461 days ago, as of this writing, my dad was called to Heaven and that experience has forever shifted the landscape of my life. I have wanted to share the deep and detailed piece you will read below for the better part of a year but I never felt I got it quite right. I continually started, stopped and started over again. You will read a bit on my backstory, the events that have occurred over the last year and a half to lead me to where I am today and where I plan to take this journey in the future.
After graduating college I took a job at my dad’s advertising agency even though I told friends and family for years I would “never” work there. Not for any reason other than I always wanted to work in the sports industry. I always thought his advertising agency wouldn’t be a fit for the career path I saw for myself (as I went through high school and early college years). I majored in Radio/TV Film (this is where “CT” comes from). I was a DJ on our campus’ radio station and “DJ CT” was born. My last year in college I realized a true passion for web design and decided that was the career I wanted to go down.
My dad was in the midst of shifting his business to more web development about six months before I graduated. He had recently hired a web manager and things were starting to take off. He was getting bogged down and needed an assistant. That’s where I came in.
So there I was graduating college on a Saturday morning and getting into the office with my “big boy” job at 8am less than 48 hours later. It was one of those “right place, right time” kind of things. Let’s say I graduated college a semester earlier (or later) than I did, that job may never materialized. I had a chip on my shoulder when I came in, and throughout my tenure, because I figured the employees thought my dad handed me the job simply because I was son. Now I don’t actually believe anyone thought that but I used it as motivation. It fueled me to show up each day ready to work, do great work and never stop learning.
I always said I took the job 50% because of what I would be doing (learning everything I could about business and the web world) and 50% because I would get to see my dad and uncle every day at work. Family has always been a huge part of my life so I couldn’t think of a better way to break into my professional career – with loved ones by my side.
My dad started the agency out of his bedroom, built it up to ~15 employees and ran it successfully for 34 years. My uncle worked alongside him for 30 of those years. During my tenure there as a full-time employee, I helped grow the agency’s web portfolio from five websites to 70+. We fully built, managed and secured each on a daily basis and I had a big hand in that.
About a year before I left to start my own business (May 2017) I began freelancing on the side and enjoyed the heck out of it. One night I was talking to a client in Los Angeles, while she was stuck in traffic, about her website needs. This ended up being one of my “ah-ha” moments. The ability to work for anyone around the globe from anywhere with Internet access is utterly amazing. We are living through an incredible era in this world where we can video chat someone 10 time zones away with the click of a button.
Through the summer months of 2016, my mom and I (among many others) started noticing changes in my dad’s behavior. For example, in mid-July he stopped posting or engaging on social media. This coming from someone who I felt was posting on Facebook so much that I had to stop using the platform (I’m not kidding). So when I found out he randomly stopped, it was a red flag. There were other signs too, whether it be memory loss, fatigue, not being actively “engaged” in conversations…I just had a feeling in my gut something was seriously wrong. I remember, and always will, those numerous conversations I had with my mom trying to figure out what could be going on.
The last real conversation I had with my dad was on September 7, 2016. It was his 56th birthday. We went out for dinner and a movie (Hands of Stone) just us two. I explained to him my intentions to leave the family business sometime in 2017 and my plan to freelance full-time. I received his blessing and I think subconsciously I needed to hear that, especially with the news that was about to come down the pike. When we left the movie theater that night, I remember him hugging me saying “this was the best birthday present I could have asked for.”
Fast forward a few short weeks and my dad was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma (GMB) brain tumor. Here are a few resources that explain things way better than I ever could from a medical perspective: Wiki, WebMD, Mayo Clinic. The tumor was so large and in such a delicate spot, surgery to remove it wasn’t an option. He could have opted for aggressive radiation and chemotherapy but the quality of life could have been poor and he decided against that. He saw his dad go through a prolonged battle with cancer and I don’t think he ever gave that option consideration. Deciding against treatment, he was given three months to live. He wanted to be home amongst family, friends and our dogs. And that’s exactly where he would be 🙂
On November 30, 2016 he was called to Heaven. He went almost 14 days without food or drink. We were told his tumor could double in size every two weeks and we definitely saw that progression first-hand. While you’re reading this, the word “tragedy” may come to mind but I happen to see things differently. There were so many blessings throughout those last few months. For instance, the ability to stay home with him everyday during this process is something I will cherish forever. On one hand, it was hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. I never dreamt at the age of 28 I would be a caregiver for my dad, that I would be watching him fall into a coma-like state and attending his funeral. But on the other hand, I’ve been given an amazing perspective on life. It is something that has forever changed my outlook – how I show up in the world, how I treat others on a daily basis, and how I learned to live life with gratitude, intention and purpose. I see it as a gift that God gave me and something I need to share with the world.
May 2017 – Present
From the time my dad passed until the time I started my own business, I firmly believe he passed on his entrepreneurial spirit to me. It’s something I never knew I had. Like I explained above, I told him that I was just going to be “freelance web guy” but that definitely is not the case. I have so many different business ideas. I want to impact so many people. I want to leave this world a far better place than how I found it. My dad was the best role model I could have asked for and I wouldn’t be the man I am without his guidance. My goal growing up was to always make him proud and just because he’s no longer physically on this earth doesn’t change that. He has a front-row seat to it all 🙂 He left a legacy with everyone he came into contact with (whether he realized that or not). It’s my job, it’s my duty, to not only keep that candle burning for him but also build a legacy of my own. Here’s to the start of that journey!