introduced us to another journalist, named Andrew Adler. Andrew was like me in many ways. From the East Coast, living in Louisville, and now moving to be with his wife and family in New Orleans. But he had one last story he had to write for The Courier-Journal, the local paper. For the section called "Love Story" about, well, love. Randi and I were his subjects. So within two months of moving here we were featured prominently in the local newspaper. The world got smaller.

I wrote about how Louisville and New York were different, tongue in cheek, for The Huffington Post. It went viral in my new city, and all of a sudden a lot of people knew more about me. Again, the world got smaller.

I wrote a story for Louisville magazine, and went on assignment with a wonderful guy named John Nation, a photographer. He took some great pictures for the article, and we became fast friends. John has lived here for decades and seemingly knows EVERYONE. He also has a daughter, Grace, who babysits for us on occasion, and is a lovely person to boot. Again, the world got smaller.

Stella, was now in the Adath Jeshuron preschool. A man named John Gage plays music for the kids. I introduced myself to him at a performance. He has been playing music locally for decades, and, again, knows EVERYONE. Again, the world got smaller.

The article I wrote for Louisville magazine, about local banking, did not turn into a job. But a few months after it ran I emailed the CEO of a bank I had written about for the article to let him know I am available for any work he may need. He gave me a writing test, which I guess I passed. Then I was interviewed by the person who is my current boss. In other words, I got the job. Again, the world got smaller.

Two months after landing here I formed a band, because I needed something to do, and love music. My bandmates are Scott Stinebruner, Tim Caruso and Steve McDonnel. They are not only great musicians, and writers of music, but now three of my best friends in Louisville. Sometimes Tim's amazing wife Savannah babysits for Stella, and graciously agreed to cat sit for us recently. We came back and the cats were in better shape than when we left them. Again the world got smaller.

My new job pays more than I made at The world didn't necessarily get smaller but it definitely got better financially.

I have found that Louisville is a city of open hearts and smiling faces. If you are kind to people, and agreeable you will soon be shocked to find how friendly and interconnected everyone is.

One of my favorite new co-workers is a woman named Carolle. She knows my (still relatively new) friend Marcus who writes for the Courier-Journal. Her husband is an accomplished author and fixture on Louisville's arts scene, and has been for decades. Carolle knows EVERYONE, including Muhammad Ali, The Greatest. Talk about the world getting smaller.

The CEO of my company went to the same pre-school Stella currently goes to. I think you get the picture.

I could go on, but I hope you see where I am headed with this. My life was finished, but them, somehow, it began to mysteriously fill the cup again. But this time I was different. I am no longer a journalist but in PR and marketing. And I am glad for the change, initially to my surprise. I read "How To Win Friends And Influence People" and I find I am fact am winning friends, although I think it's a stretch to say I am influencing people. But it's made me 100%more open to the good in people and in life.

Today I am happier than I have been in a long time, and though I still see my doctor, and my therapist too, I, knock wood, feel a corner has turned. I was burned out in Brooklyn, in some ways already dead. Writing about brokers, and investing, and business and money, money, money. It was all fine, but I hated the competitive pace. I hated not feeling like the people that owned my old firm didn't know me, because they didn't. I hated feeling like I was always trying and failing to climb the totem pole to earn respect.

Today the people I work with are just nice to me, and everyone wants me to succeed. It's a great feeling.

Forgive me if I ramble.

I died, in a way, and was reborn. I didn't expect it, but now am open to what's to come. And what is that thing to come? Only my life.


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Holly said...

That is awesome, Dave! I am so happy to hear your success story. You certainly worked hard for it.

Arlene said...

David,we are happy that you are doing well and loving Kentucky.We can't wait to see you it has been a long time.