My Story: 2020 Update

Hello everyone,

Taken during an overnight shift at my current place employment back in July.

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:

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Story: 31st Birthday Highlights

For my 31st I wanted a low-key day. I’m leaving 2 jobs and starting up a new one, so relaxing is my best friend at the moment. Here’s what I did:

My birthday Starbucks drink was a (rare for me) Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino.

I went to see the 2019 remake of The Lion King, as that was my childhood Disney movie.

I finished the night with plenty of wine at home.

Birthday cake was the chocolate lasagna at Olive Garden.

Respectfully submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Story: Transfer Orientation At The University Of Houston

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.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Travels: The Mobley Hotel; Cisco, TX

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.

Here’s to the next adventure!

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Travels: DoubleTree Atlanta Northlake

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.

Once again, I tried to take a photo similar to the promotional image of the time.

It’s funny how I was there on the last week before the hotel was set to begin a multi-million dollar renovation.

The restaurant in this particular DoubleTree was one of three Marlow’s Taverns. (Click the photos below for their website)

My first drink after driving in Atlanta: The “Blueberry Buck”

Dinner was a French Dip.

And topped off with a “New Fashioned”

Welcome to the top floor!

King bedroom.

TV, Chest of Drawers, and desk.

The perks of Hilton Honors.

I was impressed that this DoubleTree offered so many bathroom amenities.

I sat on the other side of this waterfall for breakfast.

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!

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Travels: Hampton Inn Greensboro Airport, NC

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.

King Bed.
King Bed.

Sitting area and work desk.
Sitting area and work desk.

TV and chest of drawers.
TV and chest of drawers. This Hampton also offers mini fridge and microwave.

Large bathroom.
Large bathroom.

Robes & hot tub.
Robes & hot tub.

Flower with towel set.
Flower with towel set. I liked this nice small touch.

Hot tub.
The hot tub that wasn’t functioning when I arrived.

Signature Hampton bath amenities.
Signature Hampton bath amenities.

Hampton Inn bathrobe.
Hampton Inn bathrobe. I didn’t think these were made, since Hampton is a focused service brand and not considered anywhere near luxury.

Do Not Disturb
Anything with a bow tie will always catch my attention.

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.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Travels: Embassy Suites Blue Ash, OH

This hotel was my first stop in my cross-country move from Vermont to Texas. I choose this hotel for 2 primary reasons:

  1. Embassy Suites offers cooked-to-order breakfast, 2-room suites, and an evening reception with free alcohol drinks and snacks every night.
  2. This specific Embassy Suites was the location for a crime that was documented in Forensic Files, a show I am a huge fan of.

This is the 1st of 4 hotels that I booked & paid for using only Hilton Honors points, so since parking and breakfast were included there was no cost to me for my stay here!

Entrance
Entrance to Embassy Suites. I wanted to take a photo very similar to the promotional photo they used for the hotel at the time.

Entrance
Entrance to Embassy Suites. I wanted to take a photo very similar to the promotional photo they used for the hotel at the time.

Sign at the entrance
The sign welcoming guests to Embassy Suites.

View of the restaurant in the atrium.
View of the restaurant in the atrium.

View of the sitting area in the atrium.
View of the sitting area in the atrium.

Another view of the restaurant in the atrium.
Another view of the restaurant in the atrium.

Living room in my suite.
Living room in my suite.

Living room work desk and TV in my suite.
Living room work desk and TV in my suite.

Wet bar leading to the bedroom.
Wet bar leading to the bedroom.

Bathroom.
The bathroom.

Shower & tub.
This Embassy offers tubs with showers, and this style of shower head.

Hilton Honors Benefits
I loved the small touch of “Princess” on the complimentary Snickers bar with my welcome waters!

In room coffee maker.
In room coffee maker.

Bedroom TV and closet.
Bedroom TV and closet.

King bed.
King bed.

Bedroom closet.
Bedroom closet.

View from the suite.
View from the suite.

View from the suite.
View from the suite.

Decorative waterfall in the atrium.
Decorative waterfall in the atrium.

Heated indoor pool.
Heated indoor pool.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Travels: Hilton University Of Houston, TX

In an effort to add more content to my website, this is going to be mostly photos for now.

The website for the Hilton at University Of Houston can be found here.

Entrance to the hotel.
Entrance to the hotel.

Hotel Lobby.
This is the Hilton-History inspired lobby of the hotel. Images of Conrad Hilton and Hilton President & CEO Chris Nassetta are abound.

Sitting area across from front desk.
A Conrad Hilton quote greets anyone who goes to the front desk.

King Bed
View of the room with 1 king bed. Fairly chic for a hotel that hasn’t been upgraded in a while.

King Bed
View of the room with 1 king bed. Fairly chic for a hotel that hasn’t been upgraded in a while.

Bathroom entrance
Narrow bathroom entrance

Bathroom
Standing shower, large well lit makeup mirror, and bathroom amenities.

Bathroom amenities
Flagship Hilton formerly carried Pater Thomas Roth bathroom amenities, but no longer does. This was one of the more generous offerings of bathroom amenities in my travels.

Welcome card
This Hilton had a welcome card from the General Manager that included his picture.

Hilton Honors Welcome Bag
Hilton Honors Members get 2 bottles of water, a pack of nuts, 2 small chocolate bites.

View of the campus from the room.
View of the campus from the room.

View of the campus from the room.
View of the campus from the room.

 

Eric's Restaurant
The restaurant on site is named for Eric Hilton.

View of the campus from Eric's Restaurant
View of the campus from Eric’s Restaurant

Margarita
Drink with dinner at Eric’s.

Burger
Dinner at Eric’s Restaurant.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Travels: Hilton Garden Inn Sugar Land, TX

In an effort to add more content to my website, this is going to be mostly photos for now.

Hilton Garden Inn Sugar Land’s website can be found here.

Hilton Garden Inn Sign
The sign that welcomes guests to Hilton Garden Inn

View of the building from the parking lot.
View of the building from the parking lot.

Hilton Garden Inn Welcome Table
Hilton Garden Inn Sugar Land offers “Welcome Bite” mini-cookies, infused water, and hot tea in the lobby.

Infused Water
The infused water at this Hilton Garden Inn had much more variety than I typically see at HGI.

King Bed
King Bed

Work & Sitting Area.
Work & Sitting Area.

View from the room.
View from the room.

View from the room.
View from the room.

Charging station & Clock
This Hilton Garden Inn offers alarm clocks with 2 USB charging ports and 2 plug in ports per clock.

Elevator poster advertising the business center.
Elevator poster advertising the business center.

Hilton Garden Inn offers an elevated cooked-to-order breakfast, including omelettes, pancakes, and more. This is free to Gold & Diamond members who choose breakfast as their My Way Hilton Honors preference instead of 750 bonus points. Otherwise the cost is around $10-$12 per person, depending on the location. This is one of my favorite points to Hilton Garden Inn – the option for a freshly prepared breakfast with some healthy choices.

My specific stay memory is that this is where I found out where I’d be spending the first 6 months of my life as a Texas resident living. It was the first step to knowing I was going to make it to Texas!

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Thoughts: Why Hilton?

Hilton is an absolutely fantastic company to work for. I should know, I’m in the middle of my third year with the company. There is so much to this company, from it’s deep history, it’s strong culture, to it’s bright future that leads me to think this is the right place for me to work.

Hilton ranks #1 in best companies to work for in 2019, according to Forbes.

Hilton is a company of FIRSTS

Hilton was established in 1919, which makes it the longest running chain of hotels currently standing. Marriott comes in a close second with a start date of 1927. Even then, Marriott wasn’t a hotel chain until later on.

Hospitality Net does a great job at cataloguing what Hilton has pioneered through the last century. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

Hilton’s CEO is Highly Visible & Active

Hilton is the only company I’ve worked for that I can honestly say that I would recognize it’s CEO if he crossed my path.

Chris Nassetta is the CEO of Hilton, and he’s one of the most known and respected CEO’s in the world. His executive biography can be found here. Chris Nassetta turned the Hilton brand around from a complacent, almost struggling hotel chain into a world class place to stay. The story behind that can be found here. More recently Chris Nassetta was featured on Glassdoor rankings, see Hilton’s press release here. Chris Nassetta has given interviews on what he does to insure success, as seen here.

It’s such a motivator to know who my CEO is and that he’s active in making this company run to the best of it’s abilities. It’s a dream of mine to have my photo taken shaking his hand one day.

Hilton’s Recognition Website & Programs

Hilton goes above and beyond when it comes to recognizing it’s employees. It all started with Conrad Hilton’s original vision. It means so much to know that the place I work wants to shine a light every time I do the right thing.

Hilton has a specific program where it encourages every guest and every employee to recognize the people that work for Hilton while they are doing the best job that they can. Hilton calls this: Catch Me At My Best.

The way it works: if someone made your day special, you fill out a comment card about them so they can know in writing that you made them feel special. This happens hundreds of thousands of times every single year.

Hilton is consistently being ranked as one of the best places to work in various formats. Like being known for it’s LGBT diversity and being a great place to work for women.

Hilton Takes Care Of It’s Employees

Hilton has partnered with Ariana Huffington’s Thrive Global to make a concentrated effort to ensure that every one of it’s employees has a good work-life balance. Hilton employees thrive in body (eating well, exercising, getting proper sleep), mind, and spirit. Hospitality extends even to employees. Side note: Ariana discussed this very program on a Podcast I follow.

Hilton has made a point to not only lift up military veterans, but also people who never completed high school. They have a program to help employees finish their high school diploma.

Hilton’s Community Efforts

One of the things that Chris Nassetta has advocated for is to employ youth and veterans at Hilton. He wants Hilton to give youth something to get them out of unemployment and trouble and a vision for the future. Chris Nassetta wants to give veterans a sense of home and opportunity after their military experience. Hilton also provides support for returning military who have to travel for job interview efforts.

Every property under brand in the umbrella of Hilton has an onsite committee that’s partially dedicated to making a difference in the community around them. I was very active in the Brighthearted Committee for my Hilton Garden Inn in Burlington, VT.

Hilton’s History & College

Conrad Hilton, the company founder also founded a Hospitality college program, the Hilton College of Hospitality Management. This has since gone on to be ranked one of the best hospitality degree programs in the world. They teach everything hotels, and even beyond into other aspects of hospitality. It also houses the hospitality industry archives. 93% of graduates have jobs lined up at their time of graduation. I am working on getting accepted into this school. 

Excellent Travel Program

It’s thanks to Hilton’s travel program that has allowed me to travel as much as I did in 2017, and hopefully even more beyond that!

Hilton promises to lock in employee rates for life to anyone who has given them 20 years of service. I see paring lifetime team member rates with Lifetime Diamond Status as the best possible win for Travel for the rest of my life.

Closing thoughts

When I come into work, I try really hard not to fall into the typical “it’s just a paycheck” mentality. I take homage to one of my favorite TV shows (Rupaul’s Drag Race) and turn my time on the job into “Conrad Hilton’s Hotel Race: The search for America’s Next Hotel Superstar!” This company stands behind me as a person, and it’s only right to channel my energy and my talent into making every person feel special when they stay at my property.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie