Season Finale

by Just Juan

Tomorrow, I’ll turn a new page in life by entering into a new era: my 30s. That written, this is the last thing I’ll write in my 20s. This last hurrah in my Roaring 20s has been a rollercoaster of a year. Let’s recap some of the major stuff…

RELATIONSHIP FALLOUT. For the first few months I spent at 29, I focused a lot of time, effort, and attention towards saving what I thought was a relationship worth saving. Months earlier, my then-girlfriend had a “dream” in which the scenario played out that I proposed to her in a way that was so far removed from the vision I have written in Triumphs & Tribulations VIII—something I shared with her days before the “dream”—that we both laughed it off. A few days after that, however, she told me that she talked to “a friend” who interprets dreams and that person dissected the “dream” and concluded that I would end up hurting her deeply, based on the elements of that “dream”. Naturally, I was kinda offended by it…offended that she brought a 3rd party into our situation when we both expressed from the outset of the relationship that we would always talk out concerns amongst each other and pray together about it…offended that somebody I had never met or didn’t know from a door knob pretty much put out there that I was some kind of bad person. Though I tried and tried and tried to sway her thinking, the words from that “friend” along with some previous experience she had with a “dream” seemed to doom the relationship. We ended up breaking up because of that. I always had my suspicions that it had absolutely nothing to do with the dream and that she used it as a cop-out to get out of the relationship because of her concerns regarding the fact that we were from different Christian denominations—me as a non-denominational Christian and her a Seventh-Day Adventist—as it was something she always asked my opinion on. Eventually, the fallout of our broken relationship led to me wanting to know the true reasons for why things happened the way they did. Nothing she was saying was making sense to me because it would be contradicted by something else she had said previously. So, we agreed to meet to air out all grievances and to clear up all confusion in the matter…and we also agreed to have a mediator listen on. In that meeting at a North Atlanta area Panera Bread on an extremely cold January 2 evening, I laid out how I felt that she was exactly forthcoming with me concerning the failed relationship…I even asked very pointed questions drawing back on specific things that were said. When the ball was in her court, she maintained her stance that it was about the “dream”, which she felt that it was a sign from God, and that it was not about anything else. I countered with a couple of rebuttal questions but she gave answers that left me with no better understanding of the situation than before the dialogue began. More importantly, I had reached the point in which the bad I was willing to suffer through (the differences between us at the time) was greater than the good I envisioned at the end (a blossoming relationship…possibly more). So I conceded defeat and I made my exit. That was the end of it.

STAYING BUSY. Aside from dealing with the failed relationship, I had to contend with other things as well. I was having issues with in the workplace…the outdated and inefficient methods of my supervision was making the job much more difficult than it had to be and I challenged them. There was a lot of strife and animosity behind those battles. In December, I broke my ankle in a freak accident while shopping in Wal-Mart. Just like that, in addition to getting over a failed relationship, I had to figure a way to make my workplace experience much more enjoyable and recover from a devastating injury. I decided the best course of action was to keep myself busy. Having enrolled into a new graduate program in December, the Spring 2014 semester would require a lot of my time, effort, and attention. The 8-week rehab program getting back into good physical shape after the broken ankle required more time, effort, and attention. And I started on a travel-heavy work schedule that kept me on the road an average of 17 days a month the first half of 2014. All of a sudden, I was so busy that I didn’t have time to think about the failed relationship, the broken ankle, or the drama at work. As I look back on it now, I think it was a good move. I don’t necessarily think the 1st half of 2014 is as successful for me as it was if I had the time to be “all in my feelings”.

THE 5TH DEGREE. Having applied for my dream job—a Foreign Service Facility Manager position for the Department of State—in November 2012 and not being amongst the best qualified applicants because of my academic profile in the field, I decided that getting a Master of Science in Facility Management was mandatory. So I applied for the graduate program at the Rochester Institute of Technology late last year and started in January. I went into it with the mindset that I would be pursuing my final academic degree and that it would be the final piece to the puzzle that would put me over the top in regards to the State Department gig. I had an exceptional spring semester, highlighted by almost going wire-to-wire with perfect grades. I’m currently a month into the Fall 2014 semester and so far, I’m looking really good.

EMERGENCE IN THE WORKPLACE. After deciding to spend exponentially more time on the road to escape the workplace drama and ineffectiveness, I really settled into my Facility Operations Specialist position with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. All of those business trips—or TDYs, as we call them—allowed me to spend a lot of time learning about facility practices on the long plane rides and the long drives in the rental cars. I applied this increased knowledge and my own efficiency and effectiveness skyrocketed. At our organizational meeting in late May, I had a chance to showcase a lot of what I learned and applied by making suggestions for changes to our operating practices…something that got rave reviews from my colleagues and even my chain of command in Charleston. I believe that—more than anything—was the primary factor in my term being renewed as I approached the end of my probation period…and it likely sealed the deal for my pay increase. Next month, I’m due for my first performance evaluation and the early word from my director is that she doesn’t see any reason why I wouldn’t have a high performance rating.

SPRING FLINGS. Yeah, I stayed busy a lot during the 1st half of 2014 with school, rehab, and travel for work but I still made a little time for a personal life. Not content with letting the failed relationship be representative of who I am and what my dating and relationship trends were, I decided to get out and date occasionally. I ended up going out with 2 women…both of them were attorneys. The first was from Atlanta by way of Saginaw, Michigan and we kicked it off well with really good phone conversations, emails, texting, and video messaging until she decided to do that whole silent treatment thing after the 1st date. The latter of the 2 was a Canadian based out of Montgomery. She was awesome…one of the most well put together women I had met in years. We enjoyed some great outings and even greater conversations about life—from a myriad of vantage points. She’s most responsible for my heart not hardening after what happened with the failed relationship. But despite that, breaking through the proverbial glass ceiling to her heart was something I was unable to do. In her words, that “it” factor that could lead to a romantic relationship didn’t exist and I was, in effect, relegated to the friend zone. In times past, I was pretty much an automatic for me to pass on being friends with someone I possibly considered romantically. But I’ve decided to have a bit of an open mind regarding her and to this point, we’ve established somewhat of an emerging friendship.

THE DREAM JOB. Back in December, I applied for the Foreign Service Facility Manager position with the State Department. I took the lessons learned from my November 2012 attempt and took a different approach the 2nd time around. I wasn’t expecting to qualify for the job as I’m still considered a babe in the world of facilities management…even though I have nearly 11 years of experience. But I was surprised when I got a notice from USA Jobs that I qualified for the position…even more so when I passed the evaluations panel and made it to the interview stage. I flew to Washington, DC in June for the interview, which consisted of 3 parts: (1) a writing assignment, (2) a skills assessment, and (3) the structured interview with the subject matter expert. Naturally, I excelled in the writing assignment and I did really good in the structured interview. The skills assessment was a different beast, though. A lot of the material covered in it was new to me and I didn’t do as well as I thought I would. Before I arrived to DC, I was told I had to meet a specified cut-off score in order to be offered a position. I missed it by 0.01 points. In other words, I was thisclose to landing my dream job before the age of 30. I was disappointed but then I realized how much farther along I got in the process the 2nd time around and I was pleased. After I’m done with this last degree, I’m going for the job again. You know what they say: the 3rd time is the charm.

THE TRAVELS. This year at 29 has been loaded with traveling for me. It all started when I decided to take on a more travel-heavy work schedule. That opened up frequent visits to facilities in various parts of Alabama, Georgia, and Florida along with periodic trips to other parts of the country to help with assessments and to conduct training. I did a lot of leisure travel as well. I had a West Coast swing back in August that had me in San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver…pretty much every major city along the Pacific Coast. There was also the 8 trips to Birmingham to visit with family. And I can’t forget about the long overdue return trips to Valdosta, GA and Tallahassee, FL. Oh yeah, trips to San Antonio, Denver, and Boston were sprinkled in there as well. I didn’t get a chance to visit Tokyo at 29 and that disappointed me a little bit. With so much time spent on the road, I earned some really good benefits through Enterprise Rent-A-Car and the Hilton Honors Programs.

NEW TECHNOLOGY. The year I’ve spent at 29 introduced me to 5 pieces of new technology that have made a world of difference. In January, I purchased a set of Yurbuds Wireless Bluetooth earphones…the limited edition sport variety. For the first time ever, I didn’t have to worry about wires when it came to using earphones with my mobile phone. Also in January, I purchased a Google Chromecast digital media player, which expanded the way I could use my TV with apps such as Netflix, Pandora, WatchESPN, and YouTube. It really started the process of putting all of my entertainment in one place. In March, I started having some problems with the audio on the HTC Sensation 4G that I acquired in July 2011. So I visited T-Mobile and ended up getting a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Instantly, it made the other 2 purchases better because of compatibility and it put me on a different wavelength in terms of my experience with Samsung. In April, I was growing weary of having to take my notebook PC on the road with me all the time because it just added to what I had to bring…along with textbooks for school, work stuff, and personal effects. So I pretty much came to the realization that I needed to go lighter and get a tablet. I was all set to acquire the Microsoft Surface 2 but I came across the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 and I was sold. The 12.2-inch screen, the compatibility with my mobile phone, and the perks did it for me. The addition of the tablet made my life a lot easier with the advanced features. A week after I purchased the tablet, I found myself in need of a new GPS as the one I was currently using had reached its glass ceiling in terms of my use for it. So, after a lot of research, I acquired the Garmin nüvi 2597. It was an incredible upgrade over my previous GPS…a TomTom. It was more precise with the directions and traffic…and it even displayed precisely what the exits looked like with buildings and terrain so I’d have a better idea of what to expect on the roads. All 5 are candidates for the New Purchase category in my Best of 2014 series this coming December.

A LATE SEASON SURPRISE. The real highlight in the final year of my 20s is something that happened late and by total surprise: a new dating relationship. Back in June, when I attended the 2014 Worth The Wait Revolution Gala in DC, the host—WTWR founder, Dr. Lindsay Warren—told me personally that God would bring me “an awesome woman”. I thought she was just being pleasant because of my contributions to her non-profit but she was dead on. In July, after realizing that the Canadian Cutie was closer to being a co-best friend than she was a girlfriend, I gave a final try and I came across a then 28-year-old nurse practitioner in nearby Columbus, GA…the closest of any person I had ever met on, in terms of geographical distance. We ended up meeting for the first time the night before I took off for my West Coast swing and I almost cancelled because I had already spent a vast majority of that day on the road for work. But she countered that she wanted to meet me “even if it was for just a minute”. How could I say no to that? We ended up meeting at a Chipotle, where we had an intriguing dinner highlighted by great conversation. And over the next month, we went out a few more times before we both came to the realization that we really liked each other and wasting time with no set purpose in what we were doing would be of no benefit to either of us. So, we made it official…became an item. As of tomorrow, that would make 3 weeks. So far, everything is going good.

The year at 29 was somewhat of an adjustment year for me. Having left the Air Force and moved back to the South so late in my age 28 year, I figured I’d spend much of 29 adjusting. And that was exactly the case. I learned a lot about what life is really about without the military in my corner at 29…the first such time I’ve experienced that since I was 18. I think I made out just fine. I got a chance to see glimpses of my future at 29—my dream job, an emerging relationship, meteoric development within my field—and I think what lies ahead for me in my 30s and beyond looks very bright. I’m excited for 30. My 20s were a learning experience but as I enter into a new age bracket, it’s a new deal for me much like the 1930s were a New Deal for most Americans. I think it’ll be a great journey.

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