I am the oldest of four children born into an extremely hard-working blue-collar family. My mother is nearly all Polish, and my father is Irish and German. Neither of them went to college, but my dad's unparalleled attention to detail made him the best craftsman I have ever met. He can fix anything. My mother is by far the most personable person I know. She can sell anything. In fact, she has been one of the top five salespeople at AT&T nearly her entire career. Growing up they worked every minute of overtime they could get, and there were times I would only see them for a few hours each week. While I didn't understand this growing up, as I got older their sacrifices have started to make sense. Without them working like that, I would never have been in a school with the kids of CEOs. I would never have learned about hard work, persistence, and passion. Now, my family is far from flawless; we have many flaws, and we are nowhere near perfect, nor we do claim to be. What I do know is I would not be the person I am today without them in my life. Chicago will always be my roots, but as I got older I was called to leave.
My journey to Boulder started at Carmel H.S. in Mundelein, Illinois. As I approached my senior year I had a number of conversations with one of my best friends, outlining a grand vision of attending the University of Colorado Boulder. Unfortunately, life took me in a different direction and we lost touch with one another. Over time, I started to grow more and more impatient with the direction my life was heading. Call it a blessing in disguise, but after eight years apart my old friend from high school – now living in Colorado – found me through my father’s information on Yahoo. We immediately reconnected and the fire in my belly for Colorado burned at its highest ever level. Truth be told, his phone call brought me to a crossroads in my life: I could either stay in Chicago or really explore the idea of Boulder. I wasn't happy at home and those visions I had when I was younger were trying to tell me something again. So, I booked a trip to visit him in Colorado Springs. I will never forget that scenic drive up to the top of Pike's Peak. It was unbelievable. At one point, while we were exploring, I glanced over at my friend and watched him give his dog water out of his hands. I will never know why I did this, but I knelt down and touch the dirt with my hands. At that very moment, I knew I had to move to Boulder. Call it a sign from God, I have no idea, but I knew it in my heart and soul. That very moment completely changed my life, and a year later I had a lease on Pearl Street.
I loved my time in Boulder, and I thought it would be my last stop, but life can be strange. I had never considered NYC as a stop in my journey on my own Oregon Trail, but it happened, and I loved it. In truth, I have considered moving back there a number of times, and my brother lives there now. I lived in an apartment on the Upper West Side, at 83rd and Columbus, but the location was deceptive. I got used to killing giant cockroaches and rats in my living room and kitchen. (Rats scream when caught in traps and learn quickly; cockroaches can fly, and it takes a baseball bat to kill them.) I was a regular at the largest group on Meetup.com, the NY Tech Meetup, and I learned Ruby on Rails from a software coding class at NYU. I also leaped into full-time remote working. My apartment had two windows with steel bars and only a few overhead lights. I quickly learned all of the tricks to working remotely and staying focused. I learned that fitness was not optional when one works in technology, especially when surrounded by the foodies’ dream city. Being a foodie brought 20 pounds to my waistline, but I did also find Equinox, the best gym I have ever been a member of. My favorite restaurant of all time is Per Se, and I learned all about A5 steaks there. I still maintain a huge list of favorite dining spots and make the city a regular adventure nearly every year. But it wasn’t just food, workouts, and tech, I also truly got to explore my love of the arts there. I spent hours in The MoMA, The Met, and The Whitney, drawing inspiration from those places for my tattoos.
Though I made the most of my NYC stay, I was pretty frustrated burning my money on high taxes and the insane cost of living. When I decided to leave Gotham, I considered going back to Boulder, or maybe to San Francisco. But, after watching "Portlandia,"" I chose Portland, Oregon. I figured if a modern hippie like me was going to drive a VW bus out West and Boulder was too small, where’s the next logical place? From afar, Portland seemed legit. I have been here now for over six years and counting. I have eaten all over the city and can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that "Portlandia" is truly Portland. The tattoo ink never runs dry here, and people are super chill. I do feel like I am one of the few capitalists, though, and I started a Meetup group to support those ideals. It started out as an offshoot of the group called "Ruby on Rails PDX" and today we are called "Full Stack PDX" and have over one thousand members. I have now made mentoring and giving back priorities in my life. I regularly run the career advisory room at Mentorship Saturdays, and spend time with my church community at St. Mary's Cathedral. My faith has come back to me in PDX, and it's something I will never let go of again.
PDX will not be the last stop on my journey. While I will always consider it an amazing place, its time will pass. I met an amazing, beautiful, super smart partner here and when she wraps up medical school we are going to bounce. Right now my fingers are crossed for sunny "never snowy" San Diego. Yes, I know it is the exact opposite weather of here. That’s because the rain here is killing me slowly, and I swear I have watched my natural skin tone become pasty white over the years. Also, I want to be able to run, mountain bike, and explore all year round. I rarely venture out during our nine months of tropical monsoon season each year. I also miss being around high fashion, style, and an ocean that does not require a wet suit to get in. I want to be around more capitalists. Who knows though... I used to plan everything down to the finest detail but now I like to use the term "trend" and go with the flow as much as I can. Call it The Secret, but I figure if I write this down, it may just happen.