Growing up the son of a Mennonite mother and a southern Baptist father gave me a pretty broad spectrum of family backgrounds to draw on for character building. Put that together with splitting time between hanging out at my mothers quilting shop and with my fathers motorcycle club and well you get the idea. I had your run of the mill un-average childhood racing dirt bikes all over the country on the weekends, learning how to sew in the evenings and generally being an outcast in school simply because I was small, didn’t play sports, and listened to heavy metal music.
During high school I started to take my racing seriously and traveled the country doing the national hare scrambles series. I ended up 7th the B class which put me about 150th overall in the country, definitely not where I wanted to be and by the age of 18 I was mentally and physically worn out on racing competitively.
Right after I graduated high school my father met me at the door as I came in from work. He had a small slip of paper in each hand. One he said, was the admissions office at West Point Military Academy. The other the hourly personnel supervisor at Ford Motor Company in Kansas City, Mo. A company for which he had spent 30 years as a supervisor. Being a short smartass with a mind of my own, I knew the military was not right for me. I called Ford and packed everything I owned into my truck two weeks later and moved five hours away from home.
It didn’t take long for me figure out that assembly line work wasn’t really my gig. Although the pay and benefits could not be beat considering it was unskilled labor, I always wondered what could have been. I had never planned on going to college, but what if I changed my mind? I occupied my time reading motorcycle magazines and sci-fi novels. Motorcycles, which had been a part of my life since birth and then become an object of dread suddenly became so much more appealing after toning down the intensity and being away for a few years. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to work in the motorcycle industry? Wouldn’t it be neat to work for a magazine. I figured, “hey, I like riding dirt bikes and going to races, and I really like to talk to people about that stuff, why can’t I do that for a magazine?”
And then a door opened, Ford offered buy-outs at my plant between 2005-06 and I jumped on board with the best package available, the Education package! I grabbed the opportunity and promptly enrolled in MMI knowing it was just a stepping stone to an ultimate goal.
Moving 5 hours away from family is one thing, but tossing your new fiancés stuff in a trailer and dragging her 18 hours from home, well that takes some real guts. At least she had a job waiting for her when we arrived in Orlando, Florida. Living down there was fun and I will never forget being totally confused on Christmas eve walking into Wal-Mart in shorts, and hearing 4 different languages on my way in, none of which were English. To say the experience was a little eye opening is an understatement. It didn’t matter that I had been overseas on 3 separate occasions or grown up accustomed to strange weather patterns. Nothing can prepare you for life in central Florida except living down there.
I was lucky enough to get a job right out of MMI. I moved to Stillwater, coincidentally(?) an hour from where I grew up in Tulsa. I started attending classes at NSU and OSU. I knew I could make a living working on motorcycles but what I didn’t know was if I could write. I knew I “liked” to write, but was it any good? Good enough to make a living? I started reading and writing a lot more than usual and started enrolling in writing, humanities and sociology classes. I figure if you are going to write for people, you should probably know people as well.
Combining my all of my hobbies into a paying job is really the ultimate goal because if you enjoy what you do for a living, you will never work a day in your life.