I am a __________.
Over the course of my lives, I have filled in that blank with many things: Father, Husband, Friend, Radio Personality, Small Market Country Radio Programmer, Comedian, Actor, Car Salesman, Internet Manager (and all the fancy derivatives I use to make that sound fancier than it is).
But when we step outside of ourselves and examine what that blank space SHOULD read is where we get into trouble.
You see, I have been very caught up in ideals and misguided obligations based on antiquated attitudes. I fancy myself a modern man with progressive values. Still, I mope about because I don’t have a 9-5 to go to every day.
First, it’s important to understand that “Josh Brandon” always had a plan. I left high school to enter college. I wanted to be a high school teacher. Then, by sheer chance, broadcasting found me and I changed my course. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was a natural at something. Not that I was good, mind you. I was horrible. But, my first job was a small town radio station with a skeleton staff of limited broadcast knowledge. Anyone with experience was run off. I’m not sure what I expected out of a radio station whose owner’s primary business was a junk yard and was the first thing you saw coming into town. Still, once I was brought on board one of the top stations in America in the closest big city to me, I realized that much of what I did at the small station out of gut instinct was dead on. I wasn’t good at much except bullshitting. “What are you gonna do, boy? Get a job running that mouth?”, My Father would ask me. As it turns out, nearly 18 years later, yes. I would have quite the career doing just that. There was strategy and data analysis. I beat opposing radio stations and forced competitors to flip formats because they couldn’t compete. I made my mark programming small market country radio stations to sound as good as their large market counterparts. I coached talent. I was a very gifted audio producer and voiceover artist. I always said being on the air was the weakest part of my game. Radio was my passion – until it wasn’t anymore.
A nasty divorce and the custody battle that would come to define my life ensued. I left one job for another on the great odyssey back to my daughter. The long story short? I finally (after 6 years and over $25,000) won joint custody of my heart and soul. I now live 7 minutes from her mother and that sweet little girl has a room all to herself and the knowledge forever that she was SO loved someone fought through Hell for her.
The problem is…that battle took everything. My passion…my fire…it wasn’t radio anymore. As a matter of fact, radio seemed to be the problem. It was all I had every done and I didn’t know what I would do if I didn’t do radio. How would I make a living? I stayed in it longer than I should have. In hindsight, I should have left Georgia at least 6 months earlier than I did and I never should have gone to South Carolina. I should have just packed up and come home. Hindsight is a bastard.
There I was, having given up radio with virtually nothing to show for a career I was quite proud of. My resume, while seemingly impressive, wasn’t impressing anyone. In 2012, when I ‘retired’ from radio, I couldn’t get a second look from a media outlet or advertising/PR agency. I couldn’t believe I was unemployable. I took the first job that was offered to me – car sales.
First, I had always been curious about the business and how it worked. In radio, you’re at car dealerships all the time. Why not? Everyone said I would be a natural.
I wasn’t. I just wasn’t that good at it at all. It took me months of going broke and walking the fine line of “will I get fired this month” before I invested the time to listen to motivational speaker Grant Cardone’s series. It was all I listened to on the way to and from work for a month. The next month, I sold more cars than ever before (which still isn’t saying much) and started to come into my own on that sales floor. It helped that I worked with people I genuinely cared about. I was there for the people more than the job, if I’m being honest. That made me work harder. I enjoyed being there and being a part of that team, regardless of my role. I would get promoted and assume more responsibilities. I always found myself in management or leadership roles. Did I say how much I loved working with those people?
But I wasn’t a car guy. And God was telling me that. It wasn’t the work and it sure wasn’t the people. It was the schedule and the unpredictable pay. But even that wasn’t enough to make me consider something else.
It was a series of health issues that I will detail later that prompted this change in my life. The final straw that broke this camel’s back (or neck, if you will) was a car accident in 2014 where some disks were dislodged in my neck and severely compressed my spinal cord, coming dangerously close to severing it and leaving it bruised and damaged. I was faced with a surgery that could have killed me and more likely would leave me unable to walk. Even so, I might always need the assistance of a cane.
OK. So, I wasn’t a husband anymore. I wasn’t being allowed to be a father anymore. I wasn’t a radio guy anymore. I may not even be able to be a car salesman anymore. But now I might not walk again?
My Father endured a lot in his life. His inspiration to me was that he never asked “Why me, God”, but it was always “What’s next”.
Something had to give. I was standing on the precipice of promotion at my job, but with that came more hours, more stress but considerably more money.
I came out of the surgery and can walk. Aside from the occasional balance issue, you’d never know I almost didn’t walk again. But I couldn’t work anymore. Not there. Not doing that.
Along with this life changing surgery and recovery, while I was out on medical leave, I met the woman who would become my wife. It was a whirlwind relationship that escalated quickly. Our first date was late Summer of 2014. We would wed before immediate family in a secret, private ceremony that Christmas Eve. While it may seem rushed, all I can say is that we both knew we were standing in front of something pretty special. Plus, due to some other life circumstances, it just made sense for the timing.
By August of 2014, I was constantly exhausted and pushing my body to the limits. It was clear I shouldn’t have gone back to work so soon. By September, I knew that I couldn’t stay at the dealership I loved so much. My wife-to-be lived over an hour away from where I worked, at least 45 minutes from my home – in the direction I needed to be, closer to my daughter. It broke my heart to leave. Because, again, I didn’t know what I was going to be.
I tried insurance. Three months with the promise of financial potential but no paycheck was enough for me to abandon that. Not because I wasn’t willing to tough it out, but because I was selling everything I owned to pay child support. I went to another dealership. They found my resume online and called. It wasn’t a good fit. I walked in during the onset of a corporate reshuffling of that department. It was unstable and a negative experience from day one. So, I walked across the street and handed my resume to another dealership and they hired me two days later.
Fast forward 15 months. The department I was charged with starting from the ground up was thriving. We were selling cars and posting unreal appointment show ratios. Let me say that I have never bought my own hype. Despite coaching talent to near 50 shares in ratings, programming stations with 25-35 shares and hosting a top rated morning show in a highly competitive market, I just never allowed myself to think I was that good. Even when I sold 20 cars in one month. Even when my department posted a 73% Appointment Show ratio. I work hard. I know things. I got lucky a lot. Then, bowing to pressure from an aging sales staff and outdated sales managers who struggled transitioning to Smartphones, ownership decided to transition their marketing philosophy and dollars to newspaper and away from online. I stood up in the meeting, shook their hands and thanked them for the opportunity. They offered to keep me on, but it was clear: ours was a philosophical divide that couldn’t be bridged. We parted on good terms, I’d like to think.
But now what?
That was May of 2016. I have struggled since then to find another job. Interviews have been few and far between. I was offered one job, but it involved climbing three flights of stairs multiple times daily. I know what you’re thinking, but for someone with the injuries I sustained, it just wasn’t something to realistically consider. I wasn’t interested in the work, the money was average and the physical cost would be great. I am fine. I can walk. But, overdoing it takes a much bigger toll than ever before and I have learned to respect my body’s new limitations. A small price to pay to be able to live a normal life.
I was a close runner-up for two jobs I really wanted, complete departures from what I had been doing, but well within the scope of my skill-set. Still, runner-up only means I didn’t have a job.
The issue was, after radio I just didn’t have anything I was truly passionate about. I knew I wanted to help others. That always fulfilled me in whatever I was doing. Going to law school to help others fighting for custody seemed logical, but at 40 it just didn’t make practical sense. Counseling, too, just didn’t make much sense from a standpoint of what I would spend on education versus what I would make coming out of it. I had a Bachelor’s in Communication. So, full circle, I came back to teaching. I am now pursuing a Master’s in Teaching while I seek my next adventure. Teaching is something I want to do at some point and is a wonderful safety net to build on.
Since enrolling, I have build a professional home studio and decided to resume the voiceover business I shut down when I left radio. It is harder now with more broadcasters out of work and into the voiceover field, plus those with no background who just have the capability of doing it. It is incredibly competitive. Plus, I am also a freelance writer, writing everything from blogs to product descriptions online and sales correspondence for various companies. More or less, utilizing the skills and talents I have along with various websites to seek this type of work, I’m trying to make my own way in this world. It’s a slow build and a significant pay cut from what I’m used to.
My wife was patient and supportive while I struggled with a sense of purpose and obligation to provide for my family. That is what this blog is about, among other topics. How I transitioned to adopting this new philosophy of embracing a new role. The challenges and struggles I faced adapting to the realities of being over 40, unable to find a J-O-B, forging my own financial way while pursuing my dreams of teaching, voice acting, writing, cooking, and being the husband and father I always wanted to be.