WordCamp US is the big, national WordPress conference that takes place annually. Designers, developers, trainers, users, and fans of WordPress descend into one location for networking, sessions, karaoke (yes, karaoke), and overall community- and relationship-building.
As I document my journey, I’ve always told you that I’ll give you the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Well, here’s the ugly. The really ugly.
Over the last four months that I’ve worked as a freelancer, I’ve learned quite a bit. Some cold hard realities have sunk in.
I grossly underestimated how many contacts I would need for steady referral work and how much time put in I would need for steady referral work. I didn’t think it would be easy, but I still grossly underestimated it.
I’ve come to a decision, which was tough to make because of how badly I wanted this. I took the leap last June to go into full-time freelancing. I have now learned how incredibly tough it is to turn it into a business that will sustain me financially. I haven’t put in nearly enough of the time that it will require, and I don’t have nearly enough money to last that long.
So, I’m going to go get a full time job and keep working towards my dream as a side hustle.
Well, it’s official. I’ve made it 36 times around the sun.
I feel peace, purpose, and gratitude.
What I experienced this past weekend helped bring back parts of me that I’m really happy to have again. I went down to Richmond, VA where I grew up to hang out with my two best friends since middle school. I had probably the most active birthday weekend I’ve ever had, including running a total of almost nine miles, doing weight training, and playing pickup basketball for the first time in years.
I played basketball in middle school and high school. I loved it. However, the story I told myself about my athletic ability prevented me from getting better. Neither one of my parents were natural athletes or really played any sports, and so I thought that meant that I wasn’t really an athlete. I played against some people who were really good and seemed to take to it more naturally than I did.
Now that I think about it, I didn’t even know their stories and how hard they had to work to get to where they were. I just assumed they were better than me because they were more athletically gifted.
When I compared myself to them, I didn’t give myself enough credit for my own abilities. I busted my ass in the gym to get better, and I turned myself into a really solid ball-player. The problem was, when I played varsity basketball in 11th grade, I didn’t have any confidence. I loved playing, but I played timidly during practice and didn’t really try to push myself to make solid plays, opting instead to pass it to someone else.
Therefore, I wound up playing for the last five minutes of games where we had a sizable lead. I jokingly dubbed myself part of the cleanup crew. I joked, but damn, it hurt. It hurt to be part of the cleanup crew, and it hurt knowing that I could’ve done better if I had more confidence in my abilities.
Fast-forward to this past Saturday, and my buddy Brian and I played pickup ball with three other guys at Brian’s gym. We played games of 3-on-2. The first game I was on a team of two, and the second game I was on a team of three. The first game, we lost 13-3. I wound up scoring all three points.
Within two plays of the second game, I threw a behind-the-back pass to one of my teammates. It was completely off the mark and went straight out of bounds, but I had the confidence to throw it anyway.
Then a few more plays down the stretch, instead of opting for a jump shot, I tried passing it between two defenders to one of my teammates under the basket. The ball wound up bouncing off of both defenders and hitting one guy in the face. Once again, it was completely off the mark, but once again, I had the confidence to throw it anyway.
The rest of the game, I was locking down on defense, running after rebounds, brushing guys aside when they tried to set picks on me, and otherwise rough-housing in what turned out to be a pretty physical game. My competitiveness was on fire. Even though I didn’t win either game, I was locked in and wanted nothing more than to stop the other team and score points for mine.
Over the past year, I’ve gained confidence in myself as an athlete through running. After what I’ve been able to accomplish, including doing a mile in under seven minutes and a ten-miler in under an hour and a half, I have no choice but to believe I’m a real athlete. I may have to work harder at sports than I did in academics since academics comes more naturally to me, but you can’t accomplish what I’ve accomplished in running without being a real athlete.
The competitive streak extended to video game basketball, where I won three out of four games of NBA 2K. My buddy beat me over and over again for years. I realize now that he mostly beat me because of careless mistakes I made. I would try to force the action and force scoring points to catch up to him only to fall short enough times to fall too far behind in the scoring.
This time, I stayed patient. Even if he had built up a sizable lead, I stayed patient, kept moving the ball around, and waited for the right opportunities to shoot high-percentage shots. The one game I lost, I couldn’t get a good handle on my team and the lead became insurmountable. However, with the other games, I stayed patient and focused and waited for my opponent to blink, which he did.
Being calm, centered, and focused in the task of wanting to take my opponent down made me feel like a cold, calculating killer.
I am generally a more collaborative person than a competitive one. However, I’m sure I can use my competitiveness to my advantage. I already have through running; I use it to meet and exceed goals. I’m sure there’s a way that I can use it for my business as well. Not sure what that is yet, but I will certainly keep it in mind.
I am incredibly grateful that I made it to 36 years old. Life is not promised, so I’m glad to be living and making the most of this life.
Once a week, I run with the Philly chapter of Back on My Feet. Every single person living in, or who has lived in, a homeless shelter that gets up at 5:30am to run between 2-4 miles inspires me. They are my heroes. They are truly getting back on their feet.
One person who particularly inspires me, that I see almost every time I run with the group, is a man named Pete. The first time I ever ran with him, he was the music man. He had a speaker for his phone with him, and he blasted tunes from Chaka Khan and almost the entire Superfly soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield. I loved it and immediately dubbed him “O.G.” in my mind.
I’d estimate that he’s somewhere in his late-40’s or early to mid-50’s. Definitely old enough to be an O.G. 🙂
Several runs after that, we all stood in a circle as we do before every run. The group leader asked us to say our names, how many miles we were doing, and why we love running. I don’t remember how many miles Pete said he would do, but he said he loves running because it keeps him from drinking.
I knew at that moment that I was in the right place.
Pete is really serious about his running. He even has a GPS watch and keeps track of his time and pace. If you tell him how fast you ran a certain distance, he’ll be able to get pretty close to telling you your mile pace just by doing quick math in his head.
It had been a while since I ran with him. Sometimes I turn the runs into a speed workout by keeping up with the fast folks. Other times I keep up with the slow folks who want to go the 3-4 mile distance, and I’m simply there to encourage them. Pete is usually in the middle of the pack, so our paths haven’t crossed often.
However, today, I just wanted to run with him. And so I did. He’s always focused on his runs, with his headphones in and able to tune the world out. I figured if I just run with him, whether beside him or behind him or in front of him, it wouldn’t matter. I just wanted to run with him because he inspires me.
So, I wound up running a bit in front of him with another volunteer that I just met this morning. We chatted about our lives; turns out he also picked up running as an outlet post-divorce. He told me how he’s training for the Marine Corps Marathon, and I told him how I’m training to run a sub-25 minute 5k.
Pete doesn’t always remember the exact turn points on the run routes, so we kept him on course by running a little bit in front of him so he was able to see us turn and follow us.
When we got to the home stretch, just four blocks from the finish line, Pete picked up the pace and passed us. I in turn picked up the pace and caught up with him. My volunteer friend couldn’t pick up the pace and got left behind. In his defense, he had run 3.5 miles at 4am this morning before we all ran at 5:30am, and marathon training had probably left him with dead legs.
So, Pete and I ran towards the finish line. There are certain times when my running makes me feel free. When I pick up the pace and suddenly my arms feel looser and my whole body feels like it’s in one fluid motion. I got that feeling this morning when booking it towards the finish line with Pete.
To me, that feeling of fluid motion represents what running is to me in its purest form. It’s an uplifting act. It’s a strengthening tool. The uplifting and strengthening can be for me as well as for whoever I’m running with.
When we crossed the finish line, Pete gave dap to a few folks and otherwise ran off to be by himself for a bit. He usually walks it off and goes away from everyone for a couple of minutes before coming back. We didn’t say another word to each other for the rest of our time there. He was the first one to leave and left before I could say goodbye to him.
And that’s perfectly fine with me. That’s just Pete being Pete. He always says what’s up to me in the morning and now consistently knows my name. He’s always good for giving you a pound, cracking a joke, and saying that he needs to get back into the boxing gym and get back down to fighting at middleweight.
He’s a fighter alright. Though I don’t know all the details, or even many of the details, his story is written all over him. His fighting spirit is also written all over him. Especially when he stays focused on his runs and makes sure that his watch has caught the GPS signal before he runs.
Thank you, Pete, for inspiring me. I’m sure you also inspire everyone else who comes to Back on My Feet workouts with you.