17 Days Later

After being on the road for 14 months straight, I feel incredibly blessed that I’m able to look back at the journey with bright, optimistic eyes. So many things could’ve went wrong along the way, yet due to the kind nature of everyone I met, I was able to make it out unscathed and with my sanity intact.

Of course, nothing in life is perfect and there were a few times I considered packing my bags and heading home. Some of those moments were brought on by exhaustion, others from simply missing home. However, I made a commitment to the project and was determined to see it through regardless of the circumstances. In fact, there was only one time those thoughts ever made me pause and second guess our journey.

Before I get into that though, I need to preface it with a bit of backstory.

During my last week in each city, I took time to reach out to local organizations and publications at our next stop. Being that I am only one person, I often relied on those outlets to help me spread the word to other creatives in the area. In turn, many of those people would reach out to me and I was able to connect with so many individuals at agencies and schools around the country. That’s why I’m so grateful for the Creative Group, the Art Directors Club and The Egotist Network. They continually promoted the project each and every month and without them, things would’ve turned out much different.

Not everyone saw the value in our project though. 10 months in, I reached out to the Seattle branch of a prominent “creative” organization—one whose other branches had helped me in several other cities along the way. I sent their President a personalized email describing the project and asking for his assistance in spreading the word around town. It was an email I had been sent many times before. Yet, the reply I received this time was far different. To call it a shot in the heart would be an understatement.

While I no longer have the email (I deleted it), there were three sentences in particular that will linger with me for the rest of my career.

1. “I don’t understand how your project would benefit our members.”

While I try not to take anything personally, especially in this business, this statement took me by surprise. I had explained the project to a lot of people at that point and I actually took pride in my ability to succinctly tout the project’s value. Yet, in my road-weary state, it made me second-guess all of the progress we had made. Were there others who didn’t understand the project? How many opportunities had we missed out because of it? 

2. “To me, your project just seems like a drawn-out attempt to land a job somewhere.”

This is a question I received many times during the first few months of the project. As it continued, however, that question dwindled and I heard less of it with each passing day. But there I was, nearing the 11-month mark and someone was still unsure of my commitment. It, again, brought me to wonder if others still thought this whole thing to be an elaborate resume stunt. If I couldn’t win some people over in a year’s time, would I ever?

3. “You might want to rethink the copy on your site, because I didn’t understand what the project was until you described it to me.”

Now, this sentence came further into our back and forth e-mail conversation. After I was finally able to convince the person why #TGAA was important to me, he placed the blame on my site copy for the misunderstanding. And you know what? I’m really glad he did. His statement made me realize that I didn’t care what he thought. Especially since I described the project to him using my site copy word-for-word. It took any doubt he had placed in my mind and instantly erased it. It let me know that he had passed judgment on the project, without ever looking into what it was about. Sadly, that email didn't come until three days into the whole ordeal. So, I spent several nights wallowing in doubt. It wasn't a good time—at all. 

Once I read that sentence though, it reminded me that we had already met and won over hundreds of other people across the country. My mind snapped back to reality and I realized everything this man was saying to me was personal opinion. I can never change what people thought or continue to think about #TGAA. However, no one can ever take away what we accomplished. The friendships we’ve made, the lives we’ve touched and the places we’ve gone. Fact will always trump opinion.

Was #TGAA a way for me to land a job? In a way, I guess so. Then again, shouldn’t everything we do be a step toward improving our lives or the lives of others? Was it an excuse for me to travel the country? Sort of; but how else can a writer know the world without having seen it? The point of #TGAA was to have a shared experience and see what we could accomplish together.

And that’s exactly what we did.

So, no matter how tough things get; no matter how far you are from home, just keep doing what you love because no one can ever take away your accomplishments… unless you’re juicing... or cheating (Sorry, it was getting a tad too serious there).

-Steve-

Day Seventy One

The view from Pulaski Bridge.

Here’s a brief overview of my weekend — I saw The Lego Movie, which I think is an excellent film for just about anyone. In fact, I’d say the audience skewed more toward my age group than it did children. I was in awe of its animation style, as well as the film’s ability to incorporate references any adult would find funny. I followed that up with a trip to the always reliable Kellogg’s Diner and then hit the hay to catch up on some much needed sleep.

The next day, I visited the American Museum of the Moving Image. It’s a very unique space that celebrates the creation and realization of film, animation, gaming and cinematography. It’s such an interesting experience and I highly recommend it to anyone in a creative field. Of course, being down the road from the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts doesn’t hurt it either.

Now, if you’ll allow me to change the subject, I’d like to talk about New York City for a bit. Actually, I’d say it’s more than a bit because this is part one of two. So, here we go:

The other night, I was trying to think of the best piece of advice I could offer anyone moving to NYC. While there’s so much I could say to a potential transplant, I think one of the most important things is—experience this city in moderation. Whether you’re here for a month, a year or the rest of your life, it’s easy to be consumed by the Big Apple.

Art Directors Club HQ.

When I originally moved to NYC, it was my first experience even being here. There was a lot to take in and over the course of the next four years; I had my share of ups and downs. For the first few months, I was absolutely petrified about going broke. I clipped coupons, only bought sale items and saved every dime and nickel I could find. While that fear eventually leveled out, I think it taught me another important lesson—always stay on budget.

Of course, there’s also an endless array of clubs, bars, concert venues and shops that make it incredibly easy to put yourself in debt. I’ll admit, I was guilty of buying a few things here and there that I didn’t really need. But I was lucky enough to have a good budget in place. I’ve seen people in tight spots, because they wanted so much, so quickly and the bills just continued to pile on. In the end, most of them either moved away or back in with their families. 

As time wore on, I become more comfortable financially, but the endless presence of the city itself began to weigh on me. If you’re a private person or enjoy the sound of silence, I wouldn’t even consider moving here. No matter where you go there are always people nearby. Don’t get me wrong; I still love it. I just think it’s important to have realistic expectations on what life is like here, because the media tends to glamorize the city with giant loft apartments, pristine parks and art deco office spaces. While these all exist, chances are you won’t see them unless you make six figures, are a cast member on How I Met Your Mother or recently landed a job with Google.

-Steve-

Day Sixty Four

A sampling of Super Bowl Blvd. 

After being away for 10 months, I’ve come back to the place I called home for 4 years—New York City. Arriving just in time for the chaos that was the Super Bowl, I found navigating my way through Penn Station a bit more challenging than usual. As expected, the entire place was overrun with Seahawks and Broncos jerseys. Although, my guess is the Broncos fans left their colors tucked away today. 

I made my way into Queens and met up with my friend Orlando, who is gracious enough to host me during my visit. We chatted a bit while I unloaded my suitcase and then we set about our days. I ventured to Bushwick (my former neighborhood) and met up with some good friends for a genuine New York brunch. Honestly, you haven’t had brunch, until you’ve had one in NYC. Being that the group hadn’t seen each other in several months, our brunch date quickly turned into a daylong shindig. Needless to say, the time flew by. 

I returned to Orlando’s apartment around 8pm and ended up falling in and out of sleep for the rest of the night. I guess a combination of being evacuated from the hostel at 2am from a fire alarm and having a 6am redeye train got the better of me. I decided not to fight it and ended up getting some much needed rest.

Bloomingdale's Super Bowl display

I awoke the next day, determined to visit “Super Bowl Blvd.” before they ended up tearing it down. Thankfully, the weather was absolutely gorgeous. The sun was shining the entire day and I think the temperature peaked at 64 degrees. Yet, even the lovely weather couldn’t prepare me for what I encountered in Times Square. Imagine if you will the scene in Times Square during New Years Eve. Now picture all those people slightly drunk, full of adrenaline and ready to fight anyone who says their team sucks. On top of that, keep in mind that Fox News actually built several temporary buildings in the middle to blast talk radio and classic rock. That’s what Super Bowl Blvd. was. Quite frankly, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Then again, if the Browns ever decide to make it to the Super Bowl, I might act the same way. Maybe I’ll find out at some point in my life (fingers crossed).

Next, I walked south to SoHo to buy a new pair of shoes and scope out my agency for the month, We Are Social. It’s in a great location, so I can’t wait to start there tomorrow. I have a feeling it’s going to be an awesome experience. The rest of my day was then spent wandering around and watching the big game at this fabulous BBQ joint in Astoria, called Strand. I highly recommend it to anyone, especially the pulled pork.

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This morning, I was startled to see about 5 inches of snow covering everything in sight. I recall hearing there would be a few flurries overnight, but boy did they miscalculate that one. I eventually hiked through the mounds of snow to meet up with Ceci at the Art Directors Club HQ. It’s an absolutely fantastic place and if you’re a member of ADC, you need to drop by, if only to check out the Google Lounge. It’s inspiring to say the least. The three of us sat down and chatted a bit about my journey and the thoughts behind it. But before you know it, our meeting was over and there I was parading through the snow once again. I decided it's going to be another night in, because I have so much planned for this month, I feel I should get my rest where I can. I just hope the month is more exciting than that game last night (Sorry, I had to).

NYC, it’s great to be back.

-Steve-