A while back I alluded to two big projects that I've been working on. One was getting the Share the Care group started. That is now in progress. If you want to be a part of my group in any way Adam and Adrienne are the ones to talk to. If you click the links on their names in the post below you can get to a page that has their email.
The other project was a big one it is mostly done now. I felt it necessary to make the transition from full time manager and mortgage broker at Bentley Mortgage to a full time cancer survivor/ patient. I expect that this whole battle is going to take the better part of '08 and there is no way that I am going to be able to do justice to my clients and my coworkers if I am fully embroiled in a cancer battle. Moreover, it is imperative that I focus 100% of my energy to survivorship.
This transition comes with great difficulty for me. I have come a long way to the point that I am career wise. Years ago when I was about 20 I made a commitment to myself that I would only do things career wise that made me feel good. I refused to work in something that did not resonate with me in a meaningful way. That commitment lead me on a varied and sometimes difficult path.
In 1987 I stared as a whitewater raft guide. It was by far one of funnest jobs that a person can do. I got the opportunity to share the rivers of California, Alaska and Arizona with countless passengers. It was a great job filled with back breaking work, long hours and pay in sunsets. And there were some great sunsets. Many of my most lasting and meaningful friendships stem from my rafting days. The community of river runners is one of the best I can imagine. I think leading successful rafting trips teaches you many many useful real world skills that serve to make a special person out of someone that puts years into guiding.
As a raft guide you have to make sure that everyone is safe in a potentially dangerous environment. You have to make hundreds of life and death decisions a day. I once had the band Heart in my boat, up in Alaska. I could have changed the shape of musical history by making a bad decision. My buddies Curtis and Tom have both had the Governator in their boat, just think how things would be different...
Good raft guides also have to have good social skills. When someone signs up for a whitewater trip, they are stepping into an unfamiliar world and usually will be in the same situation for a many day trip with a bunch of people that have never met before. A good raft guide is a good host, one that can make everyone feel welcome, included and valuable. All raft guides employ many different techniques to keep the entertainment up. There are jokes, games, knowledge of natural and human history that a good raft guide has to get some form of mastery over.
Good mechanical skills are also key. Raft companies are NOT the most profitable businesses in the history of commerce . One of the ways that they save money is on vehicles. If you want to make it from Groveland to Yreaka in the middle of the night with an overloaded under maintained 1987 Ford Van you better have some good wrenching skills.
Food prep is also a key skill. On the river we try to always impress the "people" with amazing meals prepared over a fire, a propane cook stove and a dutch oven. Many times the good guide plans and shops for the food the day, or night before the trip. Water-proofing and storing in coolers several hundred dollars worth of food in a Safeway parking lot in 100 degree heat is part of the job.
Service is another part of the job. People are not always at their best. Sometimes they need to complain, or vent. You learn to smile and apologize quickly when this happens. That is just part of it. You also need to be ready to deal with shit, literally. On a multi day trip it is required (for good reason) that you have to carry out all of the human waste. Technology has come a long way since I dealt with the groover. I could tell you some horrendous stories about emptying the contents of the groover after a long hot trip but I don't want to taint the high brow content of this blog (joking). As a matter of fact if any of you guides reading this want to tell a groover story, please click comment below.
Team work is another key skill that I learned. Not every guide on every trip is going to be good at all of these elements. Some are better with food, some can socialize all day and feel refreshed at the when the day ends. Not everyone has the aptitude to patch a raft on the side of the river in a downpour. But on any given trip there most likely going to be one guide that is good at each of these skills. The key is to always be ready to step up, do your part well and with a smile because at the end of the day the work has to be done before you go to bed.
Those are just a few things that I learned from raft guiding. What I did not learn was how to wear a suit, sit at a desk be answerable to a budget forecast, build a spread sheet, or any of the self discipline that it takes to be inside a building under fluorescent lights breathing HVAC air all day to earn my daily bread.
As the chickenhawk and I grew up it became more and more apparent that our taste for the finer things in life like a house, health insurance and cars that run on a regular basis was going to require that we get paid in a little more than sunsets. She went back to school and got her teaching credential. I tried many different ways to make some more bucks in the outdoor industry, I managed a rafting company, I ran a kayak school and taught whitewater kayaking, I worked as an independent sales rep for a bunch of "paddle sport" manufacturers. All of these jobs met the criteria of being meaningful but I kept feeling that because I was working in the industry, I was still expected to get paid in sunsets. So, I ventured into the corporate world and ended up for the last six and a half years with Bentley Mortgage.
The part of being a mortgage broker that has come easily for me are all of the things that I learned raft guiding. I am ferocious in protecting my clients well being. I don't want to see anyone get hurt as a result of working with me and I take that duty seriously. I want everyone that I work with to feel welcome and comfortable. I want to find the best possible deal to fit my clients needs. I treat my the other people that I work with, my co-workers, lenders, escrow officers and appraisers as respected team member that are all working to get the job done for the client. I find it very rewarding to be able to help my friends and clients through some of the biggest decisions they will make.
In doing this job for so long I have built up a client list of folks that have for the most part become friends and who trust me to take care of their mortgage needs. For me this is a huge asset. I do not advertise, I do not cold call, instead I rely 100% on referrals from my past clients, friends and family. This is how I have been the sole provider for my family for the last 5 years as the chickenhawk has stayed home and raised our girls.
To walk away from the role of provider has been one of the hardest things I have had to face in becoming a cancer survivor. I worked really hard to get to where I am and I feel like it is being ripped away from me. This gives me a feeling of helplessness, sadness and anger that are hard to describe.
I keep thinking back to the movie Fight Club where the Ed Norton character says, "I am not my job, I am not my paycheck, I am not my furniture, I am not my car..." It is true I am my spirit. I am naked against the world, all of are when you get right down to it all we really are is the sum total of our beliefs, feelings and actions. I have given up my job, I have given up my bike, I have stopped driving I often can't prepare my own food, sometimes I am in too much pain to get a drink of water, I am only doing a halfway decent job as a parent and a husband right now. I am keeping a list of other things I might have to give up, like pooping in a dignified way. These are the insults of cancer. I will take them all on with the best of my ability.