I haven’t written on this page in quite a while and that’s partly on purpose. Now granted I’ve been busy, you know, moving across country and all. But it was more than that. I guess in some ways I didn’t want to jinx everything. I usually write only as a means of self expression and getting things out. I don’t particularly like the act of it as much as I like the feeling afterwards. The post purge. But I kind of purposefully didn’t write about the big journey I just took because partly I was scared the whole time. And partly, maybe mostly, I wanted everything to be just mine. I took the job at Louisiana Downs just before Thanksgiving and for two weeks I knew about it and nobody else did. It was kind of cool having this exciting news that you couldn’t tell anyone. I remember my mom telling me once that when she found out she was pregnant with me she didn’t tell anyone for a few days. Just enjoyed things being me and her and nobody else in the world. Well that’s how I kind of felt about my new job. It was this great new adventure I was going to be taking and nobody knew. Except my mom. I told her.
Let’s go back first though. 2008 I left River Downs a mess of tears and fears, depression and anxiety and longed to just go home. My mom came to Cincinnati and we drove back to Seattle where I was going to get help and try to start a new life. Within a week my boss at Portland offered me a year round job and I was moving down there. Portland, to be kind, was an extremely dark time in my life. I lived there full-time from 2008 to 2014. There were good times, but for the most part, I struggled. Things were dark at times. Very dark. I won’t go into too many details. During that time I turned down a couple of job offers at tracks that I would have wanted to normally take, but I was just too scared to leave my “safe place”. I had made Portland my “safe place” even though I didn’t feel safe there at all. Last January I was scared to leave the house, let alone leave the city. I even started having my groceries delivered so I wouldn’t have to go to the supermarket and experience the panic of waiting in the line. I had gotten off my anxiety meds a few months before and the simple act of standing in a line was the ultimate terror for me. I didn’t go home for Christmas last year. The night Hollywood Park closed, I left after the 7th race that day at Portland Meadows cause I was so anxious and couldn’t calm down. I sat in my car in front of the emergency room and cried for hours.
I went to an outpatient program for people with anxiety and got back on medication and slowly but surely started doing better. By July I was back to being semi social and doing things with friends again. I even called a days races at Portland Meadows in August. I had taken a counseling job in Central Oregon but it didn’t last long. The people were nice but I hated the town and to be honest, once I was feeling better, I knew I only wanted to work in racing. During the offseason I was applying for jobs and nothing sounded more fun than horse racing. Nothing. I went back to Portland Meadows in October for opening day, and for the first time in probably two years, I had fun announcing. I mean, I remembered I liked this. And that it could be fun and not just anxiety. I had forgotten how when I’m feeling good, how fun announcing can be. Then came the call from Louisiana Downs. I love Portland Meadows, but they race 38 days a year. Louisiana Downs races 130 days a year. And I’m someone who is paid per day. From a work standpoint, it was a 100% no brainer. But it meant moving cross country. It meant starting over in a strange town. It meant facing fears of leaving my “safe place”. I remember talking to my mom about it and she asked me “if anxiety wasn’t part of the picture would you go?” I said of course I would. She then said something that stuck with me. “Son, there’s a big world out there, you just gotta take some steps to go see it.” I love my mom more than anything. She’s always been my hero. She always will be.
So I took the job. The minute I said yes a sense of relief came over me. I think it was a sense of knowing that I was going to be able to push myself once again and stop taking a back seat in life. Taking a back seat to my anxiety and giving it all the power over everything.
My last days at Portland Meadows weren’t really bittersweet or anything. I have spent so many days there that I honestly just felt ready to move on. I have so many bad memories of that place and that town, not because of anything PM’s doing, just bad memories of battling anxiety while there. The people there are the best though. I didn’t cry during the races. I cried afterwards when I hugged Jerry Kohls. And I cried when I thanked my boss Will Alempijevic. Those two guys will have my respect forever. Truly class people.
I started driving. I remember stopping in Medford the first day and thinking “god how am I going to make it all the way there.” I had that same feeling once again in Weed, California. Then again in Tulare, Ca. Then again in San Bernadino, CA. Then again before Phoenix. But once I got to Phoenix, I started feeling more comfortable. I was on the road and feeling more and more comfortable. I kept reminding myself “this is what you want.” The times I’ve thrived most in my life were when I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I arrived in Shreveport last Tuesday and It’s already starting to feel more familiar. The people at Louisiana Downs have been so nice. The track is beautiful. I’m believing that this indeed will be a great experience and I’m looking forward to more and more challenges ahead. The race is on.