Thursday, July 31, 2014

Portrait of Young LOOGY

I've often written about my early days on the ballfield. Days where I was the Jamie Moyer of the Eau Gallie Little League - a junk-balling control specialist with a a good change-up and an uncanny ability to locate my league-average fastball. Up and down, in and out, I kept the other 12-year olds off-balance.

Facebook is funny sometimes. Amidst the pics of high school classmates' kids and vacation selfies of still-single friends, sometimes a nugget of memories emerges. Two weeks ago, one of my old little league teammates posted a "Throwback Thursday" pic that took me by surprise.

I played in the Eau Gallie Little League from ages 10 to 14. So this was my second to last year. If I remember right, this team won a few games. I pretty sure I pitched a game or two. I know I played a lot of right field in those days.

These days, my 6-year old nephew plays on the same fields I played on. He's also left-handed. If he stays with the game, I hope he does better than I did.

He already hits a lot better.

(By the way, if you couldn't tell, I'm the kid with the glasses in the left end of the front row.)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Since I returned from Afghanistan

Has it really been that long?

Seems like yesterday I was flying back from London to Miami - 13 hours cramped in an airplane over the Atlantic. I remember I watched "Wreck It Ralph" on the flight. I watched other movies as well, but I don't remember which.

A year and a few months ago, a TSA security guy in Miami gave me a hard time. I had a long beard and a one-way ticket from Afghanistan. He asked what I did over there. I told him I couldn't tell him. He didn't like that.

Then I told him I wanted to get to Orlando to see my family. He finally let me go.


It was over a year ago that my parents and my nephew greeted me with "Welcome Home" balloons, big hugs, and smiles. My nephew grew a lot over the 14 months I was gone. Unsurprisingly, he has continued to grow since I've been back. I'd be more worried if he stopped.

It was over a year ago that I pulled in to the Sea View Motel in Melbourne Beach, Florida. That was the perfect place to bring life back down to the lowest gear. My only regret is that I didn't spend longer there. The owners were great, the room was great, and the view on the beach was phenomenal. I need to go back.

I would like to make an annual trek to the Sea View Motel, at least for a weekend, just to unwind and reflect on everything I accomplish in a year's time. Sort of like a growth chart. Maybe I will go from one night in the cheapest room to a week in the most expensive as the years go on. That would be growth.

The first months after my return, I lived a nomadic existence. One relative called me a "gypsy". I had everything I needed in my trunk. That was of course, after I traded in my pick-up truck of six years. People ask me how I like driving a smaller car as compared to a full size truck.  To be honest, had I not been gone for 14 months the transition would have been more awkward. But as it was, I only drove my truck for two months before trading it in.

I felt good about that deal as well. Which still strikes me as weird. I am so used to getting fleeced by companies and for a car dealer to give me almost exactly the deal I wanted was an accomplishment. I only had to go up $1,000 or so from my low offer, which was about $5,000 off the marked price. So I walked out with a deal and a new car.

After a summer in over a dozen hotels, several weeks at my grandfather's house, and assorted nights and weekends at other friends' and family's homes, I eventually ended up back in Tampa by the University of South Florida. It was finally time to start my MBA.

I moved into a small student-area apartment in August of 2013. I hadn't lived in a place this small since I was an undergrad over 10 years ago. It was a big step back lifestyle-wise, and the furniture and belongings I had prior to leaving remains in storage. But while I was stepping back with my lifestyle ...

I jumped back into school with both feet, taking six classes in the fall. It was my first semester in college since 2005 - almost eight years. Needless to say, I needed to re-learn how to study. But my skills eventually returned. After a few shaky first tests, I made it through my first semester with 2 A's and 4 B's. Not bad. Especially considering I had never even been introduced to some the material before. And here I was learning at the graduate level.

On a related note, maybe I should have taken a few more business classes as an undergrad. The only class I could identity with was Marketing. I did well in that class. Other classes, such as Accounting, caught me by surprise. The material was so new. I don't want to call myself an old dog, but I am no young pup. I was learning new tricks.

After the fall came the spring semester. More classes. This time I took Finance. Finance killed me. I thought Accounting was hard. Finance was impossible. I got my first ever "C" in college. I know for most, that's not a big deal, but I had never gotten a "C". That's my standard. But Finance just murdered me. But more on that some other time.

Now I am finishing up the summer semester. This semester has been chock full of "analysis". I am taking Financial Analysis, Competitive and Business Intelligence, Digital Marketing, and a CitiGroup Seminar course focusing on anti-money laundering processes. I am also taking an online course through EdX on statistics, basic databases, and baseball analysis. So there is definitely overlap in my coursework with things I have done in the past, whether at work or in my personal time.

At the close of this semester, I will be about half way done with my Master's in Business. I have learned a lot. I'm sure how much is common sense for people in the private sector, but to me, it's been a whole new world.

Hard to believe how much my world has changed since I got back from Afghanistan a little over a year ago.

(And for those curious, I eventually cut the beard.)