It amazes me how much the road to adulthood has changed over the past ten years. Growing up as a child of the 1980’s there seemed to be this idea that if you went to college and made good grades, then your career would work itself out. Everything I saw and heard made it seem as if success was as simple as staying on this path. Throughout the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s, this really was a proven blueprint to success; the only problem is that I graduated just as the professional world turned upside down.
This predestined path saw me attend college at Marshall University with the dreams of one day becoming a general manger or head coach of a professional sports team. Following that lifelong advice of COLLEGE=CAREER, I graduated in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in sports management and quickly followed that with a master’s degree in athletic administration. Surely my dreams were about to take off…
THUD! That is the sound our economy made when it bottomed out. The entire college blueprint was then crumpled up and set on fire. Job offers became unpaid internships. The value of a master’s degree dropped to that of a bachelor’s and the bachelor’s subsequently dropped to that of a high school diploma. Teachers, nurses and doctors continued to find jobs while everyone else began to compete for service industry and sales jobs. The promise of finding passion within the workforce disappeared for many.
My wife and I often joke that I am the son of the main character from that 1990’s TV show ‘The Pretender.’ My resume includes waiting tables, a sales internship with a minor league baseball team, selling supplemental insurance for AFLAC, selling life insurance for State Farm, head cashier (management!) at Lowes, COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACH (which paid substantially less than a monthly welfare check,) substitute teaching and a short stay at a bank, which has led me to the exciting world of cellular sales.
It is kind of funny (in a cruel way) where a career path can take you, in that one road can fill your life with energy and excitement, while the other road can turn you into a zombie who is only working for a paycheck. I grew up believing that I would be able to make it into the field I had dreamed of since I was ten, instead I ended up in a job that has stressed me out, worn me down emotionally and stripped me of a lot of the positivity and individuality that used to be free flowing within me.
Now before you start to think that I am just some guy (gloriously bearded and growing, mind you) complaining about his lot in life, I want to go ahead and stop you right there. I enjoyed my college years and I would do it all over if given the chance. My personal life is filled with love from my wife and daughter, my amazing parents and siblings, as well as my in-laws who are wonderful. Even the sales job that drives me crazy, along with my wife’s job, allows our family to live comfortably.
The purpose of this writing is to share my feelings of professional emptiness and to say that the majority of my years in the workforce have been spent with almost zero passion. Working in an industry that provides me no internal or creative benefit had finally turned me into a retail zombie who clocks in and out simply for the paycheck. Little did I know that a life of excitement was literally right under my nose.
It was sometime during the beginning of December when I stumbled onto the Beardbrand website, followed by the Instagram account, then to the Tumblr page and eventually to Urban Beardsman Magazine. Although I have never had any difficulty growing facial hair, these webpages, pictures and their articles motivated me to actually try and grow something more substantial than a long weekend worth of boredom. I received my first compliment just two weeks into this bearded journey. At that point, I had skipped from a Clooney beard to possibly being a member of the Boston Red Sox and that was when I started to get excited. Looking in the mirror every morning and asking myself if I needed to shave the stubble so my boss wouldn’t say anything had been replaced with a kick ass feeling of boldness that I had not felt in years.
As silly as this may sound to some, my beard has lit that spark deep inside of me. My beard is a badge of individuality that is controlled (and groomed) by me and me alone. Yes, I shave every other day to keep the lines tight and to prevent my wife from leaving me, but this newfound passion is all MINE and it is proudly displayed right at eye level.
While I do not know how big my beard will get or what my career holds next, I do know that I have begun to heal and that professional spark inside of me has started to produce smoke and warmth for the first time in years. Adopting the mindset of a Beardsman has provided the start to me being able to remake myself and hopefully find that career that inspires and motivates me. In the famous words of Sam Cooke, “A change is gonna come, oh yes it will.”
About the Author: Thomas Lane
Thomas has been married to his amazing wife, Andrea, since 2010. They have a tough and beautiful daughter, Peyton, along with a mentally unstable cat and dog. He loves professional sports teams from Atlanta, 1980’s horror movies and watching whatever his daughter tells him to watch. Follow or shoot him a message on Twitter @bandholz.