Sunday, September 20, 2009



I thought I might post a brief bio, a 'my life in a nutshell' to get this blog going. At best you might have a better understanding of where I'm coming from, at worse you'll move on to something more interesting. Here we go.

I say that I'm from South Carolina, but I can't really be more specific than that. Trying to find my hometown is like standing on the south pole and looking for South. You seem to be at your destination, but you can't really seem to find it on your compass. I guess you could say I'm from West Columbi-ish. But that's about as accurate as I can get.

I was actually born in Florence, South Carolina, a dot on a map of South Carolina near Myrtle Beach, not really known for anything, other than maybe a place to pass on the way to Myrtle Beach. It was the town my Mom and biological Dad (hereafter referred to as BioDad) were seemingly exiled for a few years by the family business. My sister and I were both born there, but I have little to no memories of it, since we moved to Cayce (near West Columbia) when I was about a year old. Then my parents got divorced, and we moved to another part of Cayce. Then we moved to Springdale (near West Columbia) and later to West Columbia, where we moved a couple more times. It's possible my wanderlust has emerged more from force of habit than anything else, but who's to say? However I never felt at home in West Columbia. I'm reluctant to this day to call it a home town.

I spent about 18 years in West Columbia, desperately trying to formulate a plan to get as far away from South Carolina as geographically possible. It may be that this is where my interesting habit of changing my life plan (hereafter referred to as the LP - an inside joke to all those current and recovering Marriott Associates out there) every six months or so.

Anyway, at about the age of 19, after having tried college once (it didn't take) and around that time joining AmeriCorps (which sort of took) my parents and sister moved to Summerville, SC and I moved to downtown Columbia.  There I lived with Sam, who is perhaps the best friend I have ever had, if for no other reason than the fact that she knew me during one of the lowest points of my life, when I was perhaps at my most difficult to be around, and she's still there. It helps that she's one of the most creative, compassionate and  wise people I have ever known. (Sam, along with Maria and Yarnell, hold a very high bar for the definition of friendship).

I eventually moved to another part of the same building, then to a house at the other side of Columbia, where I finally found my way out. My parents had decided to help me get to England, to study Hospitality and Culinary Arts, (as sort of a default I think, since I was always finding myself in kitchens, bars, or waiting tables). I got to England and spent the next six months trying to come back to South Carolina. But after that initial period, it really took. I made some wonderful friends, met some amazing people, and worked at what is to this day the most fun job I have ever had. I've always felt at home on water, so crewing boats and guiding tours on the River Thames, walking through Eton and Windsor every day, and not even thinking about the fact that I was working 16+ hours, six days a week, did not phase me. It didn't feel like a job, it was just what I did. The pay was terrible, but I had a fantastic time. I learned to cook, did lots of coursework in various aspects of hospitality, but when the time came for me to return to South Carolina, I tried to put on the breaks. I spent the first six months back in the US trying to find a way back to the UK.

Then I fell in love with Charleston, which is where I returned - I have not lived in, and have rarely visited, Columbia since, other than to see Sam. I was enamored with Charleston almost immediately, and still am. I'll dwell on it in another posting some day. Anyway, during my five or six years in Charleston, I worked as a concierge, bartender, night auditor, banquet server, front desk agent, restaurant host, and gatekeeper - and that was at my first job back here, all within a year. Later I was (briefly a kitchen manager at a fried seafood place - that lasted three weeks), a restaurant manager for an Italian steakhouse in Mount Pleasant, working for New York Italians - quite an experience - a staffing manager for a temp service, and eventually landed at Marriott, at the Renaissance Charleston. Here I found myself once again wearing lots of hats - sales assistant, front desk, banquet captain, night audit, room service, restaurant supervision, and even covered a few shifts for my room mate in housekeeping.

But the wanderlust hit again, only this time it was egged on. I was living with a bona-fide frienemy who, when I mentioned the idea of posting for work at a Marriott in another city, told me I never would, since I was too afraid to leave Charleston. It was pretty much all the nudge I needed. I posted for two jobs, one in Atlanta, the other near DC, in Tysons Corner. I got a promotion and moved to Arlington, VA. I loved DC - I would live there again. But after a year, hating the hotel I was in, discovering I was screwed out of my salary, and simultaneously falling in love with a Rhode Islander, I found a job in Providence. I moved there, got a house with Eric, and got promoted again at a property that truly tested my patience and expanded my ability to feel regret for ever having walked through the doors of any hotel.

But, I was happy. I was with the love of my life. Though I was trying to convince him, and eventually was successful, to look to moving back to Charleston, I was still happy in our house. We made a nice home for ourselves, and no matter what happened at work, Eric could always make me feel better at the end of the day. I love him more than I could ever say with a keyboard, but I don't think he can relate to my restlessness. I've called a running total of 26 addresses my home, and have held roughly 30 jobs - many of them simultaneously, (a note to any future employers, I average about two to three years' longevity nowadays), and I think Eric has lived in about five places, and had about that many jobs. But we were happy together in our house on Wheeler Avenue in Cranston. We were carving out a pretty nice life.

But then my Dad (not BioDad) was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I moved home, and at first took a job in Savannah, but my priorities were with my family, not to a job that wanted me there 24/7. I was trying to find work at first, thinking I could find something and Eric would come down and find something, and we'd finally be in the one place in the world I've been less reluctant to call home. But Dad's condition declined quickly, and I needed to be in Summerville, helping my Mom take care of him and engaging in group therapy over a bottle of wine every night. Family from Arkansas, England, Australia, all came in to help and just be here.

Dad passed in April, and since then my LP has been changing more rapidly than ever. I think that I need a destination just to keep going, even if that destination changes continually - as long as one is there, I have somewhere to point the wheel and a reason to press the gas pedal. I never knew grief could be so tangible, so physically jarring, such a jolt to the psyche that your entire personality and way of viewing life simply shifts.

I got a job in Greenville shortly after Dad passed.  I live there now, spending weekends in Summerville playing trivia with Mom and her friend Sherry, (to say I was addicted to trivia is saying that Mother Theresa had a generous streak) and generally missing Rhode Island. Especially Eric. I think about him every day, several times a day. He;s the first thing I think about when I get up and the last person in my mind's eye before I fall asleep.

The current LP is to work through a commitment I have in Greenville, which looks to be about November, then head home to Rhode Island. Calling Rhode Island home isn't so difficult either, but I think that it's because Eric is there. I'm currently researching grant programs to return to school in the Spring. I'm narrowing the choices, but I've always been interested in history and political science. Truly though, what I decide to do will hinge on finding a balance between what I can find a grant for and what would hold my interest for more than five minutes at a time.

So that's me in a nutshell. I don't plan for this to become an online diary as much as a place to vent my views and hopefully have a few debates. Cross your fingers that this school thing pans out. There's nothing wrong with a career in hospitality, so long as you find fulfillment in it, and frankly I'm bored. It's challenging, sure, but I feel like I can make a bigger, better contribution to this world with more education and training. Hospitality simply no longer fits into my LP. I'm not the same person I was prior to the events of April, but maybe I've just now begun to realize what's really important.

Cross your fingers for me, and say a little prayer to whatever deity you think might bestow some fortune.

Thanks for listening!