My beautiful, lovely girlfriend Tawna — I probably don’t tell her that enough — recently created and gave me a book entitled: “When Everly Grows Up.” Everly is our 22-month old daughter.
“When Everly Grows Up” begins with myself being the first one up in the morning. This is definitely a story. I’m also depicted as having far less hair than I actually do. I’m bald. But not George Costanza bald.
I walk over to Evey’s crib — we call her that for short — sipping a cup of coffee. Yeah, I don’t do that either in real life. I tell her all of the things I think she could grow up to be. These include teacher, doctor, talk show host and my personal favorite — basketball superstar. However, no reporter. Tawna “claims” this wasn’t an option.
But this heartfelt gift got me thinking about my own career. And the very unusual road I took to it.
Allow me to share.
I loved sports — still do, obviously — even though I was never particularly good at them. So being the next Michael Jordan or Troy Aikman was never really in the cards for me.
But I still envisioned myself having a career in sports — as a broadcaster, in fact.
During my teenage years, and OK, even into my 20s, while playing “NCAA Football” and “Madden” on my PlayStation, I provided both the play-by-play and color commentary.
However, you don’t just become the next Al Michaels or Gus Johnson. You just don’t walk in or submit an application online. Unfortunately, I didn’t even have somebody like Cris Collinsworth on speed dial.
But it wouldn’t have mattered if I did anyway. I wasn’t ready for it.
My senior year of high school I skipped classes to go home and play “Halo 2” on my Xbox with my friends, didn’t apply for a single college scholarship and had my GPA drop by a full point.
I really don’t know how I even graduated from Fruitland High School in the spring of 2005.
I was done with school.
But to please my parents I went to nearby Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario, Oregon.
To my credit, I actually tried this time around, while working part time at Wendy’s and Walmart. I walked across the stage donning a cap and gown in front of my entire family in the spring of 2008. We took photos and everything.
But I received a letter in the mail stating that I hadn’t met the requirements to receive my Associate of Arts degree three weeks later. I had failed my math class — even though the teacher assured me beforehand I would pass.
My mom and I went down to talk with school officials. It was to no avail. I vividly remember sitting in my mother’s Toyota Camry crying my eyes out. I felt like I had let my family down — again. My grandparents never really got to see me graduate. It’s one of my biggest regrets to this day.
So I gave up on school — and myself.
I eked my way through life.
I stayed at home with my parents — never paying them a single dime of rent — wasted all of my money on movies and video games and halfhearted my way through my job a Walmart. Before I knew it, four years had gone by.
In 2012, the only things I could say about myself was I was an electronic sales associate making about $8 per hour, in an on-again, off-again relationship and had just lost my grandfather, whom I really looked up to.
It all sent me into a downward spiral.
I didn’t eat.
I slept with a knife under my bed.
And posted cryptic messages on Facebook about ending my life.
My parents had no choice but to commit me to Intermountain Hospital in Boise.
But as strange as it sounds, the experience was the best thing to ever happen to me. During those five days, I found myself again.
I quit my job and enrolled at Boise State in the fall of 2012. I didn’t know what I would exactly find there. But I was willing to take that chance again.
It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.
I found my calling while walking to class that first year. I had always parked at the Lincoln Parking Garage, but it took me a few months to notice it — the office of Boise State’s student newspaper, The Arbiter. But I didn’t go in right away.
I thought, “Me, a writer? Can I really do that?”
Besides math, English was always my least favorite subject. I mean, in the fourth and fifth grades, I had to tell my mom what to write and copy her words down.
But I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this was what I was meant to do. So finally one day I swung open the door, rang the bell at the front desk and asked “Can I join?”
I was the Assistant Sports Editor and interning for the Boise Weekly a year later.
After graduating cum laude — I actually graduated this time — I returned home. But it wasn’t to Walmart. I was hired as the sports reporter for my hometown newspaper, The Argus Observer.
I must have been doing something right, because after just nine months, I was courted to work right here at the Idaho Press. My first day was Feb. 14, 2016 — Valentine’s Day. And here I am with this very column.
The book ends with the words “Just believe in your heart and let it guide you.”
Mine certainty has.
And it will for my daughter — and you, too.