Who am I? I’m Joe. Part 3

Ok, if you made it this far, first of all, you deserve a medal or a sticker or something.   So thanks for taking such an interest.

We’ve went from grade school to college…  now let me tell the downside to a 16-17 year living alone.

As friends tend to do, my group started to drift around the time I turned 19.   Ryan had joined the Air Force, to which I told him, in 2001 when he joined, if you do, with your luck, we will go to war.   He was in Basic when 9/11 happened.  Go figure.  Scott, who I am deliberately not talking about much, I’ll save that guy for an angry post, sadly lost his father and went off the deep end.   Jay, my roommate and I had a falling out, which was totally my fault and I regret to this day (I joined in on a group of “friends” talking shit about him for absolutely no reason and it ended in a physical fight).  I learned that day that talking shit about your friends just to be funny and apart of the crowd can cost you great friends.   Bear was beginning to go down a path that I wasn’t willing to go down with him, so we started to drift.

As most of you can relate, the party was over and we were growing up and that meant growing apart.

Ryan had started a company that he allowed me to become apart of when we were around 19 or 20, after he had left the military and it turned out to be extremely lucrative.  I learned a lot about money in that time, mostly how to spend it.  I decided when I began writing this that I wasn’t going to tell other people’s stories or make this some kind of gossip blog, so I’ll just say that having money changes you when you haven’t had it before.  I was extremely naive and frugal was not a word I was familiar with.

I lived like a rap star, bought a new Durango, a beautiful town house in Fayetteville for way too much money and partied like a rock star.  I want to stress in these blogs though, hard drugs were never my thing.   There were no cocaine fueled nights, but there were quite of bit of emptied kegs and empty bottles.

Fayetteville was a life changing experience for me.  I met some of the best friends a person could ask for on the Hill and to this day, the sight of Fayetteville coming up in the horizon on my way there from Fort Smith still makes me feel like I’m coming home.

The first friend I made was through a guy from Fort Smith who moved up there with me for a very short time, Scott (Not the aforementioned Scott).  His name was David and he turned out to be a lifelong buddy whose friendship I cherish to this day.  Through David, I met Ant and Josh.  Two of the best people I’m proud to call friends, 15 years later.   Needless to say this list grew and there are way too many to name, but it was the best group of people I’ve ever known.   Each of them were loyal, knew what friendship was supposed to be, had your back no matter what and took care of each other like family.

They were all in college at the time and I was cashing checks.  I ended up spending my time primarily at Josh’s townhouse and many adventures were had.

Like most easy and good things in life, the company Ryan and I had fizzled out.  So reality, as it usually does, hit me in the face like a ton of bricks.

Fortunately, due to my amazing friends, I was able to get a job as the break-fix IT guy at data mining company for title research in Fayetteville, which eventually morphed into a Title Company.

The CEO of this company was a guy I still hold in very high regard, his name was Bart and he introduced me to the business world.   After seeing that I was more than just a tech guy, he offered me a job.  In one of my rare moments of genius and having no idea how beneficial it would be to me later on, I tested my luck and negotiated with him a 6K a year budget for IT training.

This lead to my attending a 3 week bootcamp in 2003 to obtain the first of many certifications to come.  In that 3 weeks of grueling, brain bending lecture/lab/testing , I was now the proud holder of an MCSE, MCSA, MCP, Security+, MSCE+Messaging and an A+.

Fast forward after 2 years of an amazing job with a decent salary for a 22 year old and a few talks from Bart, including him giving me his credit card to buy some clothes because “I can’t have my IT guy coming to work dressed like a burner everyday” and I was a real life IT guy.

Eventually, a shady little lawyer hired by the company would try to squeeze me out by hiring a firm out of Little Rock to take over operations.   It blew up in his face when he realized the firm only accepted them as a client with the specific intention of hiring me, due to my certifications and the way Microsoft incentives work.   Shortly after, the IT company fired the Title Company as a client, much to my dismay.

I learned in that instant how cut throat business could be and the lesson served me well.
So, here I am, living in Little Rock for training and I obtained my next certification, a Cisco Certified Network Associate.   This was by far the most defining moment in my career, as I realized that Cisco and networking were my calling, my talent and my ticket to making a lot more money.   At the time, I was pulling down 60K a year as a 24 yr old, but I was undervalued, even by Arkansas standards.

The final straw came when the LR company broke our initial agreement that I would never have to give up my sweet ass apartment, custom designed by a famous NWA architect over Ozark Mountain Smokehouse on Dickson Street.

Feeling very cheated and much to the disappointment of the managing IT dispatcher, I let them know I was done.   I moved back to Fort Smith for a few months until I got a phone call that would change my life forever.

Another of the friends I made that would end up becoming a lifelong friendship was a girl named Jessica.   Josh had married Hannah and Jessica was her best friend.  Jessica and I hated each other for the first 2 years, save the first night we met, that we knew each other.  A trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, somehow magically changed that and we became best friends.  Just like that.  Now Jess was from the Bay Area and was attending college in Arkansas.  She dated Jeremy, who got her pregnant with Brooklyn and they had decided to move back to California.  Knowing my situation, Jessica called and asked if I wanted to go to California and take up their spare bedroom until I got on my feet.

I literally sold my truck 3 days later, had 300 dollars in my pocket and a cell phone and moved 1800 miles to California, at 25 years old.   This is where my real adventure began.

I will write more about that in Part 4 of this get to know me series.   So, until then, if you take nothing else from my story, remember this…  sometimes, it’s who you know.

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