Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A post by Kyle: "The experience we call life..."

I am not one to blog or write about much that goes on with life, but I have had a few changes in my life recently that have made me come to realize that sometimes things that are expressed and shared can really make others open up and embrace a challenge they would normally say "I wish I could" or "That would be pretty cool to experience".  There are things that we do every day, little challenges we take on, or come across that, that really shape and mold who we are, both in our careers and in our lives.   And there are some that people look at them and say “no, I couldn’t do that, or that is just crazy” when it may be more doable than you thought, and will have such an impact that you would say “I was crazy to not give it a go!”  I know because I was that way…

I guess what got me thinking about this was a short while back someone said to me "What are your aspirations for your career, what do you want to accomplish?"  Normally I would think, "I have an answer for that strait away"... but on the spot, I froze.  I had to think, and even after a long think about it, I still did not have a really good answer.   I knew the answer, but I didn’t at the same time.  Growing up, and during college I thought I knew the answers to that question.. go to school, get a degree in engineering, start out with a good firm, and learn the ropes before starting a engineering company for my self… how cool would that be right?.. That was always what I saw myself doing.  I had gone through the first parts of that plan.. and got to a point were I was happy, working hard, exploring and learning every avenue of civil engineering. Working long hours, but loving it at the same time. Almost to the point where I thought "something is wrong with me... I must be sick in the head to want to work 90hrs a week!”  One can only do this for so long until you realize that you have the rest of your life to work, and you need a healthy balance, while continuing to challenge yourself in your career.

About three years ago, in the middle of my craziness, I managed to meet someone pretty special… incredible actually!!  She happen to be 10 hours away, and many people thought it was crazy, but I figured “I can work as much as I do, and manage to find time for a long distance thing to work.. right?”  I got a lot of “you’re crazy’s, what the heck’s, and how the hell’s” from a lot of people.  And all I can say as that, you may never know how satisfying a challenge can be, until you try.  Not just with meeting someone that will change your life, but also with choices you make in your career.

My big change happened to be a combination of both things, with a small bonus shot of adventure in a new country, that got me feeling like a kid on Christmas. It was a very much anticipated opportunity to be with Katie, and experience a new lifestyle together, coupled with an opportunity to explore an unknown adventure in my career.  Both opportunities, like any, didn’t come with out a risk, mainly being the unknown.  I was happy in Michigan, I have the best friends anyone could ask for, an incredible family close by, I had a nice home, two loving pets, the best roommate a guy could ask for (those of you that know Dan are probably laughing, but he seriously is a fantastic friend and I really enjoy having him as a roommate).   That all being said, I guess a part of me felt like I was not challenging my self with life enough for my liking.  You only live once, and you need to make the most of that right?

Katie got an opportunity to move to New Zealand, and I had no idea where the hell it was other than what I had seen on TV, with hunting and skiing shows.  Once I started to look into life here, I was amazed…I could not believe that I did not have it on my bucket list to visit!!  It was really my minds creation of paradise all in one place.  Full of new things, new sights, different lifestyle, and most importantly new challenges!  Again I got a lot of “your crazy’s” when I starting thinking about leaving a good job, and the life I had, to make this move.  I have to admit, I was torn, I had a good job, and loved where I was at. But after talking with a few friends that give some pretty damn good advice, both in life and career, I said “You know what, think I’ll give it a go.”  It wasn’t until I starting applying for a work visa, and looking for jobs, finding a home for Zoey and Tiger, and looking for a one way flight, that it hit me… “holy shit, this is terrifying!” Followed shortly by, the feeling that I was only terrified because I had relaxed my ambitious mentality to always challenge my self, and get the most out of life, to the point that I was scared of change.  This circled back to my reasons for making this change in the first place to always continue to challenge myself and keep my life fresh.

I can not say that it has all been peaches and cream.  It was very emotionally draining my last day at my old job, the last night Buddies with all my friends, my good-bye with family, and especially the day I left my house, Dan, Mom, Tiger, and Zoey.  Zoey especially in her condition, made it so incredibly hard. I can’t begin to express how much appreciation I have for Dan and my family for helping with that aspect of this.  I know she is in good hands when I left.   Once Mom left me at the airport, and I was waiting to board the plane, I thought one last time.. “What the hell am I doing!? This is not just a vacation, I have packed all I need to live somewhere new, on the other side of the world, and who knows when I will come back!”  After 15 hours in transit and skipping an entire day in the calendar, I landed, and the wide-eyed excitement began!

I landed in New Zealand knowing that I needed to find a job, get us a car, find a more permanent place to live, and settle in here with Katie, but all I wanted to do was hit the roads and see what I had read out!  I had forgotten how much work writing a good resume, or finding a job was! On top of that Kiwi lifestyle is pretty relaxed and most places are closed for three weeks over the holidays…I landed on Dec 24th…finding a job would have to wait!  :)

Knowing how tough it can be back home to find a job, I was a bit concerned, but at the same time, New Zealand was heavily looking for civil engineers, and I felt my experience brought a lot to the table for me.  I have always felt that experience trumps education in what a civil engineer does, but couple it with a great education, and you are in pretty good company.  Having confidence I had that working for me, I had to balance it with the fact that it was an uphill battle to land a job where all of the standards in design and construction are different from what you knew and were taught.  It’s part of the challenge I was looking for right!?  Once the holiday shut down was over I began to make progress, and with in a short time I was interviewing.   I had my eye on a small firm that I found via the internet before I came.  I had made contract with them before I came with little luck, but I figured I would give it one last try once I landed.   My phone rang almost the second I hit send on the email!!  This was the one I wanted!!…. With little practice to freshen up my rusty interview skills, they wanted me in next day!  Excited as hell, I was a bit nervous to say the least, but as soon as I sat down in the interview, I felt at home in there office.  I couldn’t tell in the interview who was more excited talking about work and projects they had been a part of, me or them! It was a truly fantastic experience and a huge compliment to my experiences to that point at HNTB. The place is run by three Kiwi guys that are some of the nicest people I have ever meet, and the office is full of talented and easy going people.  It’s a pleasure and I feel blessed to be there… most days. ;)

I can not stress enough, to all my friends, and especially fellow civil engineers, your career is what you make of it, and you can not replace or put a price on your experience.  I have never felt more challenged with my career as I do right now… Some days it is incredibly stressful and frustrating, but the mind has a way of working through solutions, and making the outcome build you up to prepare you for the next one.  There is defiantly a strive at the place I work to create a fun atmosphere, and allow everyone to feel like they are a vital part of a team, and balance a healthy lifestyle with a normal 40hr a week work life.  I was “thrown into the fire” if you will from day one, and I welcomed the challenge.  New standards, new methods of construction, new clients, and the new challenges create a great opportunity to really grow and learn new things every day!  The one key thing that I am realizing is, no matter where you are in the world, when you work with other engineers, the engineering brains have a similar mentality, and it is that talent and mentality that makes a good engineer.  You can learn new standards, but you can not teach someone to think like a good engineer.  I am blessed to have landed amongst great engineers both at home with HNTB, and here in New Zealand with Blue Barn!

It may have been 75% a desire to be with and explore this country with Katie, and 25% looking for a new challenge with my career, that brought me to New Zealand.  But I can say that now that I am here, and really had a chance to reflect on it, it is 100% the desire to challenge my self, and get the most out of life, that is keeping me here for now.  It truly is an incredible feeling to be somewhere as beautiful as New Zealand, and to call it my home for now, makes me feel spoiled a bit! It is very tough to be away from family, friends, and so hard to be away from Zoey being sick like she is, but I am doing something that never in my 28 years would I have thought that I would… and I can’t wait for what the next day brings!

To anyone that took the time to read this… my advice to you, while you are still young, is this…  There are so many opportunities that you never would have thought existed, if you want to challenge yourself a bit.  There is so much to learn outside of your comfort zone, and outside of the US.  If you ever come to a point in life that makes you say “it would be so cool to try that, or to live there”  or “I am getting a bit stuck into a routine where I am at, and I need to refresh” or even “man I wish I could take on an exciting new challenge in life or my career”   two words.. Do it!!  Don’t think, “I can’t”, “it’s too hard”, “why would I leave what I have”, or “I’m afraid to leave my comfort zone”.   Just do it!!.. those things will be there when you come back.  Even if you make a change, and are unhappy, you can always return and no one will give you any grief for trying something new.  You only live once, and there is so much satisfaction by taking on a challenge in life like this!  You will not regret it!  :-D


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