A period of extended leave caused by the Coronavirus pandemic and a desire to spend time traveling and studying in order to gain a greater awareness and appreciation for all that I have been blessed with.
~ Jack Smith
Just twelve months ago today… Feb. 1st 2020 the world was a very different place and I was a very different person. I had just returned from the most epic Heli-ski trip of my life and was looking forward to a new decade – both 2020 and turning the BIG-FIVE-OOOOhhhhh in April, a new job, and a year of activities and adventures that had me on the edge of my seat! I had it ALL PLANNED… until I didn’t.
As news slowly started breaking and February turned into March, it became apparent that my world was about to change. I wish I could tell you that I saw at least some of this coming, but I had NO IDEA the extent to which this was going to impact myself or the world. If you did, would you please let me know next time!?
And while there will be future posts where I’ll spend more time going into detail about the chain of events that caused what might be considered a drastic life change, here is the outline:
- March 5, 2020 – Amazon employees are required to work from home. While this seemed like a bit much at the time, I really just assumed it was an over-abundance of caution which I appreciated. It also meant that it would be easier to watch March Madness if I was WFH (just being truthful here ? ? ? !)
- March 12 – March Madness is canceled. WTF ? !? While this may sound silly to list, if you know me, you know that March is one of my FAVORITE times of the year. When they canceled basketball, not only was closely following those events like I do every March, I was acutely aware of the magnitude of the decision – not just on schools, players, coaches but on the economics of that decision. Sadly, that was the first of many such monumental cancellations and both social and economic consequences.
- Late March – Life starts getting really dark for Jack. No crossfit, no church, no community, no friends, and A LOT OF ISOLATION. Coronavirus played no favorites in how it impacted ALL OF US. While spouses and families had to find new ways to live WITH each other in the days of lockdown, I had to find a way to live WITHOUT others. Solitary confinement is an extreme form of punishment for a reason and I began to have a better understanding of why than I had ever wanted to know.
- Early April – While a large majority of Amazon’s business lines have done well through this time, there were some that were impacted to a greater extent than others. Both my business line and role were squarely in that line of fire. And to be clear, there were already issues long before March/April and I had been looking for new roles internally and externally. Remember trying to figure out living room workouts? How much toilet paper was ‘enough’ and we lost Kenny Rogers! DARK DAYS! #knowwhentofoldem
- Mid-April -Work and life conditions become blurred due to constant business emergencies, relationships are strained under constant online meetings and a lack of in-person contact and when combined with a lack of management procedures for dealing with employees under this type of situation my personal and team morale begin to suffer. Work becomes a lonely, dark, and frustrating torture chamber on a daily basis.
- Late April – I’m less than 2 weeks from my 50th birthday (April 28th if you’d like to mark that in your calendar! ? ) and I’ve just had another major setback. In February, I had begun researching and interviewing for new roles and I was really excited about the possibilities. After two years at Amazon, it became clear that staying at the company was not going to be in my best interest. Consequently, I’d worked my way through a series of interviews and was in the final interview stages with several different companies – only to find out one-by-one that all positions were closed and hiring frozen. This truly felt like game, set, match to me.
- April 21st – Maybe you already see it coming, the plot twist in the movie that is supposed to be a surprise but you’ve known it from the beginning? Maybe you’ve been there yourself or had a loved one go through the darkest of places in their life… not being able to see a way out and contemplating a way to end the pain. A deep depression caused by a sense of loss of everything in my life – work, friends, community, spirituality, and physical well-being combined with the gravity of age and a feeling that life that ‘hadn’t turned out as I had planned’ created the darkest of days. Not sleeping, not eating, not working and not living. And not wanting to live…
- April 22nd – It’s difficult to go back and read through those journal entries and it’s also a source of faith, pride and deep gratitude. At a time where it felt like all was lost, in the next moment, all was found. Dark, raining, cold, crying, lost, angry, indignant, and running around Green Lake… God helped me find a way forward. In what was figuratively and literally one of the darkest and coldest moments in my life, and God helped me find my way out.
Psalm 118:5-6 “Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
I don’t know what you think as you read that. I know that it feels weird to type. So much of it now feels like the life of someone I no longer know. I’ve had friends of friends take their lives but it wasn’t something I could understand until this time and place. It’s an experience that I have difficulty talking and writing about because the depth of sorrow and pain is deep and it’s hard to believe that I got to that point and how relatively easy it feels in the moment. The desire to do anything to leave the pain.
And yet, it’s now so hard to compare to the love and healing I’ve felt since that experience and are things that I can’t put into words. And maybe it’s something that I’ll never be able to express because it about more than just feelings – it’s about God’s Grace and my Gratitude for Him saving me – again. And it changed everything… the best 50th birthday present I could have ever been given – my life and the love I have for the blessing of that gift.
- May 7th – I make a road-trip home to see my parents (Mother’s Day and my Dad’s birthday) and while cruising across the Interstate 90 God plants the seed for Just Won Thing. God’s version of Inception – a tiny dream that is slowly becoming more and more my own and changing my life. And while I originally thought it was just a catch play on words and personal development, God has since shown me the bigger message of how my life has already been WON on the cross and that I can rest in that knowledge – it’s always day WON!
- June/July – Summer in Seattle is one of the best times of the year and even in quarantine, it was one of the more epic summers I have ever had. There will be posts of summer camp and most importantly some amazing life-long friendships were built and another life-changing pursuit was introduced – PICKLEBALL!
- July 17th – Last day at Amazon. There’s so much to be said for this experience and the two years that I was an Amazonian. I’m proud of the accomplishment, the company, and results – lessons, laughter, loss, and leadership on one of the biggest corporate stages in the world. Through it all, I’m a happy Prime member and have nothing but respect for the company and its Peculiar policies, procedures, principles, and people.
But God didn’t give me the strength to get back on my feet so that I could run back to the same thing that knocked me down.
~ On Leaving Amazon
- July/August – Long summer days outside, in the mountains, on the pickleball court, and on the water begin to provide space for recovery and perspective from the challenges of the first half of the year. Also in July, the lease on my Green Lake residence expires. And while it will always be one of the BEST and FAVORITE places I have lived, the timing and chain of both personal and global events begin to whisper into my ears of opportunities that weren’t possible just a few short months ago. While there are FEW things I regret about Gonzaga, not talking a year to study abroad is one of them. What if I could take that year now and rather than travel internationally, explore domestically instead. Don’t even get me started on how many #vanlife posts I’ve read over the years or the number of #sprintervans I have lusted over!
- Late August – The number of things the Coronavirus has changed and in what seems unexpected ways and industries (at least to me) is truly amazing – and the automotive and RV world would be one of them. It quickly became apparent that even if I could afford a Sprinter, it would be almost impossible to find – especially at a price I could afford.
So instead, I started looking for alternatives, and rather than looking for a Class B RV (Van) or Class C (motorhome), I started thinking about a truck that could pull or haul an RV. So August saw me trading in my beloved Jeep Wrangler Rubicon which I thought I would have forever, for my first ever truck, a Dodge Ram 3500. And I couldn’t be happier with her – meet the Gray Ghost – or GG for short!
- September – The truck was only half of the solution though. After a lot of thought and deliberation, I started looking at truck campers vs. trailers/5th wheel RVs. Thanks to some help from my Zag friends in Spokane, I found Karen the Kamper – Klassy with a Capital K! A perfect combination of everything that ‘a Karen’ is in the customer service world and one of my favorite people from Will & Grace. But a camper is SMALL! So another life-changing decision was made. If I can’t fit it in the truck/camper, then I’m not keeping it. Yup, I sold, donated, loaned, gave-away or disposed of all of my belongings except for a few precious items that consist of less than 10 boxes at my parent’s house. YIKES!
- October 26th – Less than 6 months from one of the darkest moments in my life to a life that I barely recognize, I leave Washington State in a fully-loaded truck/camper and hit the road. It’s still hard to believe that this is my life and that it all changed so quickly. Since leaving Washington, some of my favorite stops have been Bend, OR, Pismo Beach, CA, Santa Monica, CA, Palm Springs, CA, Tucson, AZ, and my current location, Phoenix, AZ. The photo in the header was taken on New Year’s Day in the middle of “nowhere AZ” which was a perfect start to 2021 – a blank canvas with nothing but wide-open spaces and blue skies.
So What Happens Next?
Well, I wish that I could say that life has been nothing but perfect since leaving and letting go of all my stuff and following God’s divine inspiration, but I’m afraid that’s just not true. But what is true, is that I’m happier than I have been in a very long time – and that’s a pretty great start. It’s also taken this long for me to be able to sit down and start to talk about and share the experiences of the past year.
While I know that 2020 was an incredibly difficult year for so many people and full of so much pain, suffering and loss, I also know that it created one of the most magical outcomes of my life. And for that, I am so incredibly grateful. As I look back on the year that was, I feel the compassion for those that just want to forget that it ever happened, but I also feel the excitement in my heart for all of the love, lessons, laughter, leadership, and listening created in the process. I appreciate all of it in a way I never have before.
02/01/21 And the launch of Just Won Thing
And that brings us to today. Just Won Thing is an idea that I believe has been uniquely given to me and is something that I am really, really looking forward to exploring, sharing, and discovering with YOU! This is a very special day and the continuation of what’s already been in the works for several years. I’ll keep sharing more of the story about how I got here and dig deep into some of the details while also sharing new insights and experiences. It’s a time of recovery and discovery and I’m ridiculously excited about it.
This day is special, the numbers are special and YOU are special. If you’ve made it this far in the post, thank you and I hope you’ll leave a comment, share a hello or just know that dreams do come true – even in the middle of a global pandemic – and this site is proof. And in the words of one of my all-time favorite characters and movies…