Season Premiere

by Just Juan

Last night, I closed out my 20s with the season finale of my life at 29. And while it was a good year in a lot of ways, it was a learning year overall…an adjustment to a major shift in my lifestyle. Today, I’m celebrating a 30th birthday and the entry into a new era of life. I feel like the window I have left for learning is quickly closing and the time has come for me to start applying much of what I’ve learned over my life. And that starts today. The following are my focus areas at this venerable age of 30…

THE 5TH DEGREE. Very few things are as important to me as doing what I need to do to acquire the 5th and final degree. After a tremendously successful Spring 2014, I’m settled into the Fall 2014 semester and I decided to overload…3 classes that’ll take me to December. My intent is to blow through this semester with 100 averages across the board. It’s a challenging task but with the effort I’m putting forth, there is a possibility I can do it. If all else fails, I at least want to leave out with my 4.0 GPA. I’ll also be overloading in the Spring 2015 semester, which will consist of the remaining core classes. For the first time since 2008, I’ll take summer classes and in Summer 2015, I’ll take a couple of easy electives as I prep for my graduate project, which will encompass all of Fall 2015. That’s pretty much the layout of what I got left the rest of the way. In chasing down this last degree, I’m going to deviate significantly from my regular routine as a student. I’ll likely go up to 40 hours a week in studying and all 7 days will be in the fold as opposed to having Monday and Saturday as designated “rest days”. This degree is different. What I want to accomplish with my livelihood going forward hinges a lot on this particular degree more than the other 4 degrees I already have in my pocket. In this year at 30, I’ll provide updates after the Fall 2014 semester in December, the Spring 2015 semester in May, and the Summer 2015 semester in August.

BECOMING AN EVEN BETTER FACILITIES MANAGER. This past June, I came painfully close to landing what I think is the top job in the facilities management industry: being a Foreign Service Facility Manager. I did well on the writing assignment and the structured interview but I apparently sucked enough at the skills assessment to miss the cut off for a job offer. That has motivated me to be even better in this field. In this year I’ll spend at 30, I intend to make a big splash. That starts with working more closely with IFMA and learning more from the old heads of facility management. Attending more seminars, more training sessions, and getting more involved with the mechanical aspects of facility management is necessary for me now. Learning more about the financial side of things and increasing my knowledge about procurement would go a long way. Of course, the pursuit of the 5th degree also helps. Bottom line, the better I become in this field, the more attractive of a candidate I become for not only that dream job but other jobs as well.

GROWING EVEN CLOSER TO THE LORD. Since I stepped back into the church and into a relationship with the Lord almost 9 years ago, I’ve always been in a place where I had an older, far more spiritually-mature Christian to keep me focused on growing. In Jacksonville, it was an older gentleman named Greg…in Spain, it was a Catalan woman named Sisi…in Tokyo, it was Latisha Hambrick, Adrian Mask and Mama Sanders…in DC, it was Monieka Stewart…in Seoul, it was the Hardens. Every step of the way, I’ve had someone older and more matured that I could count on to keep me straight…and in some form or fashion, it was usually somebody really familiar. I don’t have that advantage where I’m at in good ol’ Opelika, Alabama. It’s pretty much me by my lonesome. The church I attended here for a spell just wasn’t comfortable for me and I didn’t feel as if I was progressing in my walk by attending. So now, I’m back to the drawing board in seeking out a place to worship. I’m confident the Lord will direct me to where I need to be in this season but that doesn’t mean me growing spiritually takes a break. Staying in the Word and constantly feeding my spirit with the “good news” is of critical importance now…especially with me being in a new dating relationship.

NUTURING NEW LOVE. Speaking of that dating relationship, today marks 3 weeks since we decided to go steady after 2 months of serious dating and getting to know each other. The early returns from this new relationship is that I may have found a newer, better version of my first love. She makes me laugh, which says a lot because I’m so stoic, so unemotional, so nonchalant in how I carry myself at times. Since we started dating, my trips up to Birmingham have become less frequent as I’ve elected to stay back and hang out with her. She’s all for me advancing myself and has given total support of my pursuit of the final degree…even said that she’d give me the required space to make sure I maintain my GPA. This is the farthest into a calendar year I’ve been in a steady dating situation or relationship since October 2003 and it’s definitely a pride moment for me. I get a chance to pull out all of my cold-weather date ideas. More than that though is the opportunity to introduce her to my family. If we make it to the holiday season—and I’m betting big that we will—it’s my intention to introduce her to my family. That’s pretty major because I haven’t done that in my adult life. Continuing to learn more about her is a priority at age 30 for me. But I have to do it with purpose because she turns 30 herself next summer and we’ve both said we’re far removed from the age of wasting time in trial runs. That written, this relationship is something I’m giving a maximum effort to in hopes that it’s successful. For me, that means seeking advice from other successful couples, scaling back a little bit on my travel schedule to spend more time with her, paying more attention, being more open so that she can learn more about me, and developing a more spiritual connection with her. Hopefully, when I write the season finale for age 30 some 364 days from now, I’ll have a lot of good to write about her.

SETTLING INTO A PERMANENT POSITION. After 10 years in the Air Force, I separated with the rank of Staff Sergeant (E-5). I could have made a splash into the private sector but I enjoyed working for the government…it’s a feeling I can’t really put into words. I was able to land a GS-11 job with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a Facility Operations Specialist. I love the job. I love the type of work I do and the manner in which the things I do affect how others do what they have to do. I love the travel part of it…especially the per diem since it fattens my pockets up a little bit. If I didn’t have aspirations for the State Department gig, I’d do this forever. The problem is this is a “term” position. When I signed on in July 2013, it was for a 13-month term that could be extended in 1-year increments up to a maximum of 5 years. I’ve already had my term extended once and I’ll likely be extended until August 2016 at some point this upcoming March or April. But the fact that this isn’t a “permanent” job makes me a bit uncomfortable because they could opt to not renew my term and I’m out of a job. That written, I’ll spend this year at 30 in pursuit of a more permanent job. I’ll spend more time on USA Jobs, on LinkedIn, and on Indeed putting myself out there. Hopefully, the State Department gig comes back up at some point this upcoming year and I can interview for it right around this time in 2015, when I’ll either have the Master of Science in Facility Management or I’m really close to finishing it. That’s the perfect scenario. Most likely, however, I’ll probably have to think about taking a job elsewhere for the time being.

CONTINUED PREPARATIONS FOR MAJOR FINANCIAL MOVES. In my early 20s, I made a lot of bad financial decisions. I spent much of my mid and late 20s cleaning those up and building my personal wealth. I’m in a good place financially…a really good place. I don’t struggle to pay bills and I’m far removed from those days of living paycheck-to-paycheck and keeping that box of ramen noodles on standby in case I had to decide between rent and food. As I’ve turned the corner into my 30s, buying a home has made its way to the top of my financial moves list. I don’t think it’ll happen while I’m still 30 chiefly because I don’t believe I’ll be where I ultimately want to settle before October 24th of next year. But that doesn’t mean I need to stop preparing. As I have since age 26, I’ll continue to store money away for a sizable down payment on a home when that time comes…even though I have the VA Loan in my pocket. Another major financial move on my list is the 2016 Olympic Games. It’s a bucket list item for me and I think 2016 is the best window of opportunity for me. Even if this new relationship pans out, it’s very much possible that I won’t be married by August 2016…according to both of our personalities and viewpoints on the process of marriage. Although the 2020 Games will be in a much more favorable location (Tokyo), I know for sure that I won’t make it there single and without kids. The way I’ve mapped it out, I’m on schedule to have enough saved to attend the entire Olympiad—the whole 2 weeks—by April 2015. I guess we’ll see if I can stay the course on the savings plan. The last of the major financial moves I intend to focus on at age 30 is acquiring a new automobile. Don’t get me wrong: I love the Jeep Compass I have and it’s been a joy since I scooped it a little over 3 ½ years ago. But I’m starting to log some serious miles on it and I’m thinking I need a 2nd vehicle to extend its use to me. I’ve been fascinated with the Kia Soul since I first drove one back in March 2011 during a TDY to San Antonio. I’m thinking that’s where I’ll go. I paid straight cash for the Jeep Compass—or The Gazelle, as I call it—and I could likely do the same if I seriously entertained getting a 2014 or 2015 Kia Soul. I think I may go back to financing though…gotta improve my credit even more in advance of purchasing a home.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE ON SOCIETY. This past August, during my time on the West Coast, a racially-sensitive event happened in suburban St. Louis. A black kid was gunned down by a white police officer and the black community became infuriated. It was like living that Trayvon Martin thing from last year all over again. The way I feel about it is that we—as black people in America—have a stigma attached to us and in most cases, it’s accurate…something that scores upon scores of black people will outright deny. As a black person who came from less than idea means growing up, overcoming that, and becoming who I am today, I feel like I need to make more of an impact…to at least do my share in making sure these type of incidents are reduced to minimal occurrences if not completely eliminated. I already sponsor a scholarship aimed at giving kids a chance to jump start their educations at the lowest level. Eventually, I’ll settle on a place where I can do that here Stateside and not just exclusive to my old church in Tokyo. But, in this year at 30, I want to reach people in neighborhoods like the one I grew up in…in situations like those I overcame. At this age of 30, I intend to mentor a group of teens…at-risk teens, to be more specific. I think I’m young enough in age—and definitely young enough in looks—to make them comfortable enough that they will listen to my story…where I began, how I struggled, what I did to change, and where it got me. A lot of people post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram about the need for change but very few actually do something to bring about change. I want to be part of that latter group.

I’m looking forward to what this first year in my 30s has for me. I think it’s gonna be a great year.

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