Once again, I find my universe burning down to the ground. The pandemic has torn apart everything that made hotels so much fun. It has burned down any certainty I had about life after Houston.
4 years ago, my life in Vermont began to collapse making way for my life in Houston. 8 years ago, my life in Wisconsin began to collapse making way for my life in Vermont. 11 years ago my life in Kenosha began to collapse making way for my life in Milwaukee. 16 years ago my life in New Berlin began to collapse making way for my life in Kenosha.
Now, the same thing is happening again.
A phoenix lives for thousands of years because it dies in a burst of flames and is reborn again from the ashes. I have already gone through this cycle personally many times, and I can feel it happening again. I have related to the phoenix for a long time, and I even carried around a symbol of one with me for many years. (Reference on that here!)
Life will always through challenges you. From them, you either die or get better; that’s the basic function of life. Today is a new day and I’m still see a bright future coming ahead of me.
10 years since my world collapsed in a way I never dreamed possible.
10 years since I lost almost everything I knew about myself.
10 years since I first felt truly, irreparably broken.
In the time since, I have completely transformed:
I got my first “real” job and learned what life was like outside the world of academia. Several other jobs followed this.
I have lived in 3 different states with 3 entirely different sets of cultures.
I found my life’s calling and made sense of the aimless wandering I did professionally for many years.
I discovered 2 television shows that taught me how much more there is to life than what I had known for the previous 2 decades.
I met a lot of amazing people who really helped shaped me into the man I am today.
I found many different mentors who taught me more about life and the world than I ever learned in a textbook. One of these mentors has inspired my current moniker.
I finished my Associate’s Degree, making me something more than just a high school graduate.
When I felt the world collapsing around me again, I eventually snapped out of it and pressed onward.
In returning to finish my Bachelors, I had a semester (Fall 2020) where I accomplished straight A’s and had the best GPA of my life academically. (The clearest sign to me that I have been in the right track all along!)
I’ve learned to stand on my own feet, take responsibility for my choices, and broken down my fear of being alone.
The past 10 years have been far beyond what I could have ever imagined when my heart & soul were smashed apart by my own inability-of-the-time. I had no idea those broken pieces would form a whole greater than what they were broken from.
Looking forward, there’s still a lot of road left to go. In theory, and with a bit of luck, hard work, grit, and perseverance, this time next year I’ll be walking across a college graduation stage. Hopefully with a serious career launch right after that.
Even more hopefully, I dream of life filled with love, family, and friends, because that’s why life is worth living. Texas has become this cocoon where I’ve focused so much on my profession that I’ve lost touch with so much of what makes me human and why life is worth living. I still haven’t fixed my character flaw of not reaching out to more people when times are dark. I continue to be grateful for those who have stuck with me during this time and hope I can see you in person again someday.
I could be wrong, but nevertheless foreword I shall push on.
I’m sure there’s a number of you who felt I dropped off the face of the earth. And in some ways, yes I have.
I began a “test disappearance” from Facebook in late August 2018. Like many others out there, I felt like Social Media was too in control of my life; that I was only living for what I could post to it. I don’t have an apt enough vocabulary to describe how liberating it felt to not feel obligated to Facebook, and soon that spread to my Instagram account. I had already made a disappearance from Twitter – the majority of what I used to Tweet was automated and not 100% genuine.
Where has all this lead to? I definitely don’t feel addicted to social media. I don’t seek out the validation that comes with likes, comments, and re-tweets. But, I also feel like I’ve lost my connections with too great of a number of people. And for that, I’m sorry. My friends have always been the light in my life that kept me going and that has not changed. Interesting how “full circle” this moment is compared to 10-11 years ago when I wanted to be the King of Social Media in my circle.
So….a lot has happened since 2018. I made some small attempts to try and make life updates here but that didn’t work out consistently. I’ve changed jobs a couple times – the good thing is that I’ve gone a step up the ladder. But working in hotels also means that my schedule is at odds with so many other people’s schedules. I came to Houston to discover the spot in the hotel industry that I’m meant to be a part of, and I think I’ve made good progress at finding it. I love the idea of being a quality auditor, albeit it’s a stretch for me to actually be hired as one. The pandemic was very hard on the industry and so many people have been laid off. Again, I’m one of the very lucky ones to now be working at a hotel that’s not struggling to get people in the door. I still feel behind financially, and I desperately want to finish school so I can settle into “career mode” and start actually planning for the future. Right now I’m spinning my wheels into mud and sinking slowly.
Working in Houston has been a vastly different experience than working in Vermont. Day-to-day I’m not having as much fun as I did back in Vermont, but that makes the end goal that much more important. (There was a point where I went back to the chain restaurant I have worked for multiple times because my income dropped so much after moving here.) It’s also putting more pressure on school, since I’m using that as my primary discover/explore tool right now. Thankfully, school has been the bright spot in my life.
While Fall 2019 was challenging (I had to do general education courses to boost my GPA enough to qualify for entrance into Hilton College), Spring 2020 (finally in the Hilton College major program) was the most at-home I’ve felt inside a particular college since my time as a Stage Management Major in my first semester at UW-Parkside in 2006. The Hilton College truly does feel like it was where I was meant to go all along, I just “took the long way round.” Spring 2020 was the second highest GPA I’ve ever accomplished in my life and I’m aiming to make this fall my highest ever GPA. It was the most amazing feeling to start making connections in my spring classes before we were all swept online. I wish more than anything that I had more time face-to-face with the people I met, but these are the cards life has dealt.
This fall I’m in a Revenue Management course and it really looks like a viable career path. While not 100% confirmed yet, it looks more and more like I will finally get my bachelor’s degree in May of 2022. There’s a handful of other career interests that I’ll be exploring over the next year and a half as well, such as hotel development. Online courses were a major factor in my failing out of UW-Parkside back in 2010/2011, and going online only for the bulk of 2020 has been a massive personal challenge. It’s taken a bit of my pride for my school away from me, since it now feels like I could be a student at any college, and not one that means something special to me.
I don’t much care for living in Houston, but I knew coming down here that I wasn’t going to enjoy it. Compared to my first 30 years of life, it’s a never ending summer here. There’s a lot of people who prefer that life, but Fall and Winter are my two favorite seasons and neither one are truly here. So until I finish school and get out of Texas, there’s perpetually a piece of life that’s missing from my world. I am definitely not meant to live in the southern United States for too long. For those who get depressed during the long winter months – that same feeling is what the weather in Texas is doing to me. I do little things to trick my brain into the fall/winter mode – scented candles, scented dish soaps, a healthy subscription to Monin Syrups for flavored coffees, using electronic device wallpapers, but in the end there’s nothing that can replace the feeling of a brisk walk outside during these months like I used to do. (Nor is there a replacement for the exercise that I used to get doing that – my physical fitness has definitely suffered while living in Texas!) I live in an area that’s not exactly great/safe for the walks I used to take, so I’ve had to forego them for the time being. I could drive out to places where I could go walking, but part of what appealed to me about it was seeing the changing trees and that doesn’t happen here. Plus, the point was to be able to walk without having to drive anywhere. There’s no art to the scenery of Houston compared to Wisconsin and Vermont.
I have no dating life to speak of at this point. I’ve been single for 7 years as of this past April, and it’s very unlikely that that’s going to change before I finish school. Marriage and family have never felt farther away from me, but I continue to hold out hope that there’s a later chapter of my life that involves both. I’ve done a lot of evolution on my life outlook, so it’s probably for the best that I’ve walked this path alone for so long. Right now it’s hard to picture myself dating anyways, considering my schedule and current financial situation.
It amuses me that the isolation that came with the pandemic actually didn’t change much in my life emotionally or mentally. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m fairly introverted and isolation tends to recharge me, not drain me. That being said, it was during the last few months that I realized how much I’ve lost contact with most people I know. I’ve been thinking about writing this sort of update for some time now. At my current job I’ve also been having to rotate doing overnight shifts with day shifts during the week, so my sleep schedule has also been badly out of whack.
Drag Race and Doctor Who continue to be my entertainment sources of choice. I still see Drag Race as a metaphor for my own life of working my way through school to get my degree and go out into the world. I was thrilled to see Ms. Jaida Essence Hall win season 12 this year; so proud to finally have a Wisconsin queen in the winner’s circle. The more I see Jodie portray the 13th Doctor, the more I continue to find myself relating to the Doctor. (Half my GIF library is all of Jodie’s Doctor & her best quotes.) I see myself trying out new shows and entertainment once I’m done with school and can focus on amping up my personal time more.
For my Wisconsin friends, I still come back every Christmas, but the past few years I’ve been really getting to know my “new” family on my step dad’s side and spending time with them. My step dad and I have also been coming up with increasingly creative birthday surprises for my mom; we took her to central Wisconsin for a special dinner (of Sand Dabs at the only restaurant in the state that seems to serve them), which mom hasn’t been able to enjoy/experience since I was a toddler. Last Christmas we took her to Chicago for dinner and a show. Both of these were amazing trips, but also used a lot of the time that I was actually in Wisconsin.
I’ve also reconnected with one of my half brothers from my biological dad’s first marriage and that has also meant the world to me. I was afraid for over a decade that I’d never hear from either of my half brothers again in my life and now I’ve been given the gift of time with at least one of them. I don’t have the vocabulary to express how interesting it is to have a blood brother who I can relate to when I haven’t been able to have that for nearly 30 years. (He was already an adult as I was growing up and at a different stage in his life, now we can talk about nearly anything and relate/connect with each other.)
If we haven’t talked in a while, I’m sorry. My intention was never to abandon the people I care for. I just wanted a more genuine connection with the people in my life, but by tying to break my social media use I also lost that as an outlet for connection. I don’t plan on re-igniting my social media use anytime soon, so the best way to reach me is by texting me. I want to get better about keeping up with the people I’m connected with, but I also need to improve at not feeling overwhelmed at trying to keep up. I’ve always been horrible at spontaneous contact with people and have never developed the skill to jut reach out and connect with people. Here’s a meme that also sums this up:
I walked into this day knowing that I cannot be a Hilton College student for my first semester (which begins in August). My class failures a lifetime ago at UW-Parkside (I flunked out in 2011) all transferred here with my CCV record from Vermont and I have to take some Gen Ends to get an acceptable GPA to qualify for the Hilton College. The good news is that there are Gen Ends I can take that count towards my final degree with Hilton.
One thing I’ve noticed already: the WiFi here is fantastic – I have zero cell service in the Welcome room, but even the public/unsecured is strong enough that I can update this post in real time and still get notifications.
Not sure what my end date is yet. But if I play my cards right I might just hate it by the end of today.
Put first things first. Spend time on activities that are consistent with your personal mission. My goal is the piece of paper, but my mission to to grow again. To be better. I’m here for class but also for experience that I was never going to get back in my past lives.
Small Wisconsin echo here: my small group is titled “Butler Plaza.” The last place I lived in Wisconsin before moving to Vermont was Butler, WI.
On my way to small group meeting.
And so it begins…
Not much happened in small groups. The leader barely got into her email, and we had a brief chat about online services. Butler Plaza turned out to be the Free Speech Zone here on campus.
And back in the main room for a few more mandatory information piece sessions. 1 PM is the scheduled time to start registering for classes.
Every year I say I’m going to take care of my body physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I feel like there’s s little more momentum for that now that I’m here.
I was very sad to not be able to walk to register for Hilton College today. Sins of the past come to bear fruit. But that’s just another can of fuel to do great and be great right out of the gate.
Facepalm: the box lunch I grabbed was improperly labeled, so it looks like I’m not eating until this is over. (We moved from the student center to a different building for class registration.) Le sigh!
It turns out that the official advisor for Liberal Studies isn’t even here – they are out sick and some other advisor is doing general advising sessions to get us into classes. I didn’t find him to be particularly helpful, in fact he was relatively rude in my opinion.
While I had some time before & after orientation, I took a look inside the Wellness Center and the lobby of the Hilton College. It was that little spark of “this is what I’m fighting for” that I needed to feel that day.
At the end of the day, I’m registered for 4 courses I need to get the GPA that gets me into the Hilton College, and would still be required to graduate anyways. I still have a checklist of things to do before I can enter my first classroom, but that’s the next task to tackle.
My time in Texas has brought me to the place where Hilton Hotels first began: the old Mobley Hotel in rural Cisco, TX.
I’ll start with the Mobley Website, which can be found here.
In 1919, Conrad Hilton made his way to Cisco to purchase a bank. That transaction failed because the seller changed the price last minute and Conrad failed to get his foot in the banking industry. He went across the street to the Mobley to “lick his wounds” and plan what his next move was going to be. When he arrived, he found that the Mobley was insanely crowded – lodging options were sparse to non-existent in that moment in time. Conrad was turned away at the front desk – they told him that all rooms were rented and that he would have to come back in 8 hours.
The Mobley was in such demand that it filled every room for guests to sleep in every 8 hours, and people would rotate out in shifts to sleep. Conrad sensed an opportunity and spoke with the hotel manager, Henry Lanford Mobley. By the next day, Conrad had purchased the hotel instead of the bank he originally came to Cisco to buy. Business was absolutely booming. Shortly after his success with the Mobley, Conrad went on to purchase a string of other hotels, across Texas, then across the United States, and eventually across the world.
The Mobley changed hands a few times after Conrad was forced to sell it. Eventually it fell under the jurisdiction of the University of Houston (which is where Conrad Hilton established a school for Hotel Management). The University of Houston, along with the Conrad Hilton Foundation put a staff in place to run the Mobley as a museum dedicated to both the history of Mr. Conrad Hilton and the city of Cisco. The building was completely renovated internally in 1985, with some upkeep over the years; most famously when Hilton sent in a volunteer team to re-paint and fix a few things up in 2017 to prepare for Hilton’s 100 year anniversary.
Here’s a sampling of the photos I took during my visit:
Photos of photos don’t really do the place justice. It is absolutely worthwhile to visit the Mobley, in fact the current curator confirmed my suspicion that several current (and possible former) Hilton team members have been making pilgrimages to the Mobley, just as I did.
My 4th stop in moving from Vermont to Texas was in Atlanta. (My 3rd stop was spent with family in South Carolina.) While I’ve technically been at the airport here, I’ve never properly explored the city of Atlanta.
Two big figures in Gay Culture who call Atlanta Home are Violet Chachki and Johnny Rapid. Man, what a dream it would have been to meet Johnny Rapid. These days he’s planning to open his own auto repair shop, and perhaps I’ll take my car to him someday.
The restaurant in this particular DoubleTree was one of three Marlow’s Taverns. (Click the photos below for their website)
While my time in Atlanta proved to be uneventful, it was ok. I had been traveling across the country for 4 days at that point and the biggest moment was still yet to come.
I’ll be back again to truly see Atlanta again someday!
On my move from Vermont to Texas, I stopped in Greensboro, NC to visit a friend who I had known online for over a decade but hadn’t quite met in person yet. I chose this Hampton as my first premium room reward, paid with Hilton Honors points. I chose a room with a hot tub inside the room. Unfortunately the hot tub did not work, but I did get a good hot bath in, and getting to meet my friend was the experience of a lifetime!
The website for this Hampton Inn can be found here. This was the 2nd of 4 hotels I stayed at paying only in Hilton Honors points.
While it’s a shame that the hot tub that I booked this hotel for did not work, and I spent extra points to do so, the front desk did offer to find me a different room with a working hot tub. In the end, there was none available, even after checking with housekeeping. I do think the customer service was excellent, as the agent make a point to keep conversation and apologize for what happened.
Greensboro, NC does not offer many Hilton options. All hotel choices are focused service level, and only a slim few have any sort of hot tub. I look for hot tubs because it’s an easy tool to relax with, since my leg muscles get very tense on a daily basis.