My Personal Journey, Part ???

ryan2
Hi. You may know me from my sports—and occasional social—hot takes on the internet. Lately, I’ve reflected a bit on myself because of something I saw from a friend I made on Twitter. I won’t point out the person or draw attention to their specific struggle, because that’s not for me to do. But through a series of eye-opening tweets, I truly felt the old saying “you never know how much you might mean to someone” for the first time.

Which lead me to think that, maybe, I might get some stress out if I shared my own personal struggle. This story begins back in time, at a time before Twitter (at least for me), before The Force Awakens was a thing, and before people thought that Donald Trump was a presidential candidate. I was under-employed, essentially a stay-at-home dad trying to change the course of his life.

While I’ve always felt I was intelligent, I struggled to pay attention at an early age in school. As I got older, I merely learned how to do the bare minimum. By the time I got to college, I had lost all interest in education. I hit the workforce with the delusion that I’d work hard, move my way into management, and eventually be an entrepreneur. I wasn’t that far off; I was in lower management by 20, making decent money and living in Chicago by 23, and mulling over an opportunity to purchase a franchise at 25.

But we made a drastic shift in life view when my daughter was born. We moved back to our hometown, I quit my job, stayed home with my daughter during the days, and took classes online to work on a degree in Labor Law and Employee Relations. I did this for about a year before I caught a break that caused me to slow down on the school.

That break was a job in Illinois government in a Human Resources role. I also began writing on my own little Cubs blog, needing a creative outlet to take the stress out of my new life tasks. That small Cubs blog turned into a role at Cubs Insider, thanks to Evan Altman and Tom Loxas—whom I will always be extremely grateful to for playing such a huge role in my development as a writer. That turned into paid writing at FanRagSports, an internship (and hopefully more) at Baseball Prospectus Wrigleyville, and a true freelance job at the Cheat Sheet.

Simultaneously, my education and writing were getting too great for me to handle. Starting last August, I found that I had come to a point where all my remaining classes were extremely difficult. I struggled badly the last few months, sometimes being up until 1am during the week and getting up at 6am to get to work. I had a massive expository essay, a research proposal, and a labor law class that kicked my ass. I also dealt with being on the road twice a month, as an elected member of the negotiation committee that is attempting to come to an agreement with the State of Illinois on a new employment contract.

My blood pressure went way up; I gained weight; I felt my energy build up to the point of emotional collapse. My days consisted of waking up, exercising, going to work, coming home, writing, and studying and doing work until I could go to bed. Most weeks, I didn’t have a single day that I had more than an hour or so of free time. Worse than not having much time for myself or my wife, I felt like a bad father who didn’t have time for his daughter, who I had built a strong bond with in my year of raising in a one-on-one environment at home.

I knew, with another semester coming in January that would lead me into baseball season, I had to make a change. I found a solution that would allow me to focus on finishing my education while improving myself as a writer, both things I need to do to continue to grow—I’d take a one year, unpaid educational leave from my job.

But today, I’ve hit a fork in the road: my boss denied my leave request, despite language in our contract that states that a request for an educational leave “cannot be unreasonably denied.” I’ve filed a grievance, but even if I win the dispute it’ll likely come well after the semester has started and after I’ve had to drop classes.

I realize these are first-world problems. I’ve cursed myself with higher expectations and development, both as a person and in my career. My resolution to finish my degree and become a better writer is failing. I’m staring down the barrel of uncertainty.

If you’re reading this, it’s probably I’ve caught your attention by tweeting a lot. You probably even interact with me, from time to time. Leaving Chicago, while the right decision for our family and my life, caused me to leave the majority of my closest friends behind. I left a world where I was—socially, politically, and in sports fandom—a comfortable fit, for a place that generally pushes against many of the ideals and values I hold.

Thank you for being a part of my release. Thank you for reading my work and giving constructive criticism. Thank you for letting me know when I’m wrong, or have missed something. The day-to-day discussion has allowed me a comfort that I haven’t found many other places. I don’t know what’s on the horizon for me, but knowing that there is a place I can send Simpson’s GIF’s to people and be accepted makes it a little easier to handle.

Maybe, someday relatively soon, I’ll be writing about sports as a full-time job. That seems like such a dream, especially for a guy with little journalistic training that was never good at math and lives 90 miles from the closest professional baseball team (and it’s the Cardinals). I have no idea where my life is headed, but I know a few things for sure: I’ll be turning 30 on January 17, the weekend of the Cubs Convention. I hope to see many of you there, share a beer or five, and attend the panels on that Saturday afternoon.

Hopefully I’ll have my life figured out by then, but then again, when have I ever had it figured out? Just two years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you if you had told me I’d be getting paid to write words about stuff on the internet. I probably also wouldn’t have believed the Cubs had beaten the Cardinals in the NLDS—anything is possible. That’s the attitude I’m taking moving forward. Thanks, as always, for reading.

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3 Responses to My Personal Journey, Part ???

  1. Todd says:

    Hang in there, Ryan.
    Good things will come your way.
    Patience, padawan, patience.
    Be mindful of the future, but not at the expense of the present.

  2. Jared Wyllys says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Ryan. I think your work at BP Wrigleyville is of the highest caliber, and I think you’ve got a real future in this. Keep pushing.

  3. Joel says:

    Sorry to hear about the difficulty — sounds tough. I’ve certainly faced trying times where I wasn’t sure what the next step was, and whether I was doing the right thing. I can just say I did what I thought was the right thing, and somehow it worked out, or led to something better down the road.

    You never know what’s going to lead to the next thing — one of my biggest moves (going to grad school at the University of Montana) only happened because I went back to my alma mater for a weekend. I had an AWFUL time, but I ran into a guy who’d transferred to Montana and loved it. So when I applied to grad schools, I thought, “Well, why not?”

    So you just have to kind of trust fate, or something else if you’re religious. But I appreciate you baring your soul like this, and I’m happy to help any way I can.

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