The Finish Line — Sept. 27, 2021

The one-and-only competitive footrace I have ever won came during Field Day 1980 at Pound Ridge Elementary School in suburban New York. I was in kindergarten, on the green team, and was a part of the 50-meter dash. I remember being most fascinated that day by the starters’ pistol, wondering if it contained real bullets and, if so, where they might be landing.

Those questions faded when the gun sounded for my race. There’s a freedom to running when you’re a kid. I look at 5-year-olds with the benefit now of more than 40 additional years and think they look funny and awkward and slow. But that day, I felt like I myself had been shot out of the pistol.

I remember being surprised when something started to wrap around my head. I hadn’t been looking up and had burst right through the finish line tape, in first place.

Today, I crossed another finish line and felt that same exhilaration.

Just more than a year ago, I started at a job I loved but that did not pay the bills. So I created a plan that I kept to myself until the race was almost done. I was rebuilding my life — again — after the latest Series of Unfortunate Events, some of which were excruciatingly self-created. I am, no doubt, my own worst enemy.

But this rebuilding was going to be different. It was going to be methodical and have a definitive goal. The plan was simple:

  1. Work my ass off until my current employer recognized my true value or until I made myself marketable to other companies once again.
  2. Professionally ask for a salary increase to a rate that accurately reflected my value in the market.
  3. Absent a salary increase, find a forward-thinking, progressive company that paid for talent.
  4. Find some way to bring in a chunk of change to restore a sense of financial security to my family.

Today, with the closing of the sale of Old House, that plan is done. Three hours after we signed the papers, the proceeds landed in our bank account. Tonight, I paid off some of our remaining debt. Tomorrow, I will pay off the rest. Then I will refill a proper emergency fund, put some money aside for the newer-to-us cars I’d like to buy someday, start a travel fund and send the rest to my investment account.

While the plan might have been simple, its execution was not. It was fraught with political landmines at work and blasted by repeated tragedies and obstacles — everything from the loss of my father-in-law to my own battle with COVID and then Longhaul COVID.

But in the end, I did it. We did it. The race is over.

I’m not naive enough to think more challenges aren’t coming. With every fiber of my being, though, I hope they stay away for maybe just a little while.

The ‘Don’t Blame Me, I Didn’t Say It’ of the Day

‘Starting strong is good. Finishing strong is epic.’

Robin Sharma

New Home is Old Home For Wifey Poo

To celebrate the day, Wifey Poo and I poured two glasses of wine — her, the sticky-sweet white she loves and me a dry red — and walked down to the end of the driveway. We sat on the concrete and sipped and talked as the last sunlight of the day faded and stars emerged in the darkening sky. I love it out here in the country.

As we walked back toward our home, I said, “This all has to be a bit surreal for you.”

“Just a bit,” she replied.

Wifey Poo spent the second half of her childhood in this home. She grew into the amazing woman she now is inside these property lines. Now, we’re raising Boy The Younger here for the second half of his childhood. I type this in the room I slept in when, as a 19-year-old, I came home with her on spring break. Never in a million years would either of us have thought the winding road that is our collective life would travel past this point.

Things like that are what can make living life so much fun.

Today’s Reasons to Keep Living.

  1. Tomorrow, I’ll be able to pay off the rest of any debt we have.
  2. Good pens. I love the Precise V7, black.
  3. An out-of-the-blue text with photos from a college acquaintance who knows I love nature scenery.

More From ‘A Puzzle Known As Life’

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Grandpa — May 17, 2022

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Study Abroad — May 15, 2022

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Family — May 13, 2022

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Heat Wave — May 12, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Heat Wave🥵Lawn Mowing🚜Last Podcast 🎙️ It’s hotter than balls outside in my section of Missourah, and I’m not happy about it. I am not a hot-weather person. I hate heat. I sweat easily. I turn red even easier. Having a bald head does not match well with sun exposure. And hasContinue reading “Heat Wave — May 12, 2022”

Making Sense of the Magic

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Gambling — May 8, 2022

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SoS15: So Far Away

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A Human Paradox

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Soul Comforts

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SoS14: One

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Seeing the Science in Person

MBP director Danielle Tullman-Ercek and two current students talked about the American Chemical Society’s massive spring gathering and how Northwestern Engineering’s Master of Biotechnology Program (MBP) is preparing students for new trends and innovations. Published April 20, 2022 There was a lot of “new” for Olivia Meyer and Byron Fan when they attended the AmericanContinue reading “Seeing the Science in Person”

Designing Products People Love

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Understanding Tomorrow’s Technology Solutions Today

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Missions: Mars and the Moon

MEM student Usman Rafiq is helping humankind’s latest space exploration efforts. Published April 15, 2022 Usman Rafiq is part of humankind’s quest to reach faraway frontiers.  As a member of Northwestern’s Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program, Rafiq is honing the skills he needs to push himself into higher leadership positions to help guide NASA’sContinue reading “Missions: Mars and the Moon”

SoS13: Fly to the Angels

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Is The Housing Market About To Crash?

So I wrote this big investigation, data-driven piece about what’s going to happen in the housing market. Then I wanted to turn it into an easily digestible flyer. PLUS, I wanted to give our CEO a chance to show his expertise. I hope that happened with this.

SoS12: Man in the Box

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SoS11: Iris

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Anybody Out There?

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SoS9: Black

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The Night I Died

I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately. The reasons are varied and scattered. Part of it is how much death there is around me. Well, maybe not around me personally. But more than 1,000,000 Americans have died from Covid, and that’s a gross understatement because the true toll won’t be known for years, onceContinue reading “The Night I Died”

Email Signatures

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What We’re Reading

Businesses can be really annoying when they communicate with you only about what they’re trying to sell. I love to let people get a look behind the curtain of the real people who work for them. So I created this for a series of posts.

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SoS8: Nutshell

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Let’s Get You Home

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Giving Back

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Meet the Team

Humanizing our team is important to me. So I created these social media graphics to help introduce us to people.

Pick the Paul

I learned early on in the real estate game that it is very much follow-the-leader. Everyone markets her business the exact same way. So I wanted to be different. One of the ways I’m accomplishing this is by making our open house social posts different from everyone else’s.

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Introducing The Allen Brake Team

Our team didn’t have any sort of introductory piece when I started, so I created this tri-fold brochure. The first page is the front, back and inside flap. The second page is the inside. I think it does the job of letting people know who we are and what we’re all about.

Want to Sell Your Home in Spring?

Just me doing my thing with design. Heard about how people who want to sell in spring need to start during the winter, so I did this whole timeline thing to showcase it.

SoS6: Bring Me To Life

Welcome to Songs of Significance, chronicling the songs that have helped shape me and people across generations. Bring Me To Life, Evanescence, from the 2007 album Fallen Line of Significance How can you see into my eyes, like open doors/Leading you down into my core, where I’ve become some numb.

SoS5: Jeremy

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SoS4: Fast Car

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SoS3: Closing Time

Welcome to Songs of Significance, chronicling the songs that have helped shape me and people across generations. Closing Time, Semisonic, from the 1998 album Feeling Strangely Line of Significance: Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

SoS2 — 45, Shinedown

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SoS1: Cumbersome

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