Note from the Editor-In-Chief: I meant to finish this post back in September, just after my 30th birthday. Between dragging my feet a bit and also publishing posts that I thought had much higher priority, it's about two and a half months late now. But I sincerely thank you for reading.
"Welcome to the club, man!"
I can't tell you how many texts I got from friends on or after the day of September 16th that said something along those lines. Apparently, if you're entering your 30's, receiving that text and then subsequently sending it to others is a requirement of membership in said 'club.' To each of the people I heard this from on my 30th birthday, I asked the same follow-up query:
"Are there any perks to this club?"
This question was left unanswered or met with a simple "LOL" each time it was asked, so I'm going to assume that the answer is a firm NO. Truth be told, in my vast two and a half months of experience as a 30-year old, I can tell you that it feels...just about the same as 29 did. But still, it's a milestone that people celebrate, so I guess I'll gladly accept my membership to this 'club.' Hopefully there aren't too many meetings or dues, I've already got a lot on my plate.
But anyway, that's not the main point of this post; rather, I wanted to reflect on the long, winding road that was my 20's and look ahead to the next chapter in my life. Ten years ago, I was living in a smelly, beer-stained frat house with 7 of my friends. My biggest problems at that time were 'who's gonna front for the keg?' or 'who's going to keep lookout on the front porch (for South Orange Police Department)?' Police was cracking down a bit on parties by the time my Senior year rolled around, which was a real drag. Oh, and there was that whole 'getting a degree and setting up my future' thing, I guess. That same year, I celebrated my 21st birthday -- it's pretty crazy how big of a milestone that seemed to be back then and how little it seems to matter now (I also don't remember much of it, but the stories told of that night are excellent). That really was the starting point, though, for a journey I hadn't mapped out.
So yeah, I was a Senior in College...awesome. I mean, everyone's supposed to enjoy that time, right? All you hear is that it's supposed to be the best time of your life! And yeah, I certainly had some great times and some incredible stories. In reality, though, I remember my final year of undergrad being a time where I was very withdrawn. I was at the point where half of me felt like he had outgrown the stereotypical college lifestyle and the other half was afraid to let it go. That's the theme that slowly overtook that year: I had literally no idea what I was going to do with my life post-graduation. I had chosen, way back when, to major in Sport Management because sports are one of my passions. I thought that working in the industry in some capacity was exactly what I wanted to do, or at least I did at some point. Looking back, I think there were about ten or twenty different things that I thought I "absolutely" wanted to do back when I was deliberating what to go to school for -- between becoming a lawyer, going into journalism or broadcasting, etc.
But anyways, let's get back to early 2012; I was months away from graduating from Seton Hall with a degree in Sport Management and had no idea if I actually wanted to work in sports anymore. I didn't know if I was ready to become an adult in general, to tell you the truth, and it was causing me a great deal of anxiety. I had taken the GMAT exam the summer prior and done very well on it (my Mother had to literally FORCE me to take that exam -- Moms are always right, people, just embrace it and listen to them the first time), so I at least had that in my back pocket. I finally decided to apply to schools as my time at Seton Hall came to an end and was luckily accepted into the graduate program at Bryant University.
So there it was, I had successfully postponed adulthood for a year while I pursued a Master's Degree. I would live at home and commute to Rhode Island for class each day. As it would turn out, the decision to attend grad school, a choice that had honestly been made more out of panic than anything else, actually wound up being one of the best of my entire life. I think that I may have gotten more out of one year of grad school than four years of undergrad, at least in terms of being prepared to enter the workforce. It was refreshing to be treated like an adult -- in fact, between the commute to and from campus and the degree of work I had to put in, grad school was kind of like a full-time job. That's when it hit me, though: I had spent the last year of my life being obsessed with getting to whatever my next supposed milestone was -- so much so that I failed to appreciate the chapter in which I was currently living.
What I didn't realize back in those days was that those anxious thoughts or feelings of being somewhat lost or confused aren't necessarily something that one merely outgrows. Those feelings can linger, fester and even overflow if you either ignore or don't properly manage them. Let's fast forward about half a decade, shall we? At this point, I was five years into my professional career, with all of that time having been spent at the same company. When I had first started there, the company I worked for was a young, up and coming startup -- every day was a ton of fun and I was also experiencing a decent amount of success. I had even been promoted within my first year and a half there. Eventually, though, the company stopped growing and I no longer saw a path for personal progression or advancement. The logical thing to do at that point was to move on and seek a new start...but I didn't.
Instead, I spent about two years lying to myself, saying that things would eventually get better. The company would magically start growing again, I'd have a clear path for further career advancement and all would be right with the world. Of course, this didn't happen; what's worse is that I gradually became visibly more negative. I was in a legitimate tug of war with myself professionally, thinking that I was too good to be stuck in the dead end situation I was in but also being far too complacent to put myself out there and begin looking for new opportunities. That downright stubborn mentality caused me a great deal of unrest that extended into my personal life as well, as I spent the majority of my late twenties fighting a losing battle inside my own head. There was no work-life balance, so the ups and downs of my professional life were mirrored in my personal life. For far too long, I continued to be my own worst enemy. Finally, though, I decided that enough was enough.
Shortly after Christmas 2018, I decided to put how I was feeling into words; but, to take it a step further, I decided to share those words with whoever may stumble upon them. I didn't think that there would be much of a reaction from something I posted onto my personal blog (which, as you can see, hasn't been touched much since), but I was actually quite shocked to find that a lot of people took the time to read what I had written. I realized that how I had been feeling for so long wasn't unique to me, that there are countless people each day dealing with something similar (or worse). That was just the incentive I needed to start making some changes in my life, changes that I'm happy to report are well underway.
I wrapped up that 2018 blog post by making a few promises to myself, promises that weren't exactly the easiest to follow through on. Well, it took a while and an awful lot of hard work, but nearly two full years later, I think I finally am that guy I had been aiming to be, or at least pretty close to it. And the changes I made extended into my professional life, too; a little over a year ago, I finally left my job, a company I had spent six years with, for a new opportunity with a fantastic company. It was one of the best decisions I ever made, as that fresh start was exactly what I needed and more. Unlike before, I have created an actual work-life balance for myself and I wake up each day excited to "go" to work. My commute now consists of a 20 yard saunter from my bedroom to my living room, as I've been working remotely since March, but the drive to my office when those were still a thing was much shorter and less stressful. I love what I do and feel like I'm making a difference each day, which just wasn't the case before. I've learned that sometimes hitting reset doesn't mean you failed or wasted your time, but rather that you have a chance to start fresh and apply all of the life lessons you've taken in over the years to achieve what you're looking for. 18 months or so ago I felt lost, like I was just treading in place and wasting my potential; today, as I'm typing this sentence, I've never felt better about myself and my professional prospects...and I'm not the only one who holds that opinion. More on that at a later time.
Like I mentioned earlier, though, the work-life balance that was non-existent before is very much established now. So yes, I've solved the career unhappiness that had been plaguing me, but there was other stuff to fix as well. The path that I took to rectify the "life" part of the equation has been a windy and bumpy one, but I feel like I've gotten there. One of the things I started to do over the last year was speaking with a coach on a weekly basis. And no, I don't mean talking to Bill Belichick on the phone about how the Pats are looking. Rather, I have weekly discussions with a life coach, someone who has helped me open up about myself, better realize my self-worth and slowly rebuild my self-esteem and confidence. If you told me a year ago that I'd be doing such a thing, I'd probably laugh in your face. But a lot can change in a year -- I can now certainly attest to that. And, while I've begun to feel better about myself emotionally, I've also started improving some of the other aspects of my life. While working from home, I've started to get myself into better routines and habits. I'm working out more, eating better and have started meditating daily. Since the start of the pandemic, I've lost just over 20 pounds and haven't felt this good about myself physically (or emotionally) in years, to the point where I genuinely feel like a brand new person. And yet, I am still fully committed to continued self-betterment; I am NOT a finished product.
Another huge change for the better in my life, though, has been my introduction to my new online family in FTF Media. If not for that, you wouldn't be reading this right now (it's literally the website you're reading this on). I told this story on One For The Girls (@1ForTheGirlsPod), but I want to recap it again here, because the journey that brought me to these wonderful people means a great deal to me. A lot of our members were recruited directly and for a certain purpose, but I wound up in FTF (Pwns Media at that time) somewhat by accident. I was added into a Boston Celtics group chat on Twitter back in June of 2019 by one of my mutual follows (despite being very active on the big, bad bird app for nearly a decade at that point, I actually had no idea that these were a thing until then). All I'd been looking for was to learn where these underground rumors that Kemba Walker was going to sign with my C's were coming from. What I wound up with was immensely more valuable, meeting people who I'd later learn were affiliated with Pwns: Austin, Corey, Islam, Abe and Vic (who was the guy with the Kemba scoop, for the record). I also started to interact with someone who was running the Pwns Media account, the purpose of which I assumed to be to promote a YouTube page or something. At the time, I didn't really dig into what he was doing, all I knew is that his name was Brian and he was just as passionate about the Celtics as the rest of us.
As time went on, I came to learn that Brian and Vic had a basketball podcast called House Of Hoops and that Pwns Media was the entity Brian was using to distribute it under. At that time, Hoops, Girls Pod and Ummmm...Interrupted were pretty much all the channel had and I didn't really know any of the other cast members involved. One day, the Hoops guys were looking for volunteers for people to hop on the podcast to contribute. It was October of 2019 and the new NBA season was about to begin. I had very limited podcasting experience at that time, which consisted of the occasional appearance on a Celtics show hosted by my friend Hartley. I volunteered to jump on House of Hoops nonetheless, because I thought it would be fun and that there were enough people on where I could just blend in and utter a few points. What happened next was completely unexpected: people actually thought I was...good.
In the days following the episode dropping, people were complimenting my performance and asking when I was going back on the pod. I honestly thought that people were just being polite, so I really didn't take it to heart. The Hoops crew also didn't record another episode for a while after that, too, so any recurring appearances from yours truly seemed to be an afterthought. Fast forward a few months, though, and that all changed. Vic reached out to me to let me know that they were bringing the show back and wanted to know if I wanted to be a part of it, along with Islam and Abe. I jumped at the chance and, after another episode or two, the guys actually asked me if I would mind hosting the show. Soon enough, I had been added into the Pwns Media group chat, where I met more members of the team: Haley, Mich, Jake and Ashleigh. I was appearing on Ummmm...Interrupted regularly and, before I knew it, I was part of something that was about to start growing pretty quickly.
Girls Pod, which had previously consisted of a different crew, was relaunched with Haley and Carly co-hosting. I actually joined their first episode, as the ladies thought adding the male perspective could be a good angle. I had been on a couple of shows with Haley at that point and interacted with her in the chat, but this was my first introduction to Carly. It could not have gone better and I had a great time recording with the two of them. The Girls have added Candi and Kristian to their cast since then and together have formed an unbelievably genuine, heartfelt and relatable program that now reaches 8,000 listeners per episode. Each of them are absolutely incredible people and I'm so fortunate to have gotten to know them over the course of this year. I'm beyond proud to call these badass ladies my friends.
Like I said, though, Pwns Media really only had three shows at the time -- but that was about to change. We started to play around with the idea of an entertainment podcast, a show where we could talk movies, TV and a bunch else. We eventually settled on the name NerdPod, but it was very much a work in progress. Brian, Austin, Mich, Haley and I would all cycle in and out from episode to episode, along with the occasional guest, and although it was fun, it was missing something. Haley mentioned one day that she thought a friend of hers would be perfect for the show, so we brought her on for an episode. That friend, of course, was none other than Kristian herself and she was SO good in that first appearance that we instantly asked her to become NerdPod's host. Seriously, it was like Tom Brady stepping in for the injured Drew Bledsoe all those years ago. Kristian's show now reaches just under 7,000 listeners per episode and I couldn't be prouder to be a part of it.
We added more awesome people along the way as well, like I mentioned earlier. Candi had been added initially to talk football (you will not find a bigger College Football fan than Candi, by the way -- insult her Georgia Bulldogs at your own peril) but wound up finding a home on Girls Pod. Candi's enthusiasm, compassion and strength presents itself in everything that she does. I don't think there's a single conversation I've had with her that I didn't come away from having learned something new and I know the rest of the group would say the same. Our world could use a lot more passionate and determined people like Candi.
Gabby was added to our group in early 2020 as well and, like Candi, was originally brought aboard to talk about sports. Soon enough, though, she had an idea that began to completely differentiate Pwns Media and contributed greatly to its growth. Gabby, as it turned out, is a MASSIVE fan of true crime documentaries and wanted an outlet to discuss the genre in more depth. Just like that, True Crime & Chill was born. Joined by Haley and Mich as castmates, Gabby's show became insanely popular and wound up becoming the first Pwns/FTF podcast to have an episode eclipse 5,000 total plays. The amount of time, research and preparation that Gabby has put into both her show and also her true crime docs (which you can find on this very site) are absolutely incredible. I've enjoyed getting to know Gabby over the course of this year because, like many others in our group, she's someone with incredible passion and who puts 110% into everything she does. Gabby is someone you ABSOLUTELY want in your corner and someone I'm beyond happy to call a friend.
We've continued to grow over the course of the year, between adding this very website that you're visiting right now and introducing new shows like Stealing Second, Snipe N' Celly, Hitting Dingers, Pats Draft Weekly and The Hive Unfiltered. Our group, which re-branded in September to FTF Media, has now grown to nearly 30 people and became a genuine online family. To be honest, it happened at a time that I really needed it. And, as I began to reflect further on my involvement with FTF over the past year, it brought me back to what I mentioned WAY back towards the start of this post:
Looking back, I think there were about ten or twenty different things that I thought I "absolutely" wanted to do back when I was deliberating what to go to school for -- between becoming a lawyer, going into journalism or broadcasting, etc.
Well, while I certainly didn't go into journalism or broadcasting professionally by any means, FTF has provided me with a creative outlet where I can discuss some of the things that I'm really passionate about. No, I don't have a show on Boston Sports Radio, but I'm able to talk about my favorite sports with my friends and have it broadcasted to (as it turns out) thousands of listeners. No, I'm not discussing movies and other forms of entertainment professionally, but I get to chat about the latest MCU casting rumors and express my disappointment in pretty much anything DC puts onto the big screen with some awesome people each week. And no, I'm not writing columns for the Boston Globe for a living, but I get to publish some pretty awesome stuff written by incredibly cool people on this site each week. So, in a way, I've found a way as I enter my 30's to do what I'm passionate about.
That's pretty much my roundabout way of saying that, even if it's not in the way you envisioned, life can sometimes have kind of a funny way of working out. So, for anyone who might be reading this and wrestling with what they're going to do with their life, I guess I'd say that it's never too late to figure it out. Enjoy the journey -- if I could turn the clock back a few years, that's exactly what I'd do. I wouldn't change a thing, because each decision I made, whether it was right or horribly, horribly wrong, brought me to where I am now. I believe today more than I ever did before that every step or misstep we take happens for a distinct reason; as it turns out, the same goes for the people who enter and exit your life. And if you're ever feeling overwhelmed about the way things are going in your life, whether we know each other really well or have never spoken a word to one another, I hope you reach out to me. Because believe me, I've been in a similar spot and I'd love nothing more than do what I can to help.
Before I wrap things up, I want to thank you all once again for reading all of this. I'm glad that I stopped dragging my feet and finally hit 'publish' on this post. And to my FTF Family, I love each and every one of you and wanted to leave you with personalized messages:
Brian: Thanks for welcoming me, a complete stranger, into your group and entrusting me with so much responsibility. I'll never understand your Joker takes, but I love you all the same.
Haley: You are one of the strongest, most badass people I've ever had the privilege of getting to know. You can do whatever you set your mind to, trust me!
Carly: You have shared so much about yourself with us all and put your trust in us in such a short time. Thank you for showing us all how just how immensely powerful and kind you are.
Candi: Thank you for being so unapologetically passionate, caring and genuine. You're so committed to making the world around you a better place and I know you're going to do it.
Kristian: Thank you for embracing your nerdy side and empowering us all to do the same! You are such a warm, loving person who is always thinking of what she can do to help others.
Mich: You're literally one of my favorite people on this planet and you single handedly got the rest of us hooked on Funko POPS! You're the coolest, can't wait to drink together at FTFCon.
Gabby: The True Crime Queen! It's been such a pleasure getting to know you. Like me, when you're interested in something, you dive in and learn everything about it. I love that about you.
Austin: One of my OG's! Way before Pwns/FTF, we were always chatting Marvel or Star Wars on the bird app. I appreciate you, buddy. Let's grab a slice at Frank Pepe's one of these days.
Jake: One of my OG linemates! Always a blast recording with you, bud. I fear the day we finally see Claude Giroux confront you on the street for the things you've said about him.
Ashleigh: One of my other OG linemates! I love how hilariously brash you are, Ash, along with how tireless of a worker you are. Always grateful to be able to talk puck with you.
Lauren: You're so infectiously positive, Lauren, and never hesitate to drop what you're doing to jump on and record with us. It's been awesome having you as a member of our family.
Abe: My favorite Sacramento Kings fan (and also the only one I know). Abe, you're a sharp, knowledgeable, insightful dude who I've enjoyed bonding with over hoops this year.
Islam: The most unapologetically biased Celtics fan I know, which is one of my favorite things about you. Your panicked overreaction texts during games crack me up. Love you, buddy!
Corey: Not to make myself sound any older than I already am, but you remind me so much of myself at your age. And I mean that as a compliment. Glad you liked The Four Agreements!
Vic: My brother from another! Glad to have you in my life, my man. Real ones remember your Zion scoop! You've been through a lot, man, if you ever need anything, you know I'm here.
Jules: I've enjoyed getting to know you these past few months, Jules! Looking forward to recording with you more often and I hope to continue to learn more about you.
- Mark (@MarkPiselli13)