Once I answered that phone call, things started happening really fast. That weekend I went down for an interview. While I was there I met the woman who would eventually become the girlfriend.
Two weeks after that, I had dug my last hole, packed everything up and moved.
It was a hot, irritating, and slammed together experience that resulted with most of my stuff in my parent’s garage, and me taking a large box full of everything I would need for a few weeks with me to Milwaukee.
I camped out in a spare bedroom/closet of a friends apartment and split rent with them until I was able to find a place. I also started talking to the awesome and pretty woman I’d met earlier, and, a week after I moved down. I went to work for the first time.
The first two weeks were a breeze. It was August and I was going through all of the training lessons and classroom setup without too much of an issue. During this time I started training at a karate dojo in the Wauwatosa area. I’d known the instructor, Sensei Mark, for quite some time, and was able to pop in and just have fun with karate again (HINT: This bit is important. If there was a test, this would be on the test.) In addition to this, I was also training on my own for Worlds, which was coming up. But, since I was living in someones office and didn’t want to monopolize a karate school I wasn’t paying for all to much. I trained outside.
The school year started up, and by the end of the first day I had an inkling that I may have made a mistake in taking this position.
Ths school had a great concept going for it. They were a college preperatory middle school, and every child was told they were going to succeed and go on to higher education. Most of my students were from lower income homes, and many were receiving assistance from the school for lunches and various other school related items (bags, supplies, clothing). I was 110% behind all of this. It was a great thing and I was happy to be a part of it.
However, the culture of the classrooms, and by extension, school was one I was not familiar with, and one that I struggled to be effective in. Many of the staff for the year were new, and we were all having struggles being the effective educators we wished to be.
I worked there for 2 and a half months. During this time I lost 20 pounds and apparently looked 10 years older. On October 31st the pincipal came down to my room and told me it might be best if I begin to look for alternate positions.
My jaw dropped.
So much for the idea of being an educator.
Rewind a few weeks. Sometime in the later part of September I had a serious heart to heart with myself and tried to figure out what it was I really wanted to do. I landed on karate. I began looking at spaces to rent and playing with the idea of starting up my own school.
I asked Sensei Mark if I would be able to pick his brain about starting a school. He looked at me a little oddly. Then said he would love to talk with me about it. But, before I started renting property, he had another offer on the table. He was looking for someone to eventually buy him out.
He basically offered me a school with students and everything.
After this, we had many talks.
The eventual plan we settled on was to let me finish out the semester at the school I was working at. I’d give my notice in December, so they would have plenty of time to find a replacement, and I would start at the karate school in the new year.
Return to my chat with the Principal. I was a little shocked, and a little relieved all at the same time. She mentioned that I was being “let go” and not “fired” which was a nice thought, but it basically amounts to the same thing. I was then told to have some new jobs lined up by Monday (It was Friday).
I don’t remember exactly what I said, I was in a little bit of shock. But I remember thanking her. She gave me a weird look for that one. As soon as she left, I texted Sensei Mark.
Three minutes later I got a reply. I was starting at the dojo on Monday. We’d figure everything out.
I had to teach the rest of the afternoon. After the students left for the day, I had a meeting with the Principal and the Dean. They were both very smiley. They both asked me if there was anything I needed.
I told them I had a job lined up for Monday, and that everything was set to go.
There was a moment of silence.
The rest of the meeting went by in short order. I smiled the whole time and thanked them for the experience. I shook their hands before I left.
On November 3rd, 2014. I began working here.
And that’s where I’ve been ever since. I now own a pretty good percentage of the business and have learned far more that I was expecting to. I love my job, I laugh every day, and I really get to work with kids in a way I wasn’t able to in more traditional settings.
The thing I’ve realized, is my goal of getting a job, then becoming a teacher, then trying to be the best teacher I could be, while admirable, wasn’t lining up with what made me happy. I’m sure there were other options I could have taken. I could have worked harder on modifying my style, I could have searched for jobs differently. I could have stayed in Ashland, I could have never gone into mental health. I could have moved to Australia. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different paths I could have taken and with any of them I could have found a job as an educator in a school system and been blissfully happy.
But, I made a series of choices, maybe not the best choices. But they were the best I could make at the time. They eventually led me away from a goal, and into something that I had only dared to dream about. Running a karate school was a secret hope of mine for years, but one that I never really beleived in. It would go in the same sentence as “When I own a Ferrari!” or “The left wing of my mansion…”
Now, it’s my main vocation. I don’t have a Ferrari, nor do I live in a mansion. But I never actually wanted those things. I did want this. And I love it, I’ve been able to start new programs, come up with ideas for new events, and learn all about running a small business. I’ve been networking for the last few years, and am starting to know people all over the country who share my same passion. The amount of work that needs to be done is staggering. But it’s also awesome and a type of challenge that I wake up excited for.
I believe everyone has an ability to institiute change. The only difference is what vehicle we use. For some, it’s education. For others, it’s engineering or working in the service industry. It might be working in law or even mental health. But for me, I’ve found my vehicle to be martial arts. And I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect fit.