For the basics of what Cowork22 is and who I am, check out the About Me page and then come back.
2015 – 2016 was probably the most stressful and difficult of my life. Yea, I?m not that old, but I hope I don’t have to go through anything like that again.
The story starts when my wife told me she did not want to be married any longer.
I pretty much fell apart.
I could not think. It was hard to sleep. Everything went numb. There were rolling waves of emotion, anger, and sadness. At one point, I backed into a corner and cried. It was an awful time.
I opened up to someone, someone I wanted on my team forever, but she decided she did not want to be with me and it broke my heart. I married my best friend. We balanced each other, matched each other?s crazy, or at least counter-acted it. When I made that commitment, I did not take it lightly. I did not give up . I tried to do whatever I could to make us work.
But, we separated.
Being separated was not a good time. I was in pure limbo. I didn’t want to make plans. I wanted to reach out to her, to my best friend, but she wanted space. I felt a troubling mix of emotions, desire, and pain. Drinking alcohol was definitely not a good idea at this point, but sometimes I stumbled.
I joked with a friend on one of my lighter days that alcohol was not a crutch because a crutch is something that helps you stay off the ground. That?s not what it did for me.
My entire world shifted during our separation. A weight was thrown down on my shoulders. I couldn?t breathe. Couldn?t move. I felt like I was falling into a pit.
I had to get out of my head quickly. At the time, I was working on my start up that was not yet successful or paying the bills. My wife had a great job that supported us while I attempt to get this company started.
What saved me? How did I get out of this pit of grief? Who could I turn to?
Fortunately, I coworked with some amazing people at the Tampa Bay WaVE in Tampa, FL. After the night my wife and I separated, I went back to the WaVE and my friends saw that I was struggling.
I went out for a few drinks with my friends and tried to not think about my situation, but the next morning I had to figure it all out.
I had no place to go. No job. I was separated. I had to move out within the week. I had no time to panic. I reached out and leaned on my friends in the WaVE and in the community.
This is when the power of a coworking space really became clear to me. It was not just a place to work but a place to make connections, friends, and meet the kind of people who help you in good times and bad.
By the end of that first day, I had a place to stay for a few weeks while I figured out the next step.
For a while I bounced around from one place to another. Then I reached out to Gregg with Green Bar Labs in Tampa who worked at WaVE and asked if I could stay on his couch. Gregg had been my rock through this experience. He talked when I wanted to talk, drank when I wanted to drink, and gave me a place to stay during one of the hardest times of my life. He is an outstanding friend and I will forever be grateful for everything he has done for me.
My rent: to keep the fridge stocked with beer and diet coke. Greatest deal ever!
Within a few weeks, I had a job I loved, doing web development and project management for a company in Tampa.
Despite the random moments of feeling as if I was in a hole, I spent the next few months burying myself in work and trying not to meltdown.
Then it was the holidays and countless questions: Where is she? Are you getting back together? When are you moving back in? The stress was building again. It felt like a weight. If I didn’t get up and do something, I?d fall deeper and deeper into the hole. I had to focus on something and just go after it.
I love my family and my ex-wife’s amazing parents who recently told me I would always be part of their family. But, by the end of the holidays, I needed a break.
And, by then I was in the mode of doing things. I knew I needed to try to help myself as best as I could. If I couldn?t be home, then I was going to do something else. I searched for that next thing.
I love New Year’s Eve. There is something awesome about going to a big event with strangers and friends to celebrate another year of life. So I decided to go to Miami for New Years!
Miami is amazing! I found this incredible place, the Freehand Miami. It was everything I needed.
Interesting people? Check!
Fun people? Check!
While I was there I only met one person from the US and she was an opera singer named Molly. Everyone else was from overseas — Brazil, Switzerland, Denmark, England, and Germany. We hung out, told stories (many times in languages I did not speak), went to the pool, and explored Miami. We even went to a free concert with Imagine Dragons and Macklemore on the beach!
Since I was going solo everywhere and love to dance, I met tons of people. One night, I met a group of Germans and I ended up going out with them on New Year?s Eve which was a blast. I bought a ridiculous $55 drink — a gallon of liquid in a fishbowl cup. I spent New Year?s Day recovering by the pool. I went to the nearby Miami Edition hotel, which is way out of my budget (like $1,000+ per night), and had an amazing breakfast — coffee, juice, water, omelet, and a salad.
It look’s as relaxing as it felt.
The next day, I actually had breakfast at the Freehand where I met Renato and Bianca. Renato Freitas is the kind of guy that enjoys everything about living. You could sense it when he spoke. He was a model from Brazil living in Miami. Bianca was a traveler who could speak something like five languages. I was so impressed. They were super-fun and vibrant people!
Was the world telling me something about moving forward? I didn?t really know it at the time, but I think it might have been.
We hung out most of the day. They were going to a birthday party that night and so I was figuring out my plans. I had a drink at the bar (Broken Shaker) to think about what I wanted to do.
I got this image from the Freehand Miami Facebook page
Yes, this is actually a hostel. I will come back to this place forever!
So that night, I was having a drink with some people I met including Molly, the opera singer, and a group of girls who came by and asked if they could sit with us. The place was packed and had a line out the door so we said, sure, no problem. We chatted with them and I asked the lady next to me what she did. She said she was a singer and her name was Jess, Jess Glynne.
I said that was cool and apologized for not being familiar with her. Her friends said she was not as well known of a name in the US as in Europe (especially the UK). Eventually she asked for my phone and she brought up her site. So this was her:
The first link that came up was a paparazzi article about her vacation in Miami. We listened to her music and she has definitely been killing it.
It was incredible. How often does this happen?
I have not met many famous people, and definitely not any so chill with sitting down with strangers. We actually hung out for a few hours talking about random stuff. Every time I tried to buy a round of drinks (I am from the south so I have to try), they would stop me and just order them.
They invited us to come to the Miami Edition with them for drinks. Both Molly and I were like, of course, yes! But I was still in sandals and a swimsuit. Not exactly club appropriate. They left. I went and showered and changed.
When I was done, I went across the street and looked for them. I didn’t see them. The Miami Edition has a number of different spaces for drinks on the top floor. It took some searching but I found them. They were ice skating in the club. That?s right, there was a freaking ice skating rink!
I found this picture of the ice skating set up on the Miami Edition Basement website.
I ice skated for a few minutes and then we headed back to the bar. As we walked, one of her friends and songwriter, Jin Jin found the manager and told him who Jess was. And then this happened:
Please forgive the background singing. haha.
After that, the manager took us to the club area and gave us a corner booth and bottle service. We danced and drank through the night with Molly and I just saying, what? Is this really happening?
Here was the crew for the night. Jin Jin was blocked. Sorry about that!
So this was arguably the most ridiculously great time I have ever had and definitely a night of pure fun. When I got back to the hostel, I just shook my head unable to believe what just happened.
When I got up the next morning, I hung out with Renato, Bianca, and a few other people. I did not want to go home just yet. I didn’t leave until 5:00 or so that evening. I got back to Tampa around 10:00 or 11:00 p.m.
Once I got back, my mind started going over what happened and what I could learn from the experience. I have a true desire to be around people. It gives me energy and leads to some great experiences. When I was out, I could not wallow in sadness, and I needed that push to get out of my rut.
Little did I know, my calling would come to me days later.
That following week, everyone and their mother was talking about the National Championship game between Clemson (my university!) and Alabama (the other school). I felt I was being called to go. I looked on StubHub, bought a $750 ticket, and started planning the rest of the trip. At this point, I was not trying to save money. I was moving on from my experience and doing whatever it took to stay afloat. I posted my plans on Facebook and discovered that my tailgating friends from Clemson were also going. Everyone was flying into Las Vegas and driving down to Phoenix so I decided to do the same.
Ate some ridiculous meal after a long night in Vegas.
Went to the Hoover Dam on the way to Phoenix.
In Las Vegas, I met up with my friends from Clemson and got VIP tickets to a concert by American Authors. Free drinks!
Picked up my ticket to the game.
Got into the ESPN VIP area and met Tajh Boyd!
Went to my first ever National Championship game! Even though we lost this game, it was one heck of an experience. Go Tigers!
On my way back to Las Vegas, I took a detour to see the Grand Canyon with six inches of snow on the ground.
Back to the story. So what is the point of telling you about all of this.
I will tell you.
Without knowing it, I was finding my passion — experiencing new things and meeting new people.
Through these experiences, I was digging myself out of my hole of despair. It gave me the freedom to think more clearly about improving myself and my situation.
I?ve wanted to travel ever since I went to Peru when I was in high school.
I?d also discovered a passion for the power of coworking spaces and why they are so important. My support system, outside of my family and extended family, has been from the people I work with at the WaVE. They mean the world to me.
Once I got back from Phoenix, I re-focused on work and returned each night to Gregg’s house to sleep on the couch. I tried to hang out with my wife but things were never the same. Months later, the week before Memorial Day, my wife told me she no longer wanted to be married. No debate. No talking. Nothing.
The numbness returned. I couldn’t sleep. I just wanted to go drink or work out. I needed to take a trip. To escape. To vent. To breath.
My life plan was changing around me.
I was back in the place I was in the beginning going through waves of pain and sadness.
What did I want to do next? What did I need to do to start the next phase of life?
In my experiences, what had I learned and could I continue to grow and push forward with my life? Could I use my experience to help others?
I kept coming back to the idea of somehow sharing my experience and the support that I found through my coworking space. Eventually this developed into an idea of traveling to coworking spaces and sharing the best of what I discovered.
This is personal.
I need to do this for myself and for others who are going through their own ups or downs. I need to do this for people who want to work or build a space like the WaVE that supports and encourages people to come together both personally and professionally. Whether you are a coworker, owner, or manager of a coworking space, I want to explore what works and share these experiences so we can all move forward and grow together.
I started working at a coworking space to get out of the house so I would have fewer distractions. But I found more than that, I found a wonderful community of people that are in the same life and work struggle and have become some of the most important people in my life.
If you are up for it, let us have an experience together and improve ourselves in the process.
Check out my About Me page to learn what is next for Cowork22.com.